Tuesday 21 November 2017

Write side... with author Andrew Hughes

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes
Kim Bielenberg

Kim Bielenberg

Andrew Hughes on Georgian Dublin, dead bodies, and how working on the 'Late Late Show' helped him as a writer

Both your novels are set in Georgian houses in 19th-century Dublin. What attracted you to that period?

I was asked to write the history of houses for people who lived in the Georgian squares in Dublin. Then I wrote a social history of Fitzwilliam Square. I found out about the people who lived there and some of their stories.

What sort of people lived there?

They were designed for the landlord class. But there was a slump after the Act of Union. The middle-class professions then moved in - doctors and lawyers. Half the people living there were servants - coachmen, maids and housekeepers. It was very much an Upstairs Downstairs set-up - and that appealed to me.

Your new book, The Coroner's Daughter, has a lot of scientific detail about dead bodies. How did you learn about that?

I studied a text book of forensic science published in 1816 - George Edward Male's Epitome of Forensic Medicine. It set out how doctors, lawyers and coroners should deal with a body in suspicious circumstances.

If you weren't a writer what would you be?

I would probably be an archivist. That was a job that I did before. I enjoyed the historical side of it - and looking at letters and diaries.

What was it like working as an archivist in RTÉ?

I was cataloguing the Late Late Show when Pat Kenny was presenting it, and Prime Time in the mid-2000s. I had to watch the shows and note who the guests were. I used to have to describe shot-by-shot what was on the film. It gave me a good grounding in describing scenes.

Did any books inspire you?

One of my favourites is The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, a medieval mystery set in an Italian monastery. I also enjoyed John Banville's Book of Evidence; the first-person narrative told from the murderer's point of view influenced my first novel, The Convictions of John Delahunt.

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