Profile of Simon Beckett in The Bookseller

Beckett The author Simon Beckett is subject of a one-page profile in the current (29 October) issue of The Bookseller (p. 24). Beckett is author of a series of novels about Dr David Hunter, a forensic anthropologist (a fairly popular profession in crime fiction these days). Having read and enjoyed the previous three in this series, I'm glad to read that there will be a new David Hunter novel in February 2011, The Calling of the Grave (Bantam Press in the UK and Random House in Australia).

As pointed out in the profile, one distinguishing feature of the David Hunter novels is that they are all in different settings, and setting is an important component of each plot. The first, The Chemistry of Death, was set in the Norfolk fens; the sequel Written in Bone took place on a remote Scottish island; and the third, Whispers of the Dead, around the Tennessee, USA "body farm". It was this last location, apparently, that gave Beckett the idea for the Hunter series. He had written three earlier novels but failed to get a publishing deal. (The novels were eventually published by Allison and Busby.) He became a freelance journalist, during which time he went to Tennessee to shadow a group of police officers as they learned about the decomposition of human remains. From this experience, David Hunter was born. 

The new novel, The Calling of the Grave, starts eight years in the past when Hunter is part of a team investigating a body buried on Dartmoor. The main part of the novel is about the escape of the person who was responsible…. "absolutely nothing is as it seems, and Beckett skilfully engineers plot twist after plot twist interwoven with the meticulously researched forensic science." The author says that he likes to tackle new ground in each novel to provide not only "elements that people come back to, but you want a sense of development in each one." Part of this process are the gradual revelations about Hunter's past as the series progresses. 

It's quite well known that Beckett's books sell better in Germany and Scandinavia than they do in the UK, which is a pity as he certainly knocks the socks off Patricia Cornwell (who covers similar themes) and the like. He says that the series is harder to write as it goes on, which he says objectively is a good thing. "I don't want to freewheel – I think the more you put in , the more the reader can get out of it. ….If I were finding it easy then it might not be altogether a good thing…. for the books, anyway."

 Reviews of Simon Beckett's previous three novels at Euro Crime.

Author website (in English and German)

The Guardian and The Times on Simon Beckett, the "unknown crime writer". 

Archive of articles by Simon Beckett at The Guardian website.


7 thoughts on “Profile of Simon Beckett in The Bookseller

  1. Maxine – Thanks for sharing this. As I’m sure you know, I like Simon Beckett’s work, and it’s always interesting to learn a bit about an author whose work one likes. I admire his attitude towards his writing, too. I think when an author starts to toss together a book with no effort, that shows in the poor quality of the product. Good on Beckett for working hard on what he does.

  2. Thanks, Margot, I thought of you when I wrote this post as I know you like this author. I too enjoyed reading his comments on how seriously he takes the job!

  3. As Margot said …. (but I can´t always be here before Margot :D)
    I have only read the first David Hunter story yet, but though I am looking forward to two and three (on my TBR), I don´t want to gobble three down in a row. Good stories should be cherished!

  4. I think this is another author who has escaped my attention until now. I like his attitude anyway so will have to check him out. Sometime. Have been reading a lot lately but still don’t feel as if I am making a dent in the pile of things I want to read.

  5. He sounds like a good author with a very interesting protagonist, whose books I’d like to read. I’m encouraged by the statement that he’s better than Patricia Cornwall; that’s good. However, the TBR lists have mushroomed to have lives of their own, so I’ll bookmark this page and look back for it when I need a book. But I still have two books to read for a challenge, three Nordics I want to read by Jan. 1 (Roseanna, A Mind’s Eye and The Redbreast), and some relaxing U.S. reading–new Michael Connelly, Laura Lippman, S.J. Rozan, new Kate Atkinson and Tana French, several books recommended at RTR and here, and the 2011 book list here and Eurocrime have me on TBR overload.

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