Probably my favourite kind of music. Most of the stuff I liked growing up was punk – quite thrashy and loud – or just really good pop music. As I get older I realise most of the stuff I listen to sounds like it was recorded at the bottom of a well. Country Soul for me is where it all fits together.
2. Having a tight-knit, very disparate group of friends
I’m very lucky that over the years I’ve been able to meet people who mean an incredible amount to me, but all have different interests. And I guess with us – you, me, Nikesh [Shukla], Niven [Govinden], Lee [Rourke] – we all write very different things, we all like each other’s stuff, but realistically speaking I don’t think there’s any chance of us all ending up on a Booker table, thinking: ‘Fuck you – I’m skint.’
3. Biographies of writers I love
I read less non-fiction than anything else. One thing I do have an absolute genre-adoration for is books about writers, and books by writers about writing. There’s a great book by Philip Roth called Shop Talk , but I started really getting into biographies of writers and the don, if you like – the don of the books I like to read – is Blake Bailey. Blake Bailey has written three biographies; he’s written a biography of Richard Yates, he’s written a biography of John Cheever, and next year I believe he’s publishing a book on Charles Jackson – the guy who wrote The Lost Weekend. So he’s basically doing a drunk-trilogy of American writers.
4. British seaside towns in winter
It’s very simple: English seaside towns in the most inclement of weather. I would go to a hotel and it’d be really Victorian with splendid views, but at the end of its life – faded grandeur. Then escaping from that hotel, and running – jacket over head – to the nearest pub, which would have a roaring fire, and ordering a pint…or maybe a gin and tonic. It’s the writer in me – it’s sort of Orwellian; the idea of going somewhere really depressing. I love that. Talking to people at the bar. ‘You’re not from round ’ere, are you?’ ‘No – we’re on holiday…’
Let’s say we’re going to Chessington. I’d have plotted the route before we got there, and it’s basically: keep up with me because I know where I’m going. And you have to queue up with me, and run. I fucking love them.
When I was in Swindon, and I’d go to the gym a lot, what I wanted more than anything else was a pair of jogging bottoms with a tie-waist, which didn’t cinch in. And I found the perfect jogging bottoms. They were £9, in ASDA. They’re like wearing my pyjamas. I love them so much. I’ve never found anything like them. I became so obsessed with them – and I couldn’t find them anywhere else – I even emailed ASDA, saying: ‘Do you have any leftover?’ And they said: ‘No, you crazy man. Stop emailing us.’
Martin Donovan is the greatest actor who never became a massive star, but should’ve done. He’s in almost all of the Hal Hartley films. Basically every character that I’ve ever written is some kind of version of Martin Donovan, in something he’s acted in. He manages to convey an utter vulnerability with a proper masculinity at the same time – and he was the first person I’d ever seen onscreen who managed to do both of those things. He nailed the disparate nature of being a man in the 80s and 90s that wanted to be intelligent and feminine, but at the same time have this masculine drive.
I lived there for three-and-a-half years, and in my life there are only three places that I would choose to live: New York, London, and Liverpool. The only thing I don’t like about Liverpool is that they’ve singularly failed to do anything good with the Beatles. But I love the place.
I’m giving up smoking. My last three cigarettes – they’re from my honeymoon – are my last three Parliament Lights. I always said I would quit with a Parliament. When I quit years ago I didn’t have any to hand, because obviously they’re American. Perhaps I always knew I was going to give up, for good.
Columbo is the greatest programme ever committed to television screens. He never gets above lieutenant. His one talent – and he only has one – is that he is always underestimated. All these rich and famous people think, ‘Who is this one-eyed cunt? I have perfected the art of murder, and this guy with his Mack and his dog and his Peugeot 205 – he’s got no chance.’ I understand the nature of hubris, and the nature of self-perception. With Columbo, the murderer thinks: ‘I can’t be caught.’ Columbo lures them into a false sense of security, using class as his weapon.