How do I get to KRS Backwaters

Best-selling author David Beckett spoke to Günter Keil about his writer's block in the creation of “Totenfang”, the threatening elements of the water element, Count Dracula and the ubiquity of his character David Hunter.

After a five-year hiatus, Simon Beckett again published a novel with his most famous character, David Hunter. In “Totenfang” (Wunderlich-Verlag, 22.95 euros), the forensic scientist investigates the backwaters, a swampy landscape in south-east England. Simon Beckett started his Hunter series with “The Chemistry of Death” in 2006, the previous four titles of which have all been number 1 on the bestseller lists. The 56-year-old's novels have a total circulation of 9.5 million in 30 countries. Beckett, who previously worked as a journalist, English and Spanish teacher and drummer, lives in Sheffield with his wife Hilary. On Sunday the author will sign his work between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. at the Rowohlt stand (Hall 3.1 / Stand 3.1 / E 65).

Mr. Beckett, how far are you from home to the sea?

SIMON BECKETT: Sheffield is pretty much in the middle of Great Britain, which is why it is always furthest to the coast for me, no matter which direction I drive. Fortunately, however, we are a fairly small island, so the nearest coast is only a two-hour drive away. I often go to the seaside, preferably in Whitby, a small town in northeast Yorkshire.

Didn't Bram Stoker write “Dracula” there?

BECKETT: Exactly! Stoker lived in Whitby around 1890, and his Count Dracula arrives in Whitby on his ship. So you see, this city has a great history of storytelling.

Your new novel is also set by the sea, in the backwaters, much further south. Why did you put “Totenfang” there?

BECKETT: The backwaters consist of a labyrinth of canals and streams that run through the marshland, run dry at low tide and then expose wet silt, mud and ditches. The real Walton Backwaters in Essex may have inspired me a bit, but they are different from the area in the book. In a way, it's like my characters: even though they're not real, I want them to feel that way. The small coastal town of Cruckhaven that Hunter visits doesn't really exist either.

Also a water corpse, similar to the one Hunter examines?

BECKETT: As a boy, I was once at the seaside with my parents when the police were removing a drowned man. I didn't think about this situation for years, but now I remember exactly what the man looked like.

How is water particularly suitable for a thriller?

BECKETT: On the one hand, I find water very relaxing and atmospheric, especially when I'm swimming myself or when I'm near the sea. On the other hand, there is always a feeling of something mysterious and a threat. This aura appealed to me, and I had wanted to build a Hunter novel around water for a long time - it was all about finding the story for it.

That apparently took a long time: The last Hunter case “Decay” appeared five years ago.

BECKETT: It actually seems like I still need longer for each new volume in this series. That was also the case before “putrefaction”. And believe me, this is a pattern that I would very much like to break through.

What is it then?

BECKETT: There are various reasons for this - or maybe there are excuses, who knows. One is that I naturally strive to make each book different and better than the previous one. In the case of Hunter, that means that I need a completely new location and a different cast every time. And, more importantly: I have to be able to twist and turn the story in such a way that it appears unpredictable, but also completely normal and authentic. All of this puts me under tremendous pressure to write, which is not always a good thing. I restarted “Totenfang” several times, always with different scenes, and each time I hit a wall after about 20,000 to 30,000 words.

And what saved you?

So I stopped and started all over again. I was so focused on Hunter and so doggedly into the book that I had lost sight of why I originally started writing: because I had fun with it. With that realization, the book suddenly came to life, and I wrote it very quickly.