Author of the Month

Name: Philip Wilding

First Novel:

Most Recent Book: Cross Country Murder Song

'...a 21st-century road trip that will grip you to the heart of its darkness...'

On a journey from the Jersey Shore to the Pacific Ocean, the driver makes his way across an America distorted beyond all recognition, as if in a fevered dream. He is accompanied by ghosts of his traumatic past and pursued by the police, who have discovered the alarming secret in his basement.

On and off the road, we get a glimpse into the lives of people who are touched by the driver in one way or another - a porn star who has lost his mojo; a widower looking for love; two parents who return day after day to the spot where their son was killed.

Speeding past and stopping off along the way, the driver meddles, mixes and murders, heading towards the edge of the New World and to his own sick realisation of the American Dream.

If you fancy reading something very different then get yourself a copy of "Cross Country Murder Song". Philip Wilding has created a uniquely disturbing and visceral novel that will haunt you for days after you have finished the last page.

This is not a book you can carelessly skim; every word demands your attention as Wilding creates a patchwork quilt of experience moving from the past to the future to the present with a searing detail that burns into your consciousness.

The main character is someone we come to know only as ďthe driverĒ and as he moves from one dreadful act to the next you feel yourself hoping he evades capture to find out what else he will get up to. Even the secondary characters, each deep in a well of their own unhappiness, are prone to act in ways that surprise and shock. Nobody in this novel is simply as they first appear. Two good examples of Wildingís warped thinking are the parents mentioned above. Day after day they return to the spot where their young son was killed. They eat at the roadside cafe as if trying to fill the void left by their sonís passing. But this is never enough. The last dish they serve up to each other in the privacy of their own home. A meal whose details Iíll leave to the writer to reveal himself.

This work displays all the signs of becoming a cult classic... and if you are ever stuck as to how to offer the definition of ďnoirĒ I suggest you point to this book.

The writing is hypnotic and carries the lyricism and precision of a poet. ďCross Country Modern SongĒ is a 21st-century road trip that will grip you to the heart of its darkness, forcing you to think about our sick world - and itís excesses.

Reviewed by: M.M.

CrimeSquad Rating


1) What makes a truly great crime/thriller novel?
Anything but the obvious, there are so many so genre novels that stick to the same format, even the same bloody covers, excuse the pun. They seem to flood the market thematically too; kidnap and torture, serial killers (so many serial killers with dopey names, half of them sound like failed Batman adversaries), supernatural twists! There are too many people climbing on the crime bandwagon as they think itís a quick buck and easy to write. Actually, most of it is so utterly crap that it probably was easy to write. Anyway, I got away from the question Ė get used to that Ė good writing, strong characters, an innovative storyline; like any good fictional form. Crime writing shouldnít be shorthand for sloppy/underwhelming writing just because someoneís been mysteriously killed with a hook.
2) Now that the crime/thriller genre represents the largest section of fiction sold in the UK and Ireland, do you think we do enough to celebrate the quality and diversity of the writing?
Perhaps not the diversity, but lots of decent writing falls through the cracks, and mainstream audiences often tend to pick up on the obvious, thatís not a criticism, thatís just the way it is. Saying that, you canít wander into any bookshop without being overwhelmed by the crime section, usually in some garish display. Iím not sure it should be celebrated as such, itís very evident in lots of strands in the media and you canít get on a tube train without it being promoted in some form on the platform walls. I understand they even give prizes out for it too. I think we hear enough about it, itís not like you have to seek it out or meet like-minded individuals in a darkened graveyard once a month to thumb through well-worn paperbacks by Elmore Leonard.
3) Do you plot the whole book meticulously and have all your research done before starting to write - or do you discover things as ideas form whilst writing?
Both, I think any writer worth their salt feels their way sometimes, but then I would say that. Plus, inspiration strikes at any time, you canít just ignore it because youíre at a specific point on the way from A to B. Thereís a chapter in the book about a man buying a Russian bride after his wife is murdered that pretty much fell on me and it was too good to leave out so it became part of the book. Youíd be a fool to ignore something like that; itís virtually a gift.
4) CCMS has a fascinating pattern to it as you weave present/ past/ future together. How difficult was it to keep it all under control?
There were days when it felt like a gun to my head, others when it was the most freeing thing in the world. Itís the way my mind works - tying various strands together and telling different stories across a wide spectrum Ė plus itís the sort of thing I like to read, linear storytelling can be the most boring thing in the world sometimes. Having said all of that, there were three days towards the end of the book when I had to pull everything together and make all the pieces fit and that was like trying to unravel the Gordian Knot while suffering from toothache and with a pencil in your eye. I think the results were worth it though.
5) Most of your characters are suffering some sort of trauma...did you set out with this theme in mind or did you "find" it as you went along?
The working title was Trauma, oddly enough. It was borne of trauma; mine. Which made me think about how different people deal with the blows life sometimes deals them. I just needed something or someone to be the first domino to fall, to set things in motion as it were. That someone was the driver.
6) You have an authentic American voice. Is this the result of a lot of research or do you visit a lot?
I was a music journalist in my early twenties, I spent years touring the US reporting on bands, think Almost Famous the movie, but the hair metal version. It was quite the trip, it also took me across country, a lot of those roads I wrote about Iíve actually travelled on, Iím grateful I didnít meet the driver on the wayÖ
7) There are some nice touches of dark humour in the book. How deliberate was that?
Very, I write comedy sometimes, I occasionally record and perform with Phill Jupitus too. Plus, a book thatís just a litany of unrelenting horrors is no book at all in my opinion (see question 1), and Iíve always wanted to make people giggle and then gasp with revulsion. Life can be like that; itís part of the journey.
8) Your novel is highly visual and begging to be adapted for the big screen; any offers yet?
Not yet, itís being looked at or so Iím told, but that means very little, lots of books get looked at. James from the Manic Street Preachers passed it on to one film company, which was lovely of him, but itís been radio silence so far. Itís a shame, I think itíd make a decent film script, the Holiday chapter originally started out as an idea for a movie. Plus Iíd like the kind of film rights money that meant I could afford my own disused volcano so that I could live out my life as a Bond villain.
9) What do you think drives a story best Ė plot or characters?
The best stories have both.
10) In a dream scenario who would you like to direct and star in a film/TV adaptation of your book?
The Coen Brothers, Tarantino maybe? Robert Rodriguez possibly, but certainly not Richard Curtis. Sean Penn, Ed Norton, Tim Roth, Ethan Hawke, a friend of mine dreamt that Kevin Spacey played the driver. Theyíd have to be charismatic and charming but capable of incomprehensible cruelty whoever they were.
11) What is your favourite movie adaptation of all time of a crime/thriller novel?
Terribly obvious, but it has to be The Godfather, doesnít it? Good source material, brilliant film. I have a very soft spot for The Long Goodbye too, Iíve probably watched that more than The Godfather, I love Elliot Gould in it.
12) What is your favourite crime/thriller novel of all time?
Hell, what kind of question is that? If you held my hand over an open flame and forced me into it then Iíd have to go with The Big Sleep, an obvious choice, but Chandler understood the wonders of a non-linear plot and he helped inspire The Big Lebowski.