Charlie Higson: Glamour, Gangs and Greek Islands


Edinburgh International Book Festival
Edinburgh College of Art

Charlie Higson

Charlie Higson—actor (The Fast Show), scriptwriter and novelist (Young Bond and Enemy series of YA books)—was interviewed by crime writer Doug Johnstone at the festival about his latest adult crime novel, Whatever Gets You Through The Night, published in February in hardback by Little, Brown.

Higson said that he always liked writing (and reading) crime fiction in the early '90s, but then The Fast Show happened and TV took over his life for the next 25 years, alongside having a family. He said he always gets his best ideas in the bath, and the idea for this one was: what if the murder happens in the first few pages and the murderer spends the rest of the book trying to get rid of the body.

It was written during lockdown, but he has always wanted to write something set in Corfu. He was there one year with his family and they chartered a catamaran. Their guide pointed out the Rothschild estate, which he said had "something of the Bond villain about it"; the family had bought the patch of land opposite their estate and planted it with trees to make sure no one could overlook them. The guide also pointed to a woman on the estate and said it was Joanna Lumley, but he still doesn't know whether that was true.

The book is about corruption brought about by wealth and power, how people with that much power can be seduced into believing that they can get away with anything and anything they do can be justified, and how this can destroy everything around them. His main character, McIntyre, is a kind of anti-Bond—with strong parallels to Jeffrey Epstein—who has found that it is useful for capitalists to promote conspiracy theories, just as Trump has done.

Johnstone asked him whether the cancellation of Jerry Sadowitz's show by The Pleasance concerned him (Pleasance director Anthony Alderson issued the contradictory statement that "The Pleasance is a venue that champions freedom of speech and we do not censor comedians’ material" but "this type of material has no place on the festival and the Pleasance will not be presenting his second and final show") and Higson said he did worry that he could get into trouble. He said he had an Amazon review complaining of Higson's troubling comments about women, but he didn't make those comments—the character did.

When asked about his favourite crime writer, Higson named American novelist and screenwriter Jim Thompson.

Reviewer: David Chadderton