Off the shelf:
Will Dean

Ahead of a discussion on new crime with Joseph Knox at this year’s Manchester Literature Festival, the author of Dark Pines writes about his favourite atmospheric stories in TV and books

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When I’m reading or writing I crave the sense of being immersed deep inside a story. Stepping through the back of that wardrobe for the first time. Exploring a new world. Seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, tasting what the characters experience. I became addicted to this magic as a nerdy kid in the Midlands reading Roald Dahl and I’m still addicted decades later.

With Dark Pines, I set out to root the story in a very particular time and place: the elk hunt season in a small Swedish town. The story is told from the perspective of Tuva Moodyson, a young deaf reporter. It’s part Broadchurch, part Fargo, part Twin Peaks. I wanted readers to hear the gunshots in the woods, to feel the dampness in the air, to sense the claustrophobia of a marginal town isolated from the outside world.

When I read Stephen King or Sarah Waters I appreciate the landmarks: trees and houses and bars that anchor me securely to the story from the very beginning. I love finding storytellers who can do this.

I discovered The Dry by Jane Harper (Abacus, £8.99) earlier this year and felt the extreme heat and parched earth of the story. In Abir Mukerjee’s Smoke and Ashes (Vintage, £8.99), the latest in his superb Captain Wyndham series set in 1920s India, the history and the place inform every page. For something closer to home, Laura Shepherd-Robinson’s fantastic debut, out in January, Blood & Sugar (Mantle, £16.99), made me feel like I was walking the squalid streets of 18th century London. Finally, one of the most gripping thrillers I’ve ever read: Skin Deep by Liz Nugent (Penguin, £7.99). The book’s set in the south of France and on a small Irish island.

Tuva Moodyson will return soon in Red Snow. That book’s set in mid-winter, when the mercury plummets below -25C and locals keep themselves to themselves. The story is set in the same eccentric town and you’ll see many of the same familiar faces. It’s a tale of ice, blizzards, and a community frozen by fear.

I love TV and movies. But there’s a special magic to be found inside a good book.

Will Dean is the author of Dark Pines, published by Point Blank, an imprint of Oneworld (paperback £8.99). Will Dean and Joseph Knox discuss new crime on 6 Oct at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation as part of Manchester Literature Festival. Big Issue North is media partner to MLF and you can find more news and interviews with authors in coming editions of the magazine and online

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