|photo: Kelly M Photography
Steve Cavanagh is the author of the Eddie Flynn series. His debut novel, The Defense, was nominated for the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for Thriller of the Year, and The Plea won the Prix Polar Award for Best International Novel. His third novel, The Liar, won the Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger for Crime Novel of the Year 2018. Along with Luca Veste he is the host of the podcast Two Crime Writers and Microphone. His latest release is Thirteen (Flatiron, August 13, 2019).
On your nightstand now:
I tend to end up reading two or three books at the same time, flitting between them all. I'm currently reading The Book of Bones by John Connolly. This is the latest Charlie Parker thriller which sees Parker traveling the globe in search of an immortal killer. The prose is as gorgeous as you might expect from Connolly. The other book I'm reading is I Spy by Claire Kendal, a psychological thriller and le Carré-esque mash up--really well done.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Two books stand out--The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. I loved Adrian Mole because it was a great portrait of adolescence and it served as a kind of survival manual to let you know that the stuff you were dealing with was normal, and someone else was going through the exact same thing. It was also really funny. I loved The Lord of the Rings because of the escapism. I grew up during the Troubles in Belfast, in the 1980s, and to have an entirely different world to go to every night was a life-saver. I also loved the relationship between Sam and Frodo, and how heroes could come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
Your top five authors:
This is hell for me. I could tell you my top 50, no problem, but whittling it down to five is a nightmare. Today, as I'm writing, I would say Patricia Highsmith, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Raymond Chandler and Elmore Leonard. On another day it could be Harper Lee, John Grisham, Stephen King and John Connolly. Is that cheating to sneak in another four?
Book you've faked reading:
To save face for the author I will not mention his name. I will say that I never faked reading it, but it became apparent to the author that I hadn't read it. Until very recently I was a lawyer, and many years ago, during my post-graduate studies at a particular university I had to study environmental law. The lecturer actually wrote the textbook for the course. All the exams were open book--that is to say, you were permitted to bring your course materials to the exam hall where you would be shut in for 7.5 hours to complete the written essays for the course under exam conditions. I figured that 7.5 hours was all the time I needed to study environmental law, which is pretty regulation-heavy. I can still remember the look of abject horror on my lecturer's face as I took his textbook out of my bag in the exam hall, ripped the cellophane wrapper off the book for the first time, during the exam, not having gone near the book in the previous six months of the course. I still feel a little bad about that. In case you're wondering, I passed the exam.
Book you're an evangelist for:
The Chain by Adrian McKinty. He's been writing award-winning novels for years, and this is his breakout book. It's one of the finest thrillers I have ever read, and I'm not just saying that because we're good friends. I've told him and I tell everyone, this is a book that will be held up as a classic in years to come. The premise is Rachel's child is kidnapped, and in order to get her back she has to pay a ransom--and then kidnap another child. And so The Chain begins... (if you don't have goosebumps reading then you have a serious problem).
Book you've bought for the cover:
The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell. It's such a dark, beautiful, unusual cover with an eye staring through a keyhole at the center of the image. It was a really striking cover, and the book did not disappoint. It's an incredible ghostly tale of a young woman who moves into a large house--set in the Victorian era, if I remember correctly. The prose and the story were just as arresting as the cover.
Book you hid from your parents:
When I was 12, my mother gave me a copy of The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris and told me I would love it. Growing up during the Troubles meant that the most terrifying things were happening all around me, in real life and on the news. Reading Thomas Harris was light relief. Thankfully, I never had to hide a book from my parents.
Book that changed your life:
Writing my first novel changed my life completely, and I know for a fact I would not have written it without reading two books--Lee Child's The Hard Way and John Connolly's Every Dead Thing. These books were my introduction to those authors, and both are great American crime thrillers. I was amazed when I found out John is from Ireland and Lee is from England. I didn't know you could do that--that it was possible for people outside of the U.S. to write American crime fiction. All of my books are set in the United States. I have a career because of those guys. And I'm proud and still quite amazed to say both of them have become friends.
Favorite line from a book:
"It's not that the Irish are cynical. It's rather that they have a wonderful lack of respect for everything and everybody." --from The Brothers Behan by Brian Behan
Five books you'll never part with:
These are invariably signed copies or gifts. Forensics by Val McDermid, The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly, Puckoon by Spike Milligan (everyone should have a copy in the house; it's funny and silly and good for the soul), The Midnight Line by Lee Child and Time of Death by Mark Billingham.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
I think Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I loved that twist. It is a masterfully crafted thriller and one which deserved every success and accolade. A contemporary classic.
Books that I want to see written and published in my lifetime:
I really, really want Thomas Harris to write another Hannibal thriller. I haven't read his latest, Cari Mora, but I think he hasn't quite wrapped up the relationship between Clarice Starling and Hannibal--there's another story to be told and I really want Harris to tell it. Sadly, I don't think he will.