One Minute With: Frank Tallis, novelist

Interview,Boyd Tonkin
Friday 14 January 2011 01:00

Where are you now and what can you see?

I'm at my home in Highgate, north London, on the top floor, looking through the window onto the tops of trees, wet roofs and chimneys.

What are you currently reading?

I'm almost at the end of 'Brodeck's Report' by Philippe Claudel – poetic, atmospheric, with teasing ambiguities. It's almost like a crime novel written by Kafka: a great accomplishment.

Choose a favourite author and say why you like him/her

I'm very sentimentally attached to John Meade Falkner, best known for 'Moonfleet'. My own favourite is his ghost story 'The Lost Stradivarius', about a young English aristocrat who gets involved with the occult and pursues a vision of absolute evil. It's often described as the novel MR James never wrote.

Describe the room where you usually write

It's quite small and sparsely furnished – much more like an office than a writer's den. The books concern Freud's Vienna - the world I've been writing about for six years. On my desk, in a blue box, I have Freud's own copy of a book of his case studies. It was given to me by a fan of my books: the son of Freud's cardiologist.

What distracts you from writing?

Emails, the contents of my fridge, and extreme weather conditions.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Given the amount that I've been eating over the festive period: Moby-Dick.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

Very erudite – often they know a great deal more about the period than I do. And perhaps a teeny bit obsessive.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

The composer Gustav Mahler. I think he's as close as you can get to a true musical visionary. Leonard Bernstein said that he saw the horrors of the 20th century coming and expressed them in music.

Frank Tallis's new novel is 'Death and the Maiden' (Century)

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