Review/Interview: Louis Bayard, author of The School of Night

The Spring 2011 issue of Mystery Scene features my essay on novelist Louis Bayard: partly a review of his new book The School of Night, partly a survey of earlier novels including The Pale Blue Eye and The Black Tower, and partly an interview with the author himself — who’s every bit as entertaining and enlightening as his books. Looking back on his debut novel — Mr. Timothy, featuring a grown-up Tiny Tim from Dickens’ classic Christmas story — and reflecting on his career as a whole, Bayard told me how he considered his books both entertainments and tributes:

Dickens was the writer who (along with Mark Twain) made me a reader. I loved him as a kid, and I rediscovered him as an adult, and at some point, I cottoned onto the fact that he was my biggest influence as a writer.  And so Mr. Timothy began as a kind of homage to him before slowly morphing into a mystery-thriller.  Looking back, I can see that all my books are homages in one way or another: to Poe, the first mystery writer in English; to Vidocq, the first crime writer in any language.  And even in The School of Night, I get to genuflect (briefly) in the direction of Shakespeare, which is something any writer of English should do at some point in his life.

For the full article, check out the new Mystery Scene, on newsstands now. The issue also boasts some other fine articles, including the cover story on Jasper Fforde, author of the Thursday Next series; a look back at the novels of David Dodge of To Catch a Thief fame; and a feature on Kelli Stanley, author of the Roman Noir series and the Miranda Corbie novels.

For my own interview with Stanley, check out The Writer’s Center’s podcast series. And speaking of… Do stay turned for my next podcast with novelist Alan Orloff, whose new novel Killer Routine kicks off a series of Last Laff Mysteries; this new issue of Mystery Scene reviews that book too, calling it “an entertaining debut with a diverse array of engaging characters.” My interview with Orloff should be posted next week. — Art Taylor