Richard Godwin writes dark crime fiction, and he lets it slip the net like wash into horror. He also writes plays and black satires.
His work has appeared in many publications, places like A Twist Of Noir and Pulp Metal Magazine. Stories of passion turning on the edge of a razor, and the lies people tell themselves falling apart at the edge of nowhere, while men and women wander a wasteland looking for their souls.
His play ‘The Cure-All’ has been produced on the London stage. It is a dark satire about a group of confidence tricksters using the New Age to rip off their greedy venal customers.
His first crime novel Apostle Rising was released in March, 2011. His second, Mr Glamour, is published in April 2012.
Are you a bookgeek?
I love books although I am not sure I would refer to myself as a geek.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given (and do you follow it)?
There isn’t one, honestly, I have received advice and it’s gone in but I can’t single anything in particular out.
Which authors do you find most inspiring as a writer?
There are many authors I have found inspiring, but to name a few, Dostoyevsky, Dickens, Greene, Leonard, Lee Burke, Ben Jonson, and J. M. Coetzee.
Do you have an audience in mind when writing, or do you just write for yourself?
I started writing stories for myself. When I found I had a following I did consider their tastes when writing my novels, although I think if you focus too much on that your narrative may become stale. Some of the most popular stories I have written, not necessarily the darkest stuff, were just me having fun.
Where do you write, and why?
I write anywhere I can. I do it every day because I see writing like practising your tennis serve.
Tell us the book you most wish you had written.
If you’re asking me what I think is the greatest work of literature ever written it is King Lear by Shakespeare. However I wouldn’t have written it, I would have written what I write.
Most crime writers have had some experience trying to make the distinction between themselves and their works. Given your position at the darker edge of the genre, is this something you’ve struggled with?
No. In my opinion a lot of nonsense is talked about authors and their works. Some authors are writing semi autobiographical prose that stems directly from their experience. That is their selling point. Many authors are not. It may all come from the subconscious but we do not really understand how that operates. I think many authors write because they are interested in experimenting with a genre or ideas. I have never met a serial killer, yet I write about them.
Are you the most noir novelist working today?
I wouldn’t make that claim. I do not think of myself as a pure Noir writer. Noir is about losers, people screwing up. Many of my characters achieve what they set out to, and that includes the killers. I think my writing blends Noir, crime, mystery and horror. I am interested in exploring human motivation and how people refuse to acknowledge their motivation. I think despite our claims to rationality most men and women are driven by irrational urges they spend their lives wrestling with and failing to understand. Literature is a great way of exploring that. I can do that through sci-fi as well as through crime fiction, since sci-fi allows you to take paradigms and alter them, it allows you to explore analogies of the human condition. If you look at the level of pharmaceutical control in the economy you can conclude that the increasing amount of medicated men and women indicates a control program aimed at preventing people from understanding their irrationality and thereby gaining choices. History contains real examples of human darkness. Far worse things were committed by the Nazis than the events that occur in my fictions.
Your publisher, Black Jackal Books, mentioned you’re currently working on a manuscript that is a little more mainstream. Is there anything you can tell us about that?
I am not sure I would call it mainstream. It is lighter than Apostle Rising and Mr. Glamour and possibly more Noir in the sense I have just described. It is a different style. It is also perhaps a story about people who the general public may be able to relate to more, since they are not extreme psychopaths but characters who are driven to acts that are ill-considered. And they are driven to them because they do not understand what motivates them.
What is it about certain forms of sexual decadence that you think appeals to the upper classes?
I think it is tied up in the class system and the need for dominance. Hegel, in Phenomenology Of Spirit, talks about the master servant relationship and the interchangeability of those terms, and Strindberg dramatised it superbly in Miss Julie, in which a domineering lady has a sexual need for her manservant who eventually takes charge. The need to dominate is often replaced by submission, so it taps neatly into the sado-masochistic routine. Most sadists are also masochists and vice versa. England is a country in which class runs deep. It is a key part of our literature and heritage.
Religion is a key theme in both of your novels. Do you think psychopaths find their pathologies are simply best expressed through the medium of religion, or is there something inherently corrupting about elements of religious doctrine?
I think many psychopaths use a simplistic world view because they are emotionally lacking. They use strong language to manipulate, and empty rhetoric that is superficially appealing to exploit others. Psychopaths want to convince others, because they need to. I think extreme religious doctrine may breed mental disease. I would like to point out that my comments are about the radical aspects of religion. Simplistic answers are lies, the world is a complicated place.
Additional questions by Mike Stafford