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.