Balhamite and bestselling thriller writer Sabine Durrant is set to appear at the Clapham Book Festival, headlined by Kate Adie, on Saturday 6 May. The Resident quizzes Sabine on her latest best-selling novel, Lie With Me…
Catch the Northern Line any given morning, and there’ll be at least one commuter with their nose buried deep in Sabine Durrant’s latest best-selling novel, Lie With Me. Now, Durrant is set to discuss the novel a stone’s throw from her home in Balham, at library-turned-arts venue Omnibus.
Set partly in Clapham, Lie with Me tells the story of Paul Morris, who Durrant describes as a lothario and ‘a bit of a ligger’ (a freeloader – I had to look this up). Intriguingly, she tells me, the character sparked the idea for the novel.
‘When I worked in journalism in the 80s, I knew a lot of men who were slightly sexist and quite pleased with themselves – you know, good education and felt the world owed them something – and those people just lurked around in my head,’ she reveals. ‘Morris meets a woman who lives in Clapham and is rather wealthy, and tries to inveigle his way in. He’s a bit of a user, but he gets his comeuppance.’
Durrant is the author of two other such psychological thrillers, Under your Skin and Remember Me This Way. Her previous fiction includes Having It and Eating It, as well as two books for teenage girls. She lives in Balham with her partner, their three children and their dog. Her ideas come in a myriad of forms, and are often inspired by her local surroundings.
The idea for the first novel came to me walking over Wandsworth Common. ‘I often see clothes and odd shoes lying about and I just looked at this shoe and thought, whose was it?
‘The idea for the first novel came to me walking over Wandsworth Common,’ she says. ‘I often see clothes and odd shoes lying about and I just looked at this shoe and thought, whose was it? I often walk around the tennis courts and the little cops there are quite spooky. You can see the chimney of the prison, and the Royal Patriotic Building, and it just occurred to me. I thought, what would I do if I saw a body there? How would I feel?’
The tale she’s currently working on is about a young couple who live just off Bellevue Road. When a stranger saves their baby from drowning on holiday, he becomes a part of their life. She aligns her thrillers with the domestic noir, a trendy genre of late given the success of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins’ Girl on The Train.
‘My novels are set around here partly because I find it easier to write about things on my doorstep, but also because I’m intrigued by the idea of writing thrillers based in comfortable, settled, middle-class worlds, where awful things just don’t happen.’
Such novels, she explains, are often set in the home. ‘We think of our houses as sanctuaries, a place of refuge from the outside world. Domestic noir is about when that isn’t the case – when you aren’t even safe in your own living room, or bedroom. It’s why quite a lot of them are about marital relationships.
It’s that moment of misplaced confidence – you might think you know your partner, but you don’t.’ It’s a topic she’s set to tackle at the festival, in conversation with fellow writer Annemarie Neary, author of The Orphans (which is set on Clapham Common), and JP Delaney, author of big hit The Girl Before.
So, what makes for a successful thriller? ‘The most important thing is for the reader to want to turn the page, and it has to have a jolly good plot. I write about people whose lives seem to be going along a steady path, but then they’re derailed by an event, a secret, or a person that they meet.
For me, it’s often about exploring what happens when someone who appears to know what they’re doing spins out of control.’ Her trick as a writer, she tells me, is getting beneath someone’s insecurities and observing their little ticks.
‘Someone might seem very confident on the outside, but be picking their fingernails even as they’re talking to you,’ she says. It all sounds very intriguing indeed…
CLAPHAM BOOK FESTIVAL: THE LINE-UP
Clapham Book Festival’s day-long programme kicks off at 2pm. Divided thematically, it will feature everything from crime and thrillers through to historical novels and spy fiction (do get a copy of Andrew Lownie’s compelling biography of Guy Burgess).
The festival was co-founded by two Clapham authors, J.J. Anderson and Elizabeth Buchan. Anderson’s latest novel is Reconquista, the first in a new series entitled Al Andalus set in 13th century Spain. Buchan’s fifteenth novel, The New Mrs Clifton, is out now.
The opening event, Death in The Afternoon, starts at 2pm and brings together top crime and thriller writers Sabine Durrant, J P Delaney and Annemarie Neary – facilitated by Natasha Cooper, a crime writer and former chair of the Crime Writers’ Association. Her sleuth, Trish MacGuire, has featured in a series of nine books.
The second session, The Past is Another Country, starts at 3.30pm and sees local author Julie Anderson chairing three historical writers – Tudor novelist Elizabeth Fremantle and Robin Blake, author of the Cragg & Fidelis series, and last but not least, Simon Bethon, a BAFTA-winning documentary maker and journalist. His histories Warlords and Allies at War have received both critical and popular acclaim, and Allies at War was made into a major BBC series.
The third session, Spies Under the Bed, starts at 5pm and sees three bestselling writers debate the facts and fiction of spies, led by local author Elizabeth Buchan, who has two wartime novels to her name.
There is an opportunity to meet authors in the bar from 6.30pm-7.30pm before the final talk from broadcaster and foreign correspondent Kate Adie at 7.30pm.
Each event is £10. See omnibus-clapham.org to book tickets