Q&A with Harry Bingham

Hi everyone,

Today I’m delighted to be joined by Harry Bingham for a Q&A on the blog on the back of the fifth DC Fiona Griffiths novel, The Dead House! I’ll be the first to admit though I have heard of Harry’s books I haven’t actually gotten around to reading them yet, but naturally they are already on my TBR!!!

About the author:

Harry Bingham in 25 words:
Forty-something. Married. British. Kids. Living in Oxfordshire. Runs The Writers’ Workshop and  Agent Hunter. Was a banker. Now writes full-time. Likes rock-climbing, walking, swimming. Done.

About the book:

British detective Fiona Griffiths, one of the most engaging female protagonists in crime thrillers, is back with her toughest case yet.
When the body of a young woman is found in an old ‘dead house’ – the annexe where the dead were stored before burial in medieval times – of a tiny church in a small town in Wales, it seems that past and present have come together in a bizarre and horrifying way. For DC Fiona Griffiths, the girl – a murder victim whose corpse was laid out with obvious tenderness – represents an irresistibly intriguing puzzle, given Fiona’s unusual empathy for the dead. And when her investigations lead her to an obscure and secretive monastery hidden in a remote valley, she finds that the murder victim is far from the only victim of a dark and disturbing melding of modern crime and medieval religious practices. Only Fiona is capable of solving this brilliantly crafted mystery.


The Dead House by Harry Bingham



So, without further ado, here’s the fun stuff! 🙂

You’ve been an author for a long time, so what made you switch to writing a crime series?

I’ve been an pro author since 2000 and have written a variety of books in a variety of genres, fiction and non-fiction. But a few years back a character climbed into my head and just wouldn’t leave.


She was pretty much the opposite of every grizzled DI in British police procedurals. Instead of being an experienced, hard-drinking, senior cop who’d taken a few knocks in his time . . . she was young. Female. Petite. Teetotal. Inexperienced. A junior officer on a fairly quiet provincial force. But at the same time – Fiona is Fiona. She’s kooky. She’s funny. She’s alarmingly tough and alarmingly unlikely to follow rules. But she’s also sweet and intensely vulnerable and can find even the most ordinary life challenges a real struggle.


And then as well – the Cotards. My character is currently in recovery from a (perfectly real, totally authentic) psychiatric condition called Cotards Syndrome. People who have the condition believe themselves to be dead – and it’s a terrifying, terrifying place to be. Fiona isn’t there any more, but her head is still an alarmingly wobbly place and it makes her both more courageous than she has any right to be . . . and more prone to wholly unexpected collapses too. Oh, and if you want to read more about Cotards, there’s a decent Wikipedia entry here.


How would you describe the Fiona Griffiths books to readers who have yet to pick them up?

Well, they’re not like standard police procedurals, that’s for sure. Partly my main character is just a quarter-turn different from everyone else. And then as well, the crimes are different too. They’re less domestic, less about mad serial killers on the prowl – and more about audacious schemes concocted by rich, powerful, all-but-untouchable men. (And if that sounds implausible – well, more than one of my stories was inspired by actual true-life schemes. That’s almost the scariest fact about them.)


But really, I think I should let someone else talk about the books, and the nicest review I’ve ever had comes from those good folks at Crime Fiction Lover, whose review of The Dead House says:


“The body of a young woman is found in the annex of a tiny church in the sleepy hamlet of Ystradfflur, deep in the remote Welsh countryside. The room has a history going back to medieval times and was a ‘dead house’ where bodies would be left following death and before burial.


The corpse is laid out neatly. She is wearing a thin summer dress, though it’s a cold October night, and holding a bible. There are no signs of trauma. It’s as if the woman has simply fallen asleep. Is there a case here at all?


DS Fiona Griffiths is at a loose end. A major case she was on is wound up. She manages to get herself seconded to the dead house investigation, working closely with DI Allun Burnett, the detective normally covering Ystradfflur and the surrounding area. Griffiths sees a case where others do not and her investigations lead her to a secluded monastery [where] the dead woman may have spent spent some time in solitude . . .


This is a quite brilliant novel and Griffiths a superb protagonist . . . Only one issue stands out after this novel: why aren’t Harry Bingham’s books number one on every chart?””


The Dead House is currently an Amazon Deal of the Week and is available here.


What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?

Writing books! I love it. I take my laptop out into the garden, sit under a tree and just immerse myself. My best days are writing days. It’s not work. It’s being paid to have fun.


What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?

Well, not much really. It’s basically a brilliant, brilliant job. But the publishing side of things can sometimes be a right royal pain up the posterior. And of course, financially, it’s not the world’s most secure profession. I think rag-picking on Gujarati rubbish dumps is generally reckoned to be more secure, but I’ve always got that as a fallback if need be.


Where do you see your writing career 5 years from now?

Lordy me, I don’t know. I once wrote this:

“The word has two senses, not one. There’s the sense of “career” which comes from the corporate world. You start as teaboy, work hard, and end up with the pin-striped suit, the corner office, and the gold clock presented on retirement. Life may have been boring, but at least you could rely on the pay cheques. That is not the life of a writer. Then there is the sense of career which means to “veer rapidly out of control”. A word whose use in a sentence may be exemplified by such examples as, “He careered downhill, shot off a small cliff, crashed into a stand of pine trees, and was last seen being taken by air-ambulance to the nearest hospital.” This, my friend, is the life of a writer. It is the truth behind most (or all?) authorial careers, except that sometimes you get taken by air-ambulance not to the nearest Emergency Room, but to Rowling Towers or Stieg Larsson Heaven. Good outcomes may be rarer than calamitous ones, but they do happen and they can be astonishing.”

So, in five years time, is it going to be Rowling Towers or the nearest Emergency Room? I’ve no idea. Absolutely none. Sorry! Rowling Towers would be very nice, though.


What’s next for you?

Another book in the same series. My editor seems to keep enjoying the stuff I write and readers seem to love it and I adore writing it, so more of the same. Rinse and repeat. Murder and mayhem. Love it.



Can you tell me your all time favourite book, or if you have to, your top 5?

Oh, Lord. Hate this question. Can I just restrict it to crime, because otherwise I’d have to give you a list of about 50 books? So: anything by Raymond Chandler, but maybe The Big Sleep or Farewell, My Lovely. A big fat volume of the Sherlock Holmes short stories. Gotta have some Patricia Highsmith in there, so let’s say The Talented Mr Ripley. And gotta have some quality recent crime writing in there so (*conducts a mental arm wrestling match between Tana French and Gillian Flynn – hesitates – aargh, this is hard*) let’s say Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects. And, erp, better have an all-time classic in the mix, so we’ll pop in Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment because that’s still the best profile of the murderer ever. And, dammit, look we’ve got to five and we haven’t found room for Donna Tartt’s Secret History, so you see these list things are just about impossible. Bah. Told you I hated the question.


Has there been any books you’ve read that you wish you had written?

Oh yes indeedy. See the above answer. But hey, at least I can sneak Tana French’s Into the Woods into this one. (That arm wrestling match was pretty near a draw anyway. I think Gillian lifted her elbow a bit, which is cheating, innit?) Oh, and now I suddenly realise, I left out Elmore Leonard and James Ellroy and . . . dammit, can we have another question please?


When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

Well, I have two writing related businesses that keep me occupied. I run an outfit called the Writers’ Workshop which offers editorial help to first time writers. We also run writing courses and run a brilliant Festival of Writing which enables writers to meet literary agents face to face and pitch their work. We also have a website, Agent Hunter, which is basically a fantastic search tool for anyone looking to get a literary agent. I love working on these things because I love hanging around with writers and helping them get all the way through to publication gives me a thrill every single time.


Have you any hobbies that aren’t book-related?

I’m a real outdoorsy type. I love rock-climbing and wild swimming and more or less anything which does not involve a roof over my head. Overrated things, roofs.


What’s your favourite holiday destination?

South of France in theory . . . except I have four very young kids so the idea of actually travelling with them makes me want to weep. Our last big excursion was to Chipping Norton, which is about ten minutes away. That was enough.


Favourite food?

Ooh. I love my food and the answer to this question changes every day. But today? Butterflied lamb squished around with thyme and pepper and lemon and garlic and maybe a little sprinkle of chilli. Cooked on a barbecue till it’s smoky but still pink in the middle. Yum.


Favourite drink?

Eight o’clock is usually beer o’clock. Except it’s sometimes wine o’clock. But the truth is that I drink about eight million gallons of tea per year (my books run at about 1800 words to the gallon; they’re thirsty things), so I’ve got to say tea. Tesco’s own brand English Breakfast. Double yum.

Huge thank you to Harry Bingham for joining me on the blog today, it’s been great to get to  know you! 🙂

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