what the hell is going on?

Do ya, do ya, do ya, do ya wanna dance?


An interview between Chris McVeigh, the founder of Fahrenheit Press and Derek Farrell the author of Death Of A Diva

CMV: Death of A Diva is your first published novel. Tell us a little about how you come to write it.

DF: I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and have, basically, always written crime.Some years ago, I was gifted a crime-writing course, and one of the exercises on character was to create someone whose life changes dramatically in the course of a day. I created Danny Bird, a decent guy who gets fired from his job, returns home early, finds his other half shagging the window cleaner, and who then walks out on his life. That seemed a fairly dramatic change, and I got some great feedback for the exercise, but – like so much other stuff – I filed it away and got on with life. Except, I couldn’t get Danny out of my head. I kept thinking: What happens next to him? I loved the way that he’d come out. He was funny, smart, idealistic, and really proud. He wasn’t averse to laughing at himself, but he wasn’t going to have anyone taking the piss out of him. So I started to think of what he’d do next, and – as all crime writers do – how I could make his life even more hellish. One thing led to another, and the next thing I knew, Death of a Diva was born.

CMV: So, why write about a pub?

DF: Well, they always say write what you know, and as I’m an Irish writer, I definitely know pubs. Plus, I was aware that there’s a whole chunk of history – London history in general as well as Gay history in particular – which is in the process of vanishing. Every year, there are fewer and fewer boozers. There’re still lots of glamorous Bars (and don’t get me wrong: I love a bit of Glamour) but I miss the days of a proper filthy, smoky, fagash encrusted boozer. The Marquess of Queensbury public house is definitely one of those. For me, the pub became almost a character. Plus: as in all the best serials, a pub is a great opportunity to bring a whole range of disparate characters together, and that –forcing mismatched characters together, lighting the blue touch paper and standing well back – is surely what crime fiction is all about.

CMV: The book is set in a South London which is simultaneously sharply defined and fuzzy around the edges. Was that deliberate?

DF: I’m an adopted Londoner, and have lived pretty much all over the city, but most of my day-job career has been spent in banking, and I’ve always gravitated away from the somewhat fake scene in the city towards the more genuine pubs just over the river, so Borough, Southwark, Elephant & Castle are areas I’m very fond of, and what I wanted to do was create a sense of South London rather than name a street and a place.That way, the book will, hopefully, still feel current even when the places I’m specifically thinking of are changing as rapidly as that part of London is.

CMV: The language isn’t exactly gentle – there’s a lot of swearing in the book…

DF: Yeah… <looks embarrassed> I wasn’t particularly aware of that till I’d finished the book, and someone – you, actually, now I think of it – mentioned the fact. I don’t think the swearing is particularly incongruous; there are a couple of characters who are – or think they are – hard bastards, and their use of vulgarity is designed to be threatening and unpleasant, but for the most part, it’s how people speak. We use it, in real life, to create rhythm, to express frustration unhappiness or exhilaration, and I think that’s the case here too.Let me put it this way: this aint your Nan’s crime fiction language, but neither is it a cosy by Irvine Welsh. When you line the swear words up against the word count, it’s not *that* much really… <blushes again>

CMV: Tell us about yourself: where did Derek Farrell spring from?

DF: Well, I was born and raised in Dublin. Like I said, I’ve told stories from almost as soon as I could talk. I always wanted to be a writer, but had no idea how to make that a paying job, let alone a career; failing that, I wanted to work in a menswear shop, cos I liked clothes. And I liked men. But that wasn’t really an option either, what with the whole 80’s recession blazing, so eventually, I moved – as was traditional at that time – to London, and sort of fell into lots of odd jobs.  In my time, I’ve been a burger dresser, bank teller, David Bowie's paperboy, and I finally ended up working in Investment Banking on the 80th floor of the World Trade Centre. And though Banking was never exactly my dream, it’s been good to me, and has allowed me to live and work in New York, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Tel Aviv, Prague JoBurg, and London. Right now I split my time between London, West Sussex and Dublin (cos we Dubliners never really leave), and am debating what sort of dog I’m going to have when I can finally let go of the day job.

CMV: And why Fahrenheit Press?

DF: Because I’ve always loved the pulp mentality: write a great story, and get it into the hands of as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, and in a way that’s ripping off neither reader, nor writer. And Fahrenheit totally have that approach. There’s no poncing about – I think your exact words to me were “If you want lunch at the Ivy and smoke blowing up your arse, you should probably sign with Faber” – and I liked that. Besides which, I’m more of a home cooked bloke, and – from experience – having smoke blown up your fundament aint all it’s cracked up to be. I was impressed by the fact that, regardless of the style or sub genre, if the book is good, it’s good, and Fahrenheit – like all the best gangs – will stand by you, fight for you, and ensure that your glass is never empty. Plus, I had a huge schoolboy crush on the head honcho, so it was a sort of foregone conclusion. If you hadn’t signed me, I probably would have just stalked you…

CMV: What’s up next?

DF: Right now, it’s all about Death of a Diva. This one’s been my baby for so long, and releasing her out into the world is both thrilling and terrifying.
The second Danny Bird novel is well on the way, and number three has just started to form (and they are doozeys, I can tell you). Plus, there’s a standalone – a sort of Modern Gothic Woman-In-Peril thing that I’ve been having fun with, as well as a historical mystery series . I’m active (if you’ll pardon the expression) on Twitter @derekifarrell, and love the way it’s introduced me to so many great people I’d never otherwise have had the chance to meet. And I’m building my web presence at derekfarrell.co.uk, where I tend to waffle on about writing, about books and writers that inspire me, and post recipes and pictures of food that’s recently had my aunt noting “It’s far from Guacamole you were born.” So all in all it’s a busy time, but I can’t remember the last time I felt so excited..