Journalist Tim Walker on how working in LA inspired his new crime novel, Smoke Over Malibu, but he’s happy to be home in Kensal Rise…
Journalist Tim Walker‘s debut novel, Completion, was inspired by London. Having recently returned from a five-year stint in Los Angeles as a correspondent for The Independent, he launches his second novel, Smoke Over Malibu, inspired by his time across the pond.
‘It was hard to leave LA, but easy to come home to London,’ starts Walker, as we chat about his return. ‘I arrived in LA shortly after the 2012 election and left pretty sharpish after the 2016 one. My wife and I had always planned to leave whatever happened, but I can’t say the result made me pause on this at all!’
Walker’s job involved covering a lot of the election, so he was glad to able to come up for air at the end of it. The release of his new novel is a perfect celebration of everything that he loved about LA: ‘Moving to LA, I think you kind of feel like you’ve been there before because you are so accustomed to seeing it on screen,’ he says.
‘So as much of a culture shock as it is, there are some points of acquaintance where you feel like you know a bit of the culture already. It’s a funny sense of dislocation and familiarity all at once.’
So what can we expect from the new book? Walker’s first novel was a comic London novel about a disintegrating family trying to sell their home in the city.
‘Smoke Over Malibu is a soft-boiled mystery and a Raymond Chandler type detective genre about a British guy who has been in LA for a long time. He works for an antiques business and at the beginning of the novel his ex-best friend and writing partner goes missing so he sets out to solve the mystery,’ he says.
‘I wanted to write about LA while I was there and paying a lot of attention to it being a reporter. The hard-boiled detective genre to me is the genre of Los Angeles – Raymond Chandler is to LA what Charles Dickens is to London; he defined the city in print. It’s a lot about the film industry as well, so it epitomises all my passions.’
Did being a journalist help make the move into being an author easy. ‘Being a reporter isn’t the same as being a detective, but it does take you into areas that other people might not pay attention to and you meet people outside of the run of your daily life,’ he says.
‘This really helps with inspiration. I’m voraciously interested in real life too, so that has definitely helped.’
According to The Guardian, it’s paid off for Walker with the review stating: ‘It’s hardboiled hilarity. Tim Walker brings to his plot the care of a proper crime novelist… It would make a great film, if only they still made films like it.’
The hard-boiled detective genre to me is the genre of Los Angeles – Raymond Chandler is to LA what Charles Dickens is to London; he defined the city in print
In the midst of enjoying the community feel of the Kensal Triangle and pub crawling around all the new joints he’s missed in four years, Walker is brewing new ideas slowly. ‘Hopefully there will be another novel one day,’ he says. ‘With the election and this book, I had a pretty busy time of it so I need time to let a few ideas percolate.’
And as Walker puts it, they might have single origin coffee and yoga studios on each corner, plus blue skies, open space and the option to stroll around in sandals year round, but it isn’t London. He seems pretty enamoured to be home, so who knows, perhaps Kensal Rise might be the perfect setting for his next novel?