the very first book appeared in 1987--in fact, I strongly suspect those first Banks books went into the hopper of my aspirations to write an English crime novel, as crazy an idea as that surely was.
So a new Alan Banks novel is always an event to be marked down on my calendar with great anticipation, and it is a very special treat to have Peter here to talk about the 19th Inspector Banks, In the Dark Places. Who but Peter Robinson could make a gripping novel out of a missing tractor, and a very, very cold Yorkshire winter? (Don't worry. The missing tractor is only the first toe in the snow...)
PETER ROBINSON: My latest DCI Banks novel is called In the Dark Places. Its real title is Abattoir Blues, but this is the fifth time US publishers have pressed a title change on me. Even though I strongly suspected it was going to happen, “abattoir” not being a word in common usage in the USA, it still stings a bit. It’s like renaming someone’s child. I suppose I harboured hopes that enough people might have heard the Nick Cave song to go for it. But no. In the Dark Places it became, which rather reminds me of a Gillian Flynn title. At least it doesn’t have “girl” in it. Naturally, I get the flack when someone buys it thinking it’s a new book and finds out she has already read it. That’s me all over, trying to con people into buying the same book twice!
Anyway, this is the one about the stolen tractor. I remember the look in my editor’s eye when I told her that, though things improved when I went on to say that there are also dismembered bodies and an exciting chase scene.
When I first got the idea for the story, I’d been seeing and hearing a lot of news items about rural crime here in North Yorkshire, where I spend part of each year. The one that really stuck in my mind concerned the theft of 1500 sheep in one night from a farm in nearby Lincolnshire. The mind boggles. The amount of organisation, manpower and equipment needed to pull off such a heist make Oceans Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen seem like child’s play. But they’re only sheep, not money, so the story never got further than the local newspaper. On the other hand, I thought, that’s somebody’s livelihood, and where you have organised crime like that, with so much at stake, you also have the potential for mischief and mayhem, which is my business. Unlicensed slaughterhouses abound (I did consider Slaughterhouse 6 as a title at one point but soon gave up on that) and overseas connections are often involved, the same kind of routes and techniques you find in people-trafficking, where life, human or animal, is cheap.
Having a team of detectives at my command is a great way of avoiding boredom, as I can bring a different character to the foreground each time. Of course, Banks and Annie remain the main characters, but in this book, DS Winsome Jackman gets a larger part than usual and we get to find out a bit more about her life. In the next Banks book, When the Music’s Over ( fingers crossed), which should be out next year, the new DC Geraldine Masterson takes centre stage.
In a wonderful stroke of irony, one reviewer remarked how apt In the Dark Places is as a title, as it refers to a song by P.J. Harvey, from her album Let England Shake. Much as I admire Polly Harvey, it was Nick Cave’s “Abattoir Blues” I had in mind. Still, Nick and Polly were an item once upon a time, and there’s something very fitting about all that. So what do you think about changing titles in general, and is it Abattoir Blues or In the Dark Places? Does it even matter to the reader (unless she buys the book twice, of course)?
DEBS: Here's more about In the Dark Places: Louise Penny calls In the Dark Places "brilliant." Tess Gerritsen says it's "thrilling." And Michael Connelly describes Peter Robinson as "amazing." One of the world's greatest suspense writers returns with this sensational new novel featuring Inspector Alan Banks, hailed by Michael Connelly as "a man for all seasons."
It's a double mystery: Two young men have vanished, and the investigation leads to two troubling clues in two different locations.
As Banks and his team scramble for answers, the inquiry takes an even darker turn when a truck careens off an icy road in a freak hailstorm. In the wreckage, rescuers find the driver, who was killed on impact, as well as another body—a body that was dead well before the crash.
Snow falls. The body count rises. And Banks, perceptive and curious as ever, feels himself being drawn deeper into a web of crime, and at its center something—or someone—dark and dangerous lying in wait.
Vibrating with tension, ingeniously plotted, and filled with soul and poignancy, In the Dark Places is a remarkable achievement from this masterful talent.
REDS and readers, what do you think about the change in titles for an American audience? (I would definitely come down on the side of Abattoir Blues.) Peter will be dropping in to say hi and answer comments this afternoon, and YES, WE HAVE A COPY OF IN THE DARK PLACES FOR A LUCKY COMMENTER!
(Can I just say--no spoilers-- that I loved Winsome's story thread in this book! And that I wanted to curl up under a blanket with a hot cup of tea while I was reading... Maybe Peter will talk to us about creating that wonderful atmosphere. Brrr...)
REDS ALERT! The winner of David Hewson's The Flood is Susan D! (And David hopes very much that it will make your upcoming trip to Florence more enjoyable.) Email me at deborahcrombie.com with your mailing address, Susan. You know the drill:-)