Questions 2000

Given that you live near London, why are you such a huge Liverpool fan?

I'm such a huge Liverpool fan because I've supported them since I was about 10. The fact that I live near London is irrelevant. I mean, most of the glory hunters who support Man. Utd. are from bloody Devon so location means nothing! However, my love of the mighty Reds is based on a love of football and a passion for the game as it should be played (the fact that we won everything in sight during the seventies and eighties helped too). I didn't become a season ticket holder until 1991, because of work etc., but since then, I haven't missed one single game at Anfield, and only about a dozen away. It would be safe to say that Liverpool are an obsession with me. I love football in general. Playing it, watching it and, to the horror of those who meet me, talking about it. My worst nightmare... the close season. No football. Aaaaahhhhhh...

How does the fact that you are such an avid fan of Liverpool affect your relationship with the West Ham fans in Iron Maiden?

The West Ham fans in Iron Maiden just don't talk to me about football. The safest way to stay friends, as the Happy Hammers haven't won at Anfield for 28 years...

What's so great about Iron Maiden anyway?

Iron Maiden are a great band because they've never forgotten their roots. Also, there is no pretension with them. Live they are awesome. What you see is what you get. And I like what I see. Don't get me wrong, there are other great hard rock bands. Queensryche, Metallica, Megadeth, Great White. Iron Maiden are just special to me.

Why did you want to be an author?

I didn't want to be an author. I originally wanted to be an undertaker! Yes, it's true. I then wanted to be a journalist but I ended up working in a cinema, a supermarket, a clothes shop and behind a bar. I only wanted to be a writer after reading a book called 'Night of the Crabs' (not a medical book) and thought, if this guy is getting paid to write crap like this I'll have a go myself... I owe my life to crabs... (if you know what I mean!)

Whose books do you read?

I don't really read much now. Not fiction anyway. I'll read the odd Stephen King novel (the ones under 1,000 pages), like most of the world's population, I read Thomas Harris. When I was younger I read lots of James Herbert (who, strangely enough, I now share a publisher with!) and, I'll read William Peter Blatty if I can find any, but other than that, I tend to read non-fiction. I'm a lazy bastard basically and I spend far more time in the cinema. It's probably my greatest hobby and I go twice a week, every week. The films of Sam Peckinpah are the single greatest influence on my work ('The Wild Bunch', 'Straw Dogs', 'The Getaway', 'Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia' etc.) The man was a genius.

In your opinion, are there any authors that don't get enough credit?

Any authors who don't get enough credit? Yes, ME! The honest answer would be, I don't know because I don't read enough to tell you the truth. If pushed I'd say Mick Inkpen. He writes kids books and, when you're reading the same book every night to your little one then it helps when you actually enjoy it. The bloke's a genius.

What authors do you think get too much credit?

Authors who get too much credit? Loads of them, they also get too much fucking money! I'm talking the formula writers here. The big names who can churn out volume after volume of shit with very little difference in plot. The household names who don't have to work at it anymore. No, I'm not naming any names... Publishers are to blame for this too. They latch onto new authors too, pay them massive advances because they've written a trendy book and have a trendy image that is good for marketing (I'm not knocking it, I've been sold by image for many years too so I understand it at least). The thing is, where will some of these 'one hit wonders' be in 10 years! There are very few authors who can turn out a novel a year that sells and also has a different plot (and, yes, I would include myself in that group). I just think the publishing business can be a little on the pretentious side (like any 'artistic' business) and I hate that side of it. It's a job for Christ's sake (the greatest job in the world). A bloody hard one and a very rewarding one but then again, so, apparently, is nursing... It's just that writers work shorter hours and if we were all dropped in the sea tomorrow very few people would notice. Whereas, if someone dropped a load of nurses in the sea I think we'd all bloody notice... (Excuse me, I'm ranting) Big tip! Never treat an author with too much respect. We don't deserve it... We do a job, the same as anyone else. We're just incredibly lucky to get paid for doing what would be a hobby anyway.

How would you encourage young authors?

I'd encourage young authors by telling them not to give up. Easy for me to say I hear you roar but I started at the bottom. I wasn't an editor or a journalist or some so-called bloody 'celebrity' who decided to write a novel. I came into the business cold. Knew no one in it. Knew nothing about it. I had to rely on the merits of my writing, not on a load of hype or knowing someone at a publishing house. Good writers usually get published eventually. Mind you, so do alot of crap ones. My advice would be to get an agent. You need someone fighting for you and a good agent is indispensable. They say the cream rises to the top. Unfortunately, so do turds...

How many manuscripts did you send off before a publisher was interested?

I had 40 rejections on 5 different manuscripts before a publisher finally saw the light and published my first novel, a war book called 'Blood and Honour'. It was 63,750 words. I know, my girlfriend at the time counted each bloody one!

How much did you get paid for your first manuscript?

I was paid the magnificent sum of £150 advance and I thought I was rich! (Well, I was on the dole at the time). Fortunately, I get a bit more than that now...

Where did you go to school?

I went to school in Hertfordshire, where I was born. I went to an ordinary comprehensive (well, it was a bit rough, the school newspaper had an obituary column and they used to put a pig in the canteen as an air-freshener... Only kidding!) One of my closest friends was expelled at the same time as I was... We were both told we'd amount to nothing. He now has his own very successful photographic business and he's still one of my closest friends.

Did you like school?

School was o.k. I liked history and I learned to understand Shakespeare. I hated fucking woodwork and metalwork. It was too dangerous... Too much hot metal, hammering, cutting and threat of injury (and that was just from the teacher!) I was always crap at practical stuff like design. I liked sport and played football and rugby for the school. I gave up playing when I was seventeen because I didn't like getting up on Saturday mornings...

Did your teachers and family encourage you?

No one encouraged me to be a writer because no one knew that's what I wanted to be. Careers teachers didn't really exist when I went to school (and no, it isn't that long ago...). We were steered towards University but that didn't appeal to me. I once lectured to the Oxford Students Union a couple of years ago and was asked to change the original title of my talk which was 'Get a job and stop sponging off my taxes you lazy bastards'...

Were you a good student?

I was a decent student. I listened. I never set fire to the Headmaster or buggered the school cat. What more did they want...

Do you suffer from writers' block?

I get writers block every fucking morning when I sit down at my desk... It's then just a case of staring at the screen until a thought drops into place. I try to do about 4000 words a day.

Do you use a word-processor?

I do use a word-processor and I'm pleased I do. Up until the last two books I'd always used an old portable typewriter (I'm shit with technology) but I finally got a w.p. and the actual process of writing has been easier (the bloody ideas haven't come any easier but the physical process is easier).

What is your poison?

My poison? Well, it used to be vodka and lemonade and a bottle of brandy a night... Those were the days. I was an alcoholic by the time I was 20 (no half measures for me, excuse the pun). I actually haven't touched a drop for nearly twenty years. The strongest stuff that passes my lips these days is non-alcoholic beer, orange juice or Perrier. Probably just as well too.

Do you still go out with your mates on a Friday night and get pissed?

My mates, on the whole, are all responsible, married and fathers like myself, (yes, boring bastards... No, only kidding.) My own version of getting out of my head is screaming like a maniac at football every Saturday and seeing Liverpool stick the ball in the net, to me, is ten times better than getting pissed. I never used to enjoy getting pissed even when I did it. I used to throw up all the time. Still, no hangovers the next day... I'm very happy to say that I don't feel that marriage and fatherhood have changed me at all. I'm still as childish as I ever was...

If you knew the world ended tomorrow, what would you do today?

If I knew the world ended tomorrow I haven't got a clue what I'd do. Being such a yellow bastard, I'd probably just spend the day in tears... Someone once asked me what I'd do if I heard the four minute warning sound and I said grab the nearest good looking woman and hope my premature ejaculation problem came back but how I'd fill 24 hours I'm not sure. Probably have a kick around in the garden, have a go on the Playstation, watch 'The Wild Bunch' for the last time. Otherwise, I don't know... I would say steal a Ferrari and drive it up the M1 but the way our roads are fucked up I probably wouldn't get more than a mile before I got stuck in a traffic jam... Otherwise, assassinating Chris Evans and Zoe Ball seems a fun way to spend your last day on Earth... And the bloody Spice Girls, and Manchester United and... Fuck it, I could fill 24 hours thinking of people I'd like to wipe out...

Does the Millennium Bug bother you?

The Millennium Bug doesn't bother me. I've got some Nippon in the office... Seriously though, as long as my stereo, TV and video are working on January 1st, I couldn't give a stuff...

What's your favourite takeaway food?

My favourite takeaway food is chicken chow mein and egg fried rice. Sometimes pizza, occasionally fish and chips.

Will you ever stop writing?

I'll only stop writing if the mad fucker who threatened to kill me after 'Captives' was published ever finds me... Even if I had billions I'd still keep going. I think anything creative is in your blood and I know that I've still got a few personal demons that need exorcising. Writing, to me, is a form of therapy (cheaper too...) and without it, I'd go off my fucking head (to put it mildly).

Why do you choose to write horror books?

Why horror? Why not? It depends on your definition of horror. I've been called a horror writer for the last twenty years and that's fair enough. Stuff like 'Slugs', 'Death Day', 'Erebus' and 'Relics' were always pure horror but, during the last eight or nine years the emphasis has changed. Books like 'White Ghost', 'Knife Edge', 'Warhol's Prophecy', 'Deadhead' and 'Exit Wounds' (the next one to be published) aren't horror but they are horrific! There's a difference. 'Silence of the Lambs' wasn't a horror novel but it was horrific. 'Misery' wasn't a horror novel but it was horrific. It all depends on how you look at it. 'Fight Club', horror film or not? I can't think of too much stuff more horrific than having my face smashed in. '8mm', horror film? I think so. Snuff movies are pretty horrifying so, as I said, it depends on how you define horror.

What are your favourite and worst books that you have written?

My favourite book is 'Renegades' because it introduced Sean Doyle, a character so close to my heart I can't kill him... Everything just seemed to work in that book for me. I think 'Lucy's Child' and 'Stolen Angels' are probably better written and 'Purity' and 'Warhol's Prophecy' are, so I'm told even better than those but 'Renegades' and Doyle have a special place in my black little heart... As for the worst, I wouldn't look at any of my stuff and think, that was crap. In fact, I never read it after I've corrected the proofs. I glance at bits every now and then but the only time I ever read the book from cover to cover is when it's at the proof stage. Hence my inability to remember bits and consequent embarrassment when readers ask about some sequences and I can't remember the bloody things...

Would you say that an imagination capable of such macabre imagery is a gift or more of a curse?

What I have is a gift. No question. I view the world darkly so the ability to dredge through the darkest recesses of my own mind is great. The fact that other people want to share that is even better!

In Nemesis, there is a scene early on, in which a young girl of 16 is held captive by some burglars and then is found dead along with the child whom she was baby-sitting. However, there is no graphic depiction, which one would expect from a Shaun Hutson novel. Are there certain things that you are reluctant to describe, such as child abuse and murder?

There are some things that you just CANNOT describe... One is the rape and murder of a four year old, as you mention in Nemesis. That was why there was no description of that act. It was enough to know in your mind what had happened. Having said that, I can't think of any subject I would refuse to write about, as long as it worked within the context of the book. People, well critics anyway (for what it's worth) seem to think I have a list of taboo subjects on my wall and that I seem intent on writing about each one. That's bollocks of course. I've written about child abuse, cancer, bestiality, bondage, cannibalism etc. etc. but, if those subjects had been tackled by supposedly 'respectable' mainstream writers then critics would have been saying how challenging it all was. For instance, there's a nine page scene of a body being dismembered in an Ian McEwan book but, because he's a Booker Prize winner then that's alright! He's showing the frailty of the human condition or some such bullshit. I do it and it becomes cheap exploitation. Mind you, critics, on the whole, are failed writers who are consumed with jealousy and who should be treated with the contempt they deserve (oops, I'm ranting again). In short, there's nothing I wouldn't write about if I felt it necessary. So there...

How much of a reflection do you feel your work is on society? Literature is said to be influenced by an authors surroundings, do you think novels such as Assassin or Slugs would have been acceptable or even considered earlier on in this century?

Art is a mirror for reality so someone said and that's true. The world isn't a nasty place because I write nasty things, it's a fucking shithole and I reflect that by writing about horrible people in rotten situations. I once had a row with a publisher about that very subject. The publisher wanted me to write about 'more likeable' characters... Give me a break! Most of the people I write about are composites of people I've met or know! (That probably says more about my fucking social life than my writing actually...) But, like I said, for alot of people, real life stinks and I like to reflect that. However, you don't need to live like that to write about it. My surroundings are about as comfortable as you could get (thank God) but it doesn't stop me wanting to write about the darker, more uncomfortable things in life.

As far as novels like 'Slugs' and 'Assassin' being accepted earlier in this century, they probably would. I don't think they would be accepted NOW! I honestly think that horror, as it was fifteen years ago, is dead. Whether it'll ever return I don't know. I also have no doubt that it's been killed off by books like 'Silence of the Lambs' and 'Hannibal' and the dozens of other serial killer novels that have jumped on that bandwagon. Nothing supernatural can compete with the horror of a warped human mind. I know in films things are different. 'The Blair Witch Project' proved that (it scared the shit out of me. 'The Sixth Sense' (overrated) made a fortune. So did the 'Scream' films (also shite) and garbage like 'I Know What You Did Last Summer' (probably better titled 'I Know What You Did But Couldn't Really Give A Toss') and 'Urban Legend'. 'End of Days' may not have been a great film but it was bloody entertaining. But the upsurge in horror in the cinema doesn't seem to have spilled over into literature this time. If splatter novels ever make a return then fine but, I'm not holding my breath.

American Psycho is set to become a major film production; Brett Easton Ellis does, to my mind, nothing new for fiction despite all of the controversy surrounding the text. Does it annoy you when the American Hollywood bandwagon seizes upon an essentially 'limited' writer like Ellis and hypes his work and yet disregards your own and more original stuff?

That leads nicely into the bullshit surrounding Brett Easton Ellis and 'American Psycho'. As you say, it's shortly to be made into a film. The book was wanked over by critics and why? Because they said it was a shattering indictment of modern life, etc. etc. Bullshit. The bloke throws in some brand names every few words, writes some revolting murders and suddenly he's a fucking social commentator! Critics again, see. I must admit, I do despair when I see some of the novels that are turned into films because I know mine are better! Obviously, it's doubtful if anyone would have the guts to make one of my books faithfully into a film but then again, if someone is giving you obscene amounts of money for the rights, you can live with that...

How much of an influence have writers like Stephen King and Clive Barker had on your own style?

Writers like Stephen King have not been an influence on my work although I think he's a very good writer indeed. Clive Barker! Do me a favour! I'd had stuff published years before anyone had even heard of him. Besides, if anyone ever thought I'd been influenced by crap like 'Hellraiser' I'd be gutted. The other way round, maybe...

Do you think that there are limits to the whole genre of horror? For example, how many ways can people be disembowelled?

Whether there are limits to the genre brings me back to an earlier question. Yes, you're right, there are only so many ways you can disembowel someone etc. But, if you do it with style then it's another matter... (Cue maniacal laughter in the background).

Your characters tend to share certain traits and even their physiognomy is similar (I refer to the 'shoulder length hair' and the 'piercing blue eyes' or even the 'muscular and thick set frame' of so many characters). Is that a definite and purposeful attempt to create characters that are more like heavy metal icons rather than 'nine to five' types?

The fact that my characters share certain traits and even similar physiognomy is probably more down to a lack of imagination on my part rather than anything else... Someone once did a treatise on my work as a part of a degree course and she noticed the same thing, particularly that some of the villains seem to have skin problems or greasy hair or bad breath, dirty nails etc. That the gang bosses tended to be 'well-preserved', 'looked younger than their years', that kind of thing. I'd like to say it's intentional but I'd be lying if I said it was. There's certainly no attempt to make them look like rock icons as opposed to 'nine to five types' (your words...) What the fuck does a 'nine to five type' look like? Suit? Short hair? Smart? (Answers on a postcard...)

You have an excellent relationship with Iron Maiden and lyrics from rock songs often appear in your text. How highly do you rate the contribution they make as poets and commentators of society? Do you think there is a certain amount of 'snobbery 'in the public's attitude towards heavy metal and as a result, your books?

My books contain lyrics from rock songs because those lyrics are sometimes more apt to what I'm writing than stuff by Shakespeare, Milton or Andrew Lloyd Webber... Yes, there is a snobbery against rock music (usually by trendy little twats who think that Fat Boy Slim is a musical genius) which possibly spills over against the type of thing I write. Iron Maiden have never been critics darlings but it hasn't stopped them making truck-loads of money or maintaining a longevity most 'pop' groups would kill for. Same with my writing. Being scorned by critics hasn't stopped me making a good living and still having every book I've written still in print. It's the public who have given me what I've got today and I'm eternally grateful to them for that. My readers know that they'll get value for money and that's all that matters.

Coming back to recurring themes, there are certain incidents that happen time and time again in your books such as 'the sphincter muscle relaxing' and 'vitreous fluid' escaping. Would you say that these have become essential 'ingredients' of a Hutson novel or are they just accidental recurrences?

Relaxing sphincter muscles... Well, what can I say... An accident, pure and simple... If people want to see recurring phrases as a trademark then I've got no problem with that. They're almost like comforters... You might have to wait 200 pages before the first eye is gouged but, you know it'll be there somewhere...

A lot of criticism is laid against horror movies and violence, which is deemed explicit, and yet there are few headline attacks against books that include graphic descriptions of violence. Do you think that an 'acceptable' face is put on literature and its violence despite the fact that literature encourages the reader to imagine the gore in greater detail because books are not considered entertainment for the 'masses'?

Books seem to have escaped the 'blame' for depicting violence graphically because they're not such easy targets. I mean, the two blokes who slaughtered 20 of their classmates in America were wearing trench coats so the press immediately laid the blame at the feet of 'The Matrix'. Some guys in the States had set up a club for bare knuckle boxing after seeing 'Fight Club' supposedly (and yet the novel had been out for years before that...) Films are more visible that's all. It would be interesting to see if someone started a spate of cannibalistic killings where the victims livers were eaten with 'some fava beans and a nice chianti' whether the film of 'Silence of the Lambs' or the novel got the blame. I've got a pretty good idea which it would be... A national newspaper once ran a hilarious spread on twenty murders and the films that caused them (pardon me, did I say newspaper? It was 'The Sun'). One of the films citied was John Carpenter's 'The Thing'. Now, maybe I blinked but I can't ever remember anyone being murdered by a disembodied head that sprouted spiders legs, can you? I've done a few TV shows where people have tried to blame my work, basically for the collapse of the entire social fabric of the country and, usually, they haven't even read the fucking books. I remember doing one programme shortly after the Dunblane shootings where some old twat was banging on about how 'Natural Born Killers' had been responsible. Well, that and my books. End of story. What very few people do remember however, is that when Mark Chapman shot John Lennon, he had a copy of J. D. Salinger's 'The Catcher in the Rye' in his pocket and was obsessed with it. However, Salinger's book is a great literary work so that's O.K. isn't it? Thank God Chapman didn't read my stuff, he'd have taken out all four of the fucking Beatles. It's just a pity he didn't take time to re-load and blow Yoko Ono away too...

You are often cited as being massively influenced by certain film makers. When you write a book, is there a latent desire to create something that will easily adapt to the screen or is it a personal goal to see one of your books (despite Slugs already being done) on the big screen?

Yes, I'm massively influenced by certain film makers. I admit it. It's a fair cop. Well, one film maker anyway. The late, very great Sam Peckinpah. The guy was a genius. No two ways about it. 'The Wild Bunch' is the greatest film I've ever seen. 'Straw Dogs' too is a masterpiece. So is 'Cross of Iron'. My greatest wish is to travel to Mexico City, place a copy of 'Knife Edge' (my own homage to Sam's 'Pat Garret and Billy the Kid') in the Hotel 'Camino Royale' (where he always stayed when he was there) and just say thanks. It may sound stupid to you but, who cares? Martin Scorsese is also a genius ('Taxi Driver' is the second greatest film I've ever seen), Oliver Stone's made some superb films ('Salvador', 'Talk Radio', 'Natural Born Killers' and 'JFK' being the most notable). Francis Ford Coppola's first two 'Godfather' films are incredible pictures, so is 'Apocalypse Now' and 'The Conversation'. Of the younger directors, David Fincher ('Seven' and 'Fight Club') and the Coen Brothers ('Blood Simple', 'Fargo', and 'The Big Lebowski') are, I think, the best.

If one of your books was made into a film, who would you chose to direct it and who would write the score?

I would love to see my books filmed, 'Renegades' particularly. That one would be best directed by John McTiernan or Peter Hyams and scored by Jerry Goldsmith. 'Lucy's Child' or 'Stolen Angels' would look brilliant with Fincher's dark touch and soundtracks by Mark Isham. 'Deadhead' or 'Warhol's Prophecy' would be fine in the hands of Joel Schumacher (I must be one of the few people to think '8mm' is one of the films of the year and he also did a great job with 'Falling Down'). But, it would be great to see one, two or, preferably all of them filmed and filmed well but, failing that, I'd settle for obscene amounts of money for the rights... Then I could stand back from it all and watch the stars of 'Renegades' arriving for the premiere... Steve Martin as Sean Doyle. Bette Midler as Georgina Willis. Directed by Mel Brooks. With a compilation soundtrack of Boyzone's greatest hits... That's showbiz. And me, I'd be laughing all the way to the bank...