By April Howard
We all probably know Richard Osman as ‘the guy from Pointless’ or as ‘the guy from the telly’, but Osman has branched out into the world of fiction writing and produced a brilliant crime novel: The Thursday Murder Club. The book is set in a retirement village in Kent and focuses on the Thursday murder club (a group of retirees in their seventies who set out to solve cold cases) who soon find themselves in the midst of a live crime, which they set out to solve.
For Durham Book Festival 2020, Richard Osman is interviewed by Professor Katy Shaw of Northumbria University. The pair clearly have a rapport and easygoing humour glides seamlessly between them. Professor Shaw elevates the discussion at key moments, asking thoughtful and inquisitive questions, and Osman answers delightfully, always modest and charming. His onscreen wit translates brilliantly to the fairly intimate interview, and the pair made the interview very enjoyable and intellectually stimulating.
Osman addresses the idea of himself being ‘a man from the telly’, and understands that this is the image people will have of him, but he does press that he has “always been a writer” and that, if he needs to, he will go into another “lockdown” of sorts by taking a break from television to focus wholeheartedly on his writing. Osman seems to have had a substantial amount of self- doubt when it came to becoming a novelist, asking those close to him whether his book resembled a “proper novel” that a novelist would write. He has evidently achieved this with his incredibly well-plotted and intensely readable first novel, but it was interesting to get such honest insights into his process and mindset, seeing how he had to tweak his identity to understand that he is a “proper novelist” and not a “man from television” trying to write a novel.
The thing that really strikes you about Osman’s discussion of his novel is the genuine connection he seems to have with his characters. He warmly says that they became “his gang” as he was writing, and seems truly fond of them, discussing their quirks, flaws and strengths with authentic delight, and that they “made me laugh everyday”. This appears to be Osman’s outlook generally on the older generations, on their strength and boldness. He cites his grandfather, a police officer who refused to police the miners, beaming with pride at his life, theorising that his grandfather would have loved the book as it contains everything he enjoyed in life. Osman also describes the retirement village in which he set his novel comparing it to a university, saying that it is filled with the “stuff of life”: politics, books, discussions, etc. and he admires its sense of community, its refusal to accept loneliness as the fate of the elderly.
During the interview, Professor Shaw asks Osman if he thinks there’s a reason why crime fiction’s sales have gone through the roof over lockdown, to which he replies that it must be due to the crime novel’s depiction of a world of moral certainty, where there are consequences and conclusions – a world seemingly distant from today’s uncertainty. This thoughtful and understanding approach of Osman’s is central to his appeal, as he truly understands both readers and what they are seeking at this moment and the older generation’s way of thinking and living and respects them for it. This worldview of tolerance, understanding, and benevolence bleeds into his characters and his novel.
If you are looking for an excellently written and intriguing crime novel to read, then look no further than The Thursday Murder Club, and let us start to consider Richard Osman as “that novelist who also makes good television”.
Image: Anna Kuptsova