author of A Bitter Taste
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 Hackney, East London. My family emigrated to Australia when I was 14, and I finished my schooling in the southern suburbs of Melbourne. I’ve spent most of my adult life travelling backwards and forwards between London and Australia.
2. What did you want to be when you were 12, 18 and 30? And why?
At 12 I wanted to be was far, far away from where I was, and preferably somewhere I was rich and glamorous . I can’t remember wanting to be anything at 18, except drunk or stoned, and at 30 I wanted to be an academic. What a come down.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at 18 that you do not have now?
That Mao Tse -Tung thought he would liberate the international proletariat.
At 18 (during a brief moment when I wasn’t drunk or stoned) I heard Jacqueline Du Pré play Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor. It was the first time that music, or art of any kind, had moved me to tears. Patrick White’s ‘Riders in the Chariot’, had a revelatory effect on me because it changed my understanding of what literature was for, and what it was about. Djuna Barnes ‘Nightwood’ made a deep impression on me because it made me realise what was possible with the written word.
A long time after these experiences I realised that communicating an extraordinary emotional experience requires restraint and great discipline. However, I wouldn’t have the cheek to say that any of the above really influenced me as a writer. I wish.
5 . Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I had written a number of feature screenplays and got sick of them languishing in development hell. A novel seemed to be the way to go, as I could do it on my own, nobody would try to impose their ‘vision’ on it, and it wouldn’t take three years to raise the money to produce the finished article.
London is in the grip of a stifling heatwave. The city’s junkies are in the grip of a drought of a different kind. A strung-out ghost from investigator Catherine Berlin’s past turns up on her doorstep and an unpaid debt leaves her with no choice but to look for the woman’s missing ten-year-old daughter.
Corrupt detectives are on Berlin’s tail chasing drugs she doesn’t have, a young girl is murdered and the matrimonial case she’s been working on unravels. The temperature keeps rising.
From the publisher:
Treachery becomes a habit.
London is in the grip of a stifling heatwave. The city has slowed to a claustrophobic shuffle. Heroin-addicted investigator Catherine Berlin suffers while working the lowest of investigations: matrimonial.
The city’s junkies are in the grip of a drought of a different kind. Sonja Kvist a strung-out ghost from Berlin’s past, turns up on her doorstep. Sonja daughter is missing. An unpaid debt leaves Berlin no choice but to take the case of the missing ten-year-old.
Berlin is back. And soon the hunter becomes the hunted: corrupt detectives are on Berlin’s tail chasing drugs she doesn’t have, a young girl is murdered and the matrimonial case unravels.
And the temperature keeps rising.
7 . What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
The sense of satisfaction that comes from having a good read.
8 . Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
Dickens, because he’s a fantastic storyteller and he endures. Patrick White, because he changes the way you think about Australia as a place in the imagination. Virginia Woolf, because she changed writing. I also really admire authors who can produce a well-written ‘series’, consistently providing an engaging plot, a strong sense of place and an evolving protagonist: people like James Lee Burke, Donna Leon, Patricia Highsmith, Philip Kerr and Peter Temple.
9 . Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
Sell a book. Sell another book.
10 . What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Annie, 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.