Dead & Talking
If a ghost appeared from nowhere, rescued you from suicide and then ordered you to start solving crimes to help dead people, what would you do?
When it happens to Porter Norton, he just wants to put his head in his hands and have nothing to do with it. But now he has to atone for the family curse that has seen all the men die at their own hands for five generations.
The Gliss, the sarcastic spirit that rescues him, says he can now and see and hear the Dead – if he’s close to their remains. Porter has to use his unwelcome gift to clear up past injustices. Or else.
Forced to investigate the murder of a WW1 British Tommy executed for spying in 1917, he begins to suspect the case has links to his own family history. Along the way, Porter enlists the help of a bickering group of misfits, who struggle to stay involved – because only fools believe in the supernatural, don’t they?
Full of pop culture references, banter and twists, the story takes us from present-day London and Flanders to scenes from World War 1. As Porter, The Gliss, and friends, get deeper into the explosive case, they discover their own lives and sanity are at stake. An evil from WW1 pursues them all.
Hi Des, and welcome to my blog
Q1: What inspired you to write Dead & Talking?
I was in Hamburg watching the world go by on my way to a wedding in Sweden, and the basic premise occurred to me as I sat outside the same hotel the Beatles once stayed in. Once I had decided the premise, I spent six months researching various aspects of World War 1 and developed the plot from there.
Q2: Who would you want to play the main characters in your book if your novel was optioned for tv / film?
Funny you should say that. My background is TV and various friends who’ve read it have all said it would make a good series. I’m not so sure. But if I had to pick an actor for the part of Porter, I’d say Martin Freeman
Q3: How many rejections did you get before you got a publishing deal?
I got 3 before I decided not to bother. All 3 agents I approached read my letter and sample and called in the book. All 3 said variations of the same thing: it’s great, very funny, great plot, terrific thriller – but which shelf would it go on? I realised I had written something cross-genre and decided it wasn’t worth waiting for an agent – for this book anyway. Those three rejections took 4 months to pick up. I employed an editor, got beta readers to give it the once over and employed a proof-readers. That’s pretty much what a publisher would have done for me anyway.
Q4: How did you deal with them when you started out?
I’ve been a collaborative writer since I was 17. Everything I’ve done (millions of words) has been edited, sub-edited and re-written. I’m used to it and think it often makes work better to have someone really go through it. I’ve had stories spiked.
So getting those 3 rejections was no problem, but it made me realise (and the early readers have proved me right) that there’s nothing in my book a contemporary audience can’t handle.
Q5: Which authors inspired you to write?
The big writers who’ve always been a part of my life are Jane Austen, Conan Doyle, Douglas Adams, Roald Dahl, Raymond Chandler, PG Wodehouse, Dickens, Maupassant, Zola, Greene. If you include re-reads, then I must have read 400 books by that list. I’m serious.
However, in the last 10 years or so I have been very influenced by Christopher Fowler, Ben Aaronovitch, Michael Connelly, Henning Mankell, Harlan Coban and Phlip Kerr.
Q6: What are your writing routines?
I must write for at least an hour each day, but it can be as much as 5 hours if my other responsibilities are covered. I like to start the day by hiding out at the back of a coffee shop with my laptop, but have a great space I can hideaway in at home too.
That is my routine. Write every day.
Q7: If you could go back to when you first started writing what one piece advice would you give yourself
When I was 16 I wanted to write books but had no idea how to do that, so set out to become a journalist. I eventually ended up at The Times before moving onto the BBC. I thought being a journalist was the same as being a novelist. It so isn’t! However, the experiences I’ve had as a journalist, very few get to have, so it helped in the end. I’ve been to post mortems, been shot at, interviewed the rich and famous, interviewed famous criminals, met war veterans and seen people die. So my advice to my 16 year old self would be – it’s okay to start writing a novel now, but if you can bring yourself to wait a few years, it’ll be a lot better.
Q8: What would you say to someone who wants to write?
Write. But it’s not as easy as it looks.
Q9: If you weren’t writing what would you be doing?
I’ve been writing for a living since I was 17! My first interview was with Michael Palin of Monty Python. I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited since. Even when I was in TV, I was writing thousands of words a week. But I am a musician and composer, which I do for fun, so I guess if I had to choose, I’d be a full time film composer. There are samples of my instrumental and group work on my website
Q10: Tell me something about yourself your readers might not know?
I’ve sat side by side with both Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson, and played piano with them – Macca in his studio in Rye, Brian at his house in LA. My job takes me to interesting places.
Thank you Des it’s been fun X
Born in the middle of the Summer of Love on a pre-fab council estate in Luton, teenage bitterness and a chance viewing of the Watergate movie, All the President’s Men, made him vow to become a journalist and bring down the government.
First he had to pay for his journalism course, so he became a civil servant. Literally the day he had enough for his fees, he packed it in.
Twelve years on from watching the film, he was a journalist at The Times and had a big hand in bringing down John Major’s government. News ambitions sated, he packed that in too.
Several years of working for Channel 4, ITV and the BBC as a senior producer saw him working across the world, but he eventually got fed up with asking bands how the new album was coming along, and packed it in.
He set up his own production company magnificent! in 2002 and simultaneously worked on the BBC Live Events team for another 10 years. But then six years of work on the Olympics came along, so he packed the BBC in. Again.
Des has jammed with many of his heroes from Paul McCartney to Brian Wilson, Queen to Nancy Sinatra. He has interviewed many A-listers, including David Bowie, Michael Caine, John Cleese and even Noam Chomsky.
He has directed/produced a fairly long list of people – Muse, Coldplay, Michael Jackson, Jay-Z, produced BBC3’s Glastonbury coverage for a couple of years, made films about leprosy in India, comedy shorts with Miranda Hart and Lenny Henry and played guitar for Chas and Dave at the Hackney Empire.
He has made 300+ short films for the Queen, MI5, the BBC, Sky, Discovery, EMI, the British Academy and dozens of authorities, charities and private sector firms. His most recent publication was a series of interviews with leading academics like Mary Beard on the state of the humanities which was published as a standalone magazine by the British Academy.
Fed up with travelling and determined to be a half-decent dad, he now works in London as often as he can. He runs the Young Directors Film School making movies with young people and is about to head up the Digital Film and Video MA at Tileyard. An avid musician and producer, he releases his third album as Romano Chorizo (he plays drums, bass, piano, guitar and really bad sax).
He hates to be pigeon-holed, thinks creativity is a learned state of mind and wishes they would teach people memory and learning techniques at school.
Dead & Talking is his first novel, the first in a series of Porter & The Gliss investigations.
Des Burkinshaw @DesBurkinshaw
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