Good Reading quizzed debut author ALEXANDER THORPE about where he grew up, his new book Death Leaves the Station, and his love of cosy crime.
What memories do you have of growing up?
I can’t honestly claim that I’ve grown up yet, as I still laugh every time I drive through Cockburn. (I know it’s pronounced ‘Koh-burn’, but still.)My favourite memories as a child mostly involve getting lost in books, listening to my parents’ records and exploring the islands down near Point Peron. I also had a neighbour my age who left handwritten notes under rocks in the back garden and pretended they were from hobbits. I believed her. I was not a sceptical kid.
What was your first pet and its name?
Not my fault, but my first pet was a huge cat called ‘Boof’. I always had cats as a kid, though I’m definitely a dog person now. We also tried (very briefly) to domesticate a yabby we caught at my grandparents’ farm near Narrogin. It escaped from its bowl after a few days, cornered the cat (one of Boof’s successors) and then fled out of a window. We never found it again.
What was your first job?
Aside from a paper round in primary school, I think my first actual job was at a pizza chain when I was a teenager. Their staff turnover was so high that they wouldn’t print new name badges for us – they just recycled the old ones. My badge said ‘Justin’.
When did you discover cosy crime novels?
At some point, I just started to devour Agatha Christie. I always loved puzzles and mysteries, but I think it’s the general ambience of the ‘golden age’ crime novel that really drew me in. There’s always a great deal of ornate language, but also a sort of self-conscious awareness of how contrived the standard whodunnit structure is. I like a genre that can poke fun at itself.
Name three favourite cosy crime novels.
My favourite crime novelist is Josephine Tey. To Love and Be Wise is the one I enjoyed most. John Dickson Carr’s The Hollow Man would be a top pick. And Pelgia and the White Bulldog by Georgian/Russian novelist Boris Akunin.
What did you write before starting Death Leaves the Station?
There are several truly appalling post-modernist novel attempts lurking in the forgotten depths of my hard drive. I also used to earn an actual living as a copywriter, so there are some scintillating voice-over scripts for dust suppression systems out there.
What research did you do for the book?
The idea of setting a book in the Midwest of WA came from typing out my grandpa’s memoirs. I helped him write stories of growing up in the goldfields (he claims to have caught an emu with his bare hands while riding a horse – his autobiography is essentially magic realism) and it seemed like a fantastic setting. The main events of the story take place in Mullewa. To be completely honest, I’ve only been there once. I did a lot of research at the State Library and spent a huge amount of time digging through the newspaper archives on Trove.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alexander Thorpe is from Fremantle, Western Australia. He has written advertising copy for pool cleaners and concrete supply companies, taught English in Joseph Stalin’s hometown and almost managed to read half of James Joyce’s Ulysses twice (which is more or less the same as having almost managed to read the whole book).
Alex has written for news outlets, travel journals, marketing companies and educational providers. Death Leaves the Station was his first novel.