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photo credit: Sam Young
We must have gone right past the body without noticing it. For a little while we stood on the edge of the cliff, which dropped a hundred sheer feet before easing off a little and tumbling down to the dry riverbed a thousand feet below. By now we were accustomed to precipices. I had lost track of how many times during the previous week I had scrambled across steep drops on narrow and treacherous trails.
Eventually I got bored of contemplating my own mortality and turned around, intending to return to our lodge. Then I saw him. A fellow backpacker, sitting with his back against one of the village buildings, facing us. Even from a hundred feet away and with the cold, dusty wind in my eyes I could tell there was something badly wrong with his face.
-From the opening of Dark Places by Jon Evans
- What do you love about being a writer?
Pretty much everything. I literally make a living off work I'd be
doing for free anyway. Plus, I get to sleep in late, work (more or
less) to my own schedule and, most importantly, follow my interests
wherever they go.
The micro-celebrity status is nice too.
- What is your biggest challenge as a writer?
Creating and sustaining compelling characters.
- If you were not a writer, what other profession would you
want to pursue?
Hmm. I used to write software for a living, and there are things
about the tech industry I miss: the speed, the camaraderie, the sense
of forging into the future.
I think nowadays I'd rather be manager than a programmer,though.
- In your opinion, what is the most influential crime novel of the last 100 years?
Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep,
which brought populist pulp-noir and a compelling authorial voice together for the first time.
- Which fictional hero do you admire or despise the most?
Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko leaps to mind, for his dogged persistence and surly humanity.
- After writing, how do you spend the rest of your time?
I travel a lot. I see a lot of movies. I'm something of an exercise junkie. And, of course, I read.
- What city or location has the most impact on your writing?
Locations in general are exceedingly important to my books, which
tend to be geographically structured (Part 1: Nepal. Part 2: California.
Part 3: Indonesia, etc). San Francisco, where I used to live, is
the only place with a significant role in more than one of my books.
But I think the real answer is: Africa. Its influence is (to date)
largely indirect, but it's my experiences in “The Dark Continent” that
led me to my fascination with those places where the
First World and Third World meet.
- Do your books have a message?
I think so, but I devoutly hope they're implicit rather than explicit.
I don't like "soapbox" books that are written in order
to convey a particular message. Books should tell a story and provoke
an emotional reaction; social/political subtext should remain just
- What are you currently reading?
I just spent six weeks travelling across Asia on trains – St.Petersburg
to Beijing on the Trans-Siberian Railway, than Beijing to Lhasa
on China's brand new high-altitude train – so I mostly
read books befitting the journey, including: Dostoevsky's Crime
and Punishment, Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, Qiu Xiaolong's Death
of A Red Heroine, Barry Hughart's Bridge Of Birds,
and Heinrich Herrer's Seven Years In Tibet.
Right now I'm
writing and not reading, but next on my to-read list
are: Le Carre's Mission
Song, Scott Smith's The Ruin, and Bulgakov's The
Master And Margarita.
- If you could meet any person (living or dead), who would
Winston Churchill. Or Nelson Mandela.
- What is your greatest vice?
- What is your greatest extravagance?
Travel again, and by some considerable margin (the most expensive
thing I own is a $600 guitar.)
- What is your idea of misery?
I've been telling people for years that my notion of a personal
hell is Oxford Street, London, England, on the Saturday before
- What is your idea of happiness?
What I've got is pretty good.
Or, alternately, here's a rather lengthy quote from one of my favourite writers:
The Lama of the Crystal Monastery appears to be a very happy
man, and yet I wonder how he feels about his isolation in the silences
of Tskang, which he has not left in eight years now and, because
of his legs, may never leave again. Since Jang-bu seems uncomfortable
with the Lama or with himself or perhaps with us, I tell him not
to inquire on this point if it seems to him impertinent, but after
a moment Jang-bu does so.
And this holy man of great directness and simplicity, big white teeth
shining, laughs out loud in an infectious way at Jang-bu’s
question. Indicating his twisted legs without a trace of self-pity
or bitterness, as if they belonged to all of us, he casts his arms
wide to the sky and the snow mountains, the high sun and dancing
sheep, and cries, "Of course I am happy here! It's wonderful!
Especially when I have no choice!"
- Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard
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