»Character more than plot.« #KrimiKreuzverhör mit Garry Disher

Kann ich ahnen, dass sich keiner für Garry Disher interessiert?

Freitag, Frankfurter Buchmesse. Die Hallen füllen sich. Leser:innen drängen an den endlosen Schlangen der Fans vorbei, die auf ein Autogramm der alljährlich wiederkehrenden Verlagsautor:innen warten. Wie immer also. Entspannt betrete ich Halle 3.1. Hier ist deutlich weniger Publikumsverkehr – ein paar Tipps für Insider gibt es trotzdem. Jetzt zum Beispiel. Ein Meet & Greet mit der australischen Krimigröße Garry Disher. Ich bin extra früher losgegangen, um definitiv ein signiertes Exemplar seines neuesten Geniestreichs »Stunde der Flut« zu ergattern. Noch zwei Gänge, einer. Dann sehe ich den Stand. Schaue mich um. Bin ich hier richtig? Irgendwie so … leer. Langsam trete ich heran, erkenne den Verleger Frank Nowatzki – und hinten in der Ecke noch einen Mann. Hätte ich ihn nicht vorher gegooglet, ich hätte ihn übersehen. Aber da sitzt Garry Disher, ein wenig verloren inmitten seiner Bücher. Ich hätte mir deutlich mehr Zeit lassen können. Ich trete zu ihm, erzähle ihm, dass ich ein großer Fan seiner Romane bin. Wir reden über dies und das, er fragt, wie mir sein neuester Krimi gefallen hat. Ich erzähle ihm, dass er in Deutschland leider ein Insidertipp ist, frage ihn nach seiner Lesetour, die er an diesem Wochenende beendet. Anschließend signiert er drei meiner Bücher – … ob ich die einzige war, die bei dem Meet & Greet mit Garry Disher Bücher gekauft hat?

Wäre ich vorbereitet und nicht so müde gewesen, ich hätte direkt an diesem Tag spontan ein Interview mit ihm geführt. Doch kann ich ahnen, dass Garry »The Genius« Disher alleine am Stand steht und sich keiner für ihn interessiert? Zum Glück reagiert Garry Disher extrem schnell auf die Interviewanfrage, die ich ihm nur ein paar Tage später schicke und es ergibt sich doch die Chance für ein Gespräch. Über gute Kriminalromane, seine Figuren, toxische Männlichkeit und seinen Autorenalltag. Viel Spaß beim Lesen!

Ihr wollt das Interview auf Deutsch lesen? Kein Problem, hier geht es direkt zur Übersetzung.

Garry Disher

Übrigens

Dieses #KrimiKreuzverhör habe ich zusammen mit Martin Krist geführt. Auszüge des Gesprächs mit Garry Disher findet ihr in den »Bösen Briefen«, seinem monatlich erscheinenden Krimi-Newsletter. Lest dort für zahlreiche weitere Interviews, Einblicke in seine Autorenwerkstatt, exklusive Buchbesprechungen und vieles mehr unbedingt vorbei!

»Character more than plot.«

Do you write crime novels or social dramas?

Although crimes committed and crimes investigated are vital elements in my books, I use them to explore wider social relationships: people under strain in a rural area in the Hirsch novels, for example, and a family under strain in the standalone, »Stunde der Flut«.  My fourth Hirsch novel, not yet published in Germany, deals with some of the social pressures that arose around the Covid-19 pandemic: Covid denial, the anti-vaccination movement and the emergence of far-right groups.

In your opinion, what makes a good crime novel?

Character more than plot.  The main character should be strongly drawn and interesting, not a superhero but flawed or vulnerable at some level, yet also reliable and competent.  A character not far removed from the reader—like us, possessing everyday doubts, anxieties and scruples, yet ultimately not us but someone able to step in where we would fear to tread.  If the characters are cardboard cutouts, then the story’s clever plot twists, perilous situations, dark material, sudden reversals and revelations will fail to move the reader.  Which is not to deny the importance of the plot.  When I write, I try to balance character and plot.

Garry Disher Interview

Garry Disher 

wurde 1949 in Australien geboren, wo er bis heute lebt und arbeitet. Auch seine Krimis erzählen vom Leben und Verbrechen „Down under“, wurden mehrfach ausgezeichnet und brachten ihm sogar eine Nominierung für den Booker Prize ein. In Deutschland ist Garry Disher vor allem für seine Wyatt-Romane und seinen Inspector Challis bekannt, in Australien veröffentlichte er außerdem zahlreiche Kinder- und Sachbücher zu historischen Themen.

 

© Darren James

 

Brutality plays no big part in your books. You do have crime scenes, however you don’t go much into detail there. Where do you draw the line? What and where are your limits?

I try to avoid gratuitous scenes of violence.  A story is more powerful if the reader imagines brutality and violence. And most of my characters are police officers who come to the scene after the violence has occurred.  The fallout of an act of violence is, to me, more interesting than the act itself.  Wyatt is probably the most violent of my characters—but he is a professional holdup man, not a cop, and sometimes needs to take violent action if his life is in danger or he’s been double-crossed.  He doesn’t use violence for the sake of it—and nor do I.

»Many of my ideas come from imagining the heartache behind actual stories.«

Your novels stick out for their sharp dialogues and on point descriptions of the scenes, as well as being rather light. How much time do you invest in each chapter? Please describe how exactly you work on your books.

First, unlike some of my peers I plan all of my novels, spending several weeks working out the broad stages, and then the chapters to carry each stage, and then the scenes within each chapter, until the whole book is in my head (and on scraps of paper outlining each chapter).  This helps me ensure that there are no repetitions, and that each chapter has a distinct role in the overall story and is an advancement on the chapter before it. I also take into account everyday matters such as what day of the week it is, what time of the day, what season it is, and where each of the characters are.  This helps me avoid silly errors (for example, it will be a slow rather than a rapid journey for a character to drive his car across the city at 5 pm on a wet, dark winter’s evening).  But I also pay attention to my instincts, the voice in my head that says an aspect of the plan is wrong.  As for the actual writing, sometimes I might spend a morning on a paragraph (particularly at the start of a novel featuring a main character I’ve not used before, when I will be trying to find the tone or mood of the story and the character) and sometimes I might write a short chapter in one morning.

Different from your usual concept, there is only one main character and a single story level in your new book »Stunde der Flut«. Where did this decision come from?

Garry Disher Stunde der Flut
Buchcover der deutschsprachigen Ausgabe von »Stunde der Flut« (Unionsverlag)

The idea for the book came from a series of newspaper articles about an elderly man who was arrested and tried for the murder of his wife, twenty years earlier.  His son had believed him guilty for all of that time.  But then the father died at a stage in the trial when it was revealed that foreign DNA had been discovered at the murder scene (old evidence had been tested again).  Many of my ideas come from imagining the heartache behind actual stories—but I’m never interested in retelling actual stories.  Like many authors I like to apply »What if…?« questions to the material, until my own story emerges.  What if the body of the wife and mother had never been found?  What if there were two sons, and one thought the father guilty, the other thought him innocent?  And there are all the other questions I use to interrogate the material.  Is the father a good or a bad man?  Who would investigate?  (A related question: Who has most at stake?) Where does he live?  Is he married?  Does he have a lover?  What’s going on in his head and his life?  And so on.

In addition, this main character too, is different. Still a cop, but this time he investigates in a private matter outside his duty. Was this changed perspective on policework important to you?

When writing the Hirsch novels, I realized how important it is that Hirsch is a lowly uniformed constable who works alone.  He has little power, compared to other investigators in crime fiction, who are usually senior officers in charge of a team.  And so I also gave limited power to Charlie, in »The Way it is Now« (»Stunde der Flut«)—in his case it’s because he assaulted his inspector and has been suspended from duties.  Because he’s been suspended, he has time on his hands and decides to carry out a private investigation into the disappearance of his mother, twenty years earlier (and for which his father has been blamed).  But it’s not easy for him.  His authority is limited, he’s treated with suspicion by old colleagues and he lacks the kinds of investigation tools and police assistance that he’d normally draw on.  This is useful for me, for it helps create tension.

Buchcover der australischen Ausgabe von »Bitter Wash Road«

Toxic masculinity is a big topic in your book and you describe a scene where a woman is not taken serious after reporting a case of abuse. Why did you decide to address this topic, moreover let your protagonist think so reflected on it?

Charlie belongs to the sex crimes unit and so he is aware of the problems that rape victims face, including a reluctance to report, not being believed and being treated carelessly.  It’s an issue of growing debate and desire for reform in Australia and I have newspaper clippings going back many years on the crime of sexual assault and how it’s investigated and its offenders prosecuted.

Garry Disher schreibt Krimis
© Darren James

»I need to keep fresh as a writer«

Your books always play in your native country – this time in a little coastal town -, portraying the locals and the Australian society. How much of yourself is inside your novels? With what character would you identify the most?

I tend to use settings that I know well.  When I write about the remote outback farming region in the Hirsch novels, I’m writing about the place where I grew up.  And now I live a few kilometers inland from a few small coastal towns south-east of Melbourne, the setting of Stunde der Flut.  But I try to write about invented characters rather than myself.  The character closest to me, and the one I like the most, is Hirsch.  The character I would like to be, is Wyatt.

Let’s get back to the police, back to Hal Challis. In my opinion, it’s a real pity that you ended the series after 6 volumes. Was this planned from the beginning?

I wrote the Challis novels when I grew tired of Wyatt, and then I wrote the Hirsch novels and two standalone crime novels when I grew tired of Challis.  I need to keep fresh as a writer; I need to try new types of characters and types of approach.  But I haven’t said goodbye to Hal Challis yet—I know how popular he is and would like to write about him again (the female characters, Pam Murphy and Ellen Destry, interest me more than Challis does, incidentally).

»I try to step inside the skins of these characters«

With Wyatt, Hirschhausen and Challis you have very varied characters with varied intentions in different series that you write about. In what way does your approach to each character, and therefore to each book, differentiate from one another?

First, I work out what kind of main character will carry the type of story I want to tell: a professional criminal, if I’m writing a caper novel (Wyatt)?  A senior officer in charge of other police, if I’m writing a police procedural (Hal Challis)?  A relatively inexperienced and junior officer if I’m writing about a one-officer police station in the outback (Hirsch)?  Then, as part of the planning process, I try to step inside the skins of these characters.  I can’t start writing until I can see or hear them.  Once I know them well (after the first book in the series), the process is easier.  I still let them grow over the series, however.  They don’t remain static.

Which of your books would you recommend your German readers to read first?

To gain an impression of my range, I suggest the first Hirsch novel, Bitter Wash Road (Unionsverlag), and the most recent Wyatt novel Moder (Pulp Master)

Ihr seid neugierig geworden und möchtet ein Buch von Garry Disher lesen? 

In Deutschland wird er bei Pulp Master und dem Unionsverlag verlegt. 

Einen Überblick seiner Werke findet ihr hier: 

Buchbesprechungen zu Garry Disher

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