author of All My Enemies, a Brock and Kolla Mystery,
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born in Paisley, an industrial city in Scotland. When I was five my family moved to London where I grew up and went to school. From there I went to Cambridge University to study architecture, and subsequently practised and taught architecture at various places in the UK. In 1983 I was offered the job of professor of architecture at the University of Newcastle, NSW, and came to Australia, and have lived in the Hunter Valley ever since. In 1994, after many false starts, I finally achieved a long-held dream to have a work of fiction published, with The Marx Sisters, the first of the Brock and Kolla novels. Since 2000 I’ve been writing full-time.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At 12 I wanted to be an architect like my father; at 18 I wanted to run away to New York and become a painter like Jackson Pollock; at 30 I wanted to be a writer.
That England could win the soccer World Cup.
4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
• A book that made a great impression on me when I read it at school, A Child of the Jago, by Arthur Morrison, about a boy growing up in a notorious London slum, opened my eyes to the power of fiction to create a totally real world.
• The Yellow Chair, by Vincent Van Gogh, showed me how art can observe reality in a way that doesn’t just mimic it, but recreates and transforms it.
• Georges Simenon’s crime novels taught me that the answer to the mystery lies in the hearts and histories of the characters.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I think the novel is the most extended, comprehensive and powerful representation of reality that we have available to us.
All My Enemies is one of my series of crime novels featuring detectives DCI David Brock and DS Kathy Kolla of London’s Metropolitan Police. It takes us back to a crucial point in their relationship, when Kathy first joins Brock’s homicide team, to investigate the grisly murder of a young woman in an affluent leafy suburb of the city. Their enquiries lead them to investigate an amateur drama group, and Kathy finds herself caught up in the intense, claustrophobic world of the theatre as further murders are discovered.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
A sense of having explored a new corner of the world and emerged with greater understanding and even a feeling of resolution. I also hope that readers will feel that they have enjoyed living for a while through some fairly dramatic events with a bunch of intriguing characters.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
I’d have to say Dickens, for the sheer exuberance and vitality of the world he creates.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I just want to go on writing.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
If you really want to do this, then persist. Learn from your failures and setbacks, and come back stronger and better.
Barry, Thank you for playing.
About the Contributor
While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.