TCT’s Hollywood Interview #9

…with William Shaw

The Cartesian Theatre now welcomes guests from around the worldosphere, with an invitation to tell us all about themselves – in 25 words or less. Okay, okay, it’s not as bad as all that: they get 25 words per answer. They can wax lyrical if they want, but beware: I edit with an axe…


This week, let’s give a big hand to William Shaw, whose 60s-era detective novel A Song from Dead Lips I really enjoyed reading last year (and the sequel is getting some love too).

Hi, William, tell us “all” about yourself.

Fictionally, I write crime; non-fictionally, I’ve written about ordinary people. In both it’s the same; the surface can tell you everything about what lies beneath.

What is the most inspirational thing you’ve ever read – and why?

Akenfield by Ronald Blythe, because it confirmed everything I believed about the poetry of ordinariness.

What was your first published work?

A 1984 interview with The Smiths, for which I was paid £46.

Which must be thousands, post-Imperial, right? What is the best thing you’ve never had published?

A 2006 novel called Hackney Dogs, unsold by my agent; it was deeply flawed but I am resurrecting the main character for a new novel.

What are you most proud of – in your life, not just your writing?

I’m really proud of a 1999 book I wrote about hip hop, Westsiders; nothing has ever required so much work and been so worth it.

Tell us about your latest work – novel, short story, shopping list, whatever.

A House of Knives is the second in my detective series. Set in 1969, I’m trying to show how much that era defines us now.

Pitch us your unwritten masterpiece – you’re in the Hollywood elevator now…

What if a boy kills his father and gets away with it, and then 30 years later meets the man convicted of his father’s killing?

Bombshell. So, if only one person was to ever read your work who would you want it to be?

Oddly, I’d like to know what Paul McCartney thinks of A Song From Dead Lips and A House of Knives. He’s just off-stage in both—

Oooh – and he was doing so well… EDITED!

What are your plans for the future – all of it?

Write a book a year, play more gigs with Brighton Ceilidh Collective, cycle lots, stay in love, and save the planet.

Fine aspirations – the cycling sounds like a big ask though. My thanks to William for not buckling under the pressure… much. You can find out more about him at – and maybe he’ll come back and talk to us again more under relaxed circumstances…

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