YOU’VE MADE IT AS A CRIME writer when the jackets of your novels proclaim your name in huge colourful capitals, while the titles of the books lurk modestly below. John Harvey has now reached that status, but there remains a mystery. Why has it taken so long? I know of no other crime writer who writes so well, has attracted such unanimously positive reviews, and been so respected by his fellow writers – yet failed to become the household name and bestselling author that he deserved to be.
Harvey has now further proof of the esteem in which he’s held. The Crime Writers’ Association has given him its most coveted award, the Cartier Diamond Dagger, for “sustained excellence” in the genre. He is chuffed. “The really nice thing about it is that it isn’t based on one particular work,” he says. “It’s people who are aware of your work over a period of time. And when those people are other writers, it means a lot.”
There's a bit about his early writing, and then:
Harvey returned to crime writing because of Elmore Leonard. “I had written a television series about the probation service, set and filmed in Nottingham, with several story-lines, a bit like Hill Street Blues, and I thought maybe I could write a crime novel like that. Round about that time I’d been reading Elmore Leonard books, and two things struck me – the delight you get as a reader, and the presumed delight that he has in writing them. You get a sense almost of joy from his characters. That’s what made me think, I’d like to try to do that, and somehow combine that use of dialogue and lightness of touch with the multi-strand police procedural. Elmore Leonard got me back into crime writing.”At the end of the tenth and final volume of his Charlie Resnick series, Harvey explains at greater length the inspiration that Leonard -- unknowingly -- provided for him. It's one of the most mensch-y and generous tributes I've ever read by one writer about another.
Read on: there's more of interest in the article, including information about Harvey's new book, Gone to Ground, due out this month.