Out in stores now: MARRY, BANG, KILL, the new book by Giller-longlisted author Andrew Battershill!
Don't miss out on reading the novel Publishers Weekly calls "a surprisingly heartfelt story tucked inside a superbly oddball crime thriller."
Andrew was kind enough to agree to a quick social media interview with us before he begins launching MARRY, BANG, KILL. Check our events page for information on his upcoming appearances in Regina, Toronto, Ottawa, and more!
Order your copy from Goose Lane Editions, Amazon, Chapters/Indigo, or your local independent bookstore. And check out this excerpt to whet your appetite for this sensation, sensationally offbeat thriller.
About Andrew Battershill (from his website):
Andrew Battershill is a writer and teacher currently living in Vancouver, BC with his wife, the poet and essayist Suzannah Showler. A graduate of the University of Toronto's MA in creative writing program, he was the fiction editor and co-founder of Dragnet Magazine, and is currently the fiction editor of This Magazine. He is represented by Adam Schear at DeFiore & Company. He will be the 2017-2018 Writer-in-Residence at the Regina Public Library.
What was the impetus behind MARRY, BANG, KILL?
Ah, the ol’ impetus. I think as always with these things there were a couple of different kinds, one kind is the life situation kind (which nobody cares about), and the other is the creative/artistic kind (which possibly some people care about?).
I started this book immediately after submitting my first novel for publication, as a way to focus my energy on anything other than waiting. Life situation-wise, finishing this novel also benefitted a lot from my wife and I moving to the US for her to go to grad school, and my being legally prohibited from working for six months while my visa went through. That’s right, for six months it was a straight-up crime for me to take on gainful employment. Truly, any writer’s dream.
As for the creative side, I’ve always been a big crime fiction fan, particularly noir and noir-adjacent stuff. It started with watching Law & Order with my grandfather at what, in hindsight, seems like kind of a ridiculously young age, and continues now as I binge out Altered Carbon while my wife sleeps. Around the time I started writing this book, I was deep, deep, deep in an Elmore Leonard fugue, so I’m sure that had some influence. I decided that I wanted to write something like the trash/treasure I read and watch all the time myself.
In particular, though, I was thinking about ways to reconcile my political/ethical beliefs with my love of good crime fiction. So, I started asking myself some questions. Like: How do you reckon with writing and enjoying crime fiction if you also happen to believe, say, that the current prison system in America is a form of institutionalized slavery?
I think we’re in an era where, politically speaking, the rubber seems pretty ready to hit the road, and if you’re a feminist, or a person who doesn’t believe in race-hate, or a person who doesn’t want to live in a tribalist, anarcho-capitalist dystopia, or just a person, I guess, it’s important not be that thing passively. It’s important to think hard about the ways the things you like and participate in feed into the systems whose results disgust and depress you every day, I guess is what I’m saying.
So, I started thinking about what I was working on more as a revisionist thriller. And, the idea there, I think, is to write something that fulfills for a reader the same fun-making capacities and enjoyment as a standard thriller, while also staying in touch with the real consequences of these well-trod themes. It’s one thing to have yet another corrupt cop main character, but it’s another to actually think and work through the depth of the evil that kind of figure actually has, is, will carry out on society. The best crime fiction, in my opinion, delivers fun and humour, while grappling in a real human way with the high stakes in play, and it uses those stakes to generate fun, excitement, and, uh, actual empathetic engagement for readers.
That's an interesting point, about reconciling your enjoyment of something in Art (say, crime) that you don't enjoy in life (well, crime). Did you have any similar dilemma with your debut novel Pillow? Do you think the writer has a responsibility to directly confront that which they are uncomfortable with? Or should this be up to the reader?
I think it's an interesting and open question. I personally had absolutely zero qualms with this dilemma while writing Pillow, mostly due to being a young shithead who just wanted to get a book done.
As for responsibility, I think the only responsibility an author has is to treat whatever they write about thoughtfully. Now, I think that the burden of thoughtfulness is a more complex one than it seems at first blush, but I'm in favour of a hard, low minimum for this.
I tend to prefer art that's a little less on the nose, and that leaves room for interpretation, but there's also been plenty of super didactic work that I like.
Basically, I kind of just think that the responsibilities of a writer are the same as they are for, um, being a good person.
I am interested in the concept of a “Canadian” crime novel. That is, we Canadians are, stereotypically, a quiet, polite breed of individual. Yet some of the most brutal crime thrillers I’ve read in recent years are set in Canada and written by Canadians. Is “Canadian crime” prime for a literary renaissance? Is this our time to assert to the world that we are not meek snow creatures anymore?
Yeah, so re: Canadian Crime, I think basically, that for a long time and for a lot of reasons (c.f GRANTS), CanLit was pretty conservative, specifically in the area of genre vs Literary (always a capital L). And, more recently, starting maybe around Caught (which is very good!), literary crime started creeping in. I think also that the culture has just advanced with the times. A ton of the best narrative art being made these days is being made for television (or streaming or whatever), and a lot of that great art was in the crime genre: Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Fargo, The Wire. These were all the top of the top prestige TV shows, and they were undeniably genre. So, I think that gradually over time that a Family Drama isn't better than a Crime Drama just because the word before Drama was different. And, as people who were, say 12 when The Sopranos came around are becoming the people who write the books a lot of these distinctions will become increasingly obsolete.
And also, there's just the talent! Naben Ruthnum, Andrew Sullivan, Jeremy Hanson-Finger, the aforementioned Lisa Moore, Sam Wiebe, and Jen Sookfong Lee just off the top of my head, have all written crime or crime adjacent novels in the last little while. And they're all great books, and all great writers! So there's just an accumulation of talent thing at this point.
What do you hope people take away from MBK?
Short answer: a good time! I think that books of all kinds should be entertaining, and I really tried to make this book fun. Now, there are a lot of different kinds of fun. You can zone out and watch YouTube videos of a puppies who don't understand how hardwood floors work, and that's fun, or you can play a high-level game of chess and that'll also be fun, but it'll be a different, more challenging, more well-earned kind. So, I hope people take away a kind of fun that is in the exact middle ground between watching YouTube videos of puppies who don't understand how hardwood floors work and playing a high-level game of chess.
Okay, one final question, kinda meta: What one question do you hope interviewers ask you, and why?
I'll be real with you: I have a grand unified theory about how Star Trek: The Next Generation is actually just a prolonged character study following Will Riker's decline from up-and-coming heartthrob to a chesty, career-stunted depressive with severe father issues.
Why do I want to be asked about that? Because I've never been more right about anything in my life.
Thank you very much, Andrew!