By Zoe West
Each month we bring you the author of the book everybody is talking about, not only to inspire our guide of the best books of 2021, but also to pick writers' brains on what's on their own reading list.
Richard Osman is certainly having a moment. Not only can you see him on your TV every day, but his debut novel The Thursday Murder Club was also a runaway success, making it one of the best selling books of last year. But with his new book The Man Who Died Twice already at number one, his earnings look set to rocket even higher.
In his second book The Man Who Died Twice, published 16th September, he re-visits our favorite residents in the retirement community, Coopers Chase, and they’re all set to solve yet another murder—only this time the stakes are even higher. Richard Osman talks to Books Editor, Zoe West about why writing is a priority for him now...
Richard Osman on his new book
The setting was beautiful and made me think of an Agatha Christie novel. Also, the people are all in their 70s and have done so many extraordinary things with their lives. I knew that if there was to be a murder, they’d be the people to solve it. So, that was where the premise came from—four people in their seventies, all from very different backgrounds, who solve a murder on their doorstep. I do love a gang. They’re a bit like The A-Team.
My natural inclination is to be funny if I can be, but I love classic crime and that doesn’t really mix with humor, so I thought, ‘Don’t make it funny’. But with these four characters—an ex-spy, a trades union activist, a nurse and a psychiatrist—they kept making me laugh. So, the story is very straight but the way the four of them choose to go about it and how they deal with things is funny.
Other characters in my books are constantly being outsmarted by the four protagonists. Even the police officer, Chris, thinks, ‘I must be polite to these people’ and then realizes he doesn’t need to be at all. They twist people around their little fingers, but of course, in the end, everyone is firm friends.
Obviously, I hoped it would do OK, and I thought it would in the UK, but it was the third biggest-selling hardback of all time. That I did not expect! And the lovely thing is, it’s all around the world where they don’t know me from TV. So, that surprised me.
I’m glad about that. It may have been harder to write if I’d known what a success the first would be. I’m writing the third one at the moment and it is a bit tougher as there’s so much feedback now on what people like. I have to remember that I must continue to write the book I want to write.
But, you are suddenly sidelined by the world, work doesn’t want you, you are hidden away and culture doesn’t really represent you. The way people have warmed and responded to these characters makes me think culture is righting itself. This generation are liberal, smart, they’ve heard everything and lived every pleasure—and they still have adventures to live.
And of course, as we get older, yes we’re around grief a lot more, but the brain remains exactly where it’s always been—and the brain wants mischief and adventure and friendships. It’s constantly looking for new things and that’s a lovely thing to be able to write. There are so many people who say they’d like to be like the characters in my book as they get older, live where they live—and we can!
That we’re at each other's throats all the time and that’s the way to gain power, to make money: distrust your neighbors and other people. That’s not my experience of life. We can all have different experiences and opinions but sit us in a room with a glass of wine and we’ll get along with all walks of life. That’s what I want to get across—that we are going to think different things about the world because our brains are different, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t concentrate on things we agree on. Kindness, strength and empathy are the pillars that bind those four characters together.
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The first time we approached her she said she didn’t do audiobooks, but we sent her a copy of the book and once she’d read it she came back and said she would. She does a brilliant job. I love dialogue—especially with British people.
We hide so much in what we say. A British person might say to their neighbor, ‘Oh, your garden is looking lovely this evening,’ but what they might really be saying is, ‘You’re having an affair with my wife, I’m going to murder you this evening.’ We’ll never say what we actually mean. We’re brilliant at dancing around things.
If you want to read more fabulous audiobooks like Richard's, see our pick of the best audiobooks here.
The call happened a long time before the book came out and it gave me a huge boost of confidence, not just because I’m pretty sure Spielberg doesn’t watch Pointless Celebrities, but he understands great stories and characters, and what gives them warmth and heart. The fact he wants to make it into a movie is great. He’s responded to the characters and not to me.
People say, ‘I think Elizabeth should be played by Helen Mirren’. Other suggestions have been Julie Walters and Penelope Wilton. It’s a lovely game to play.
I’ve loved it. People think I work harder than I do as I’m on TV every day, but of course when we’re filming we might film 3 or 4 Pointless episodes a day or 5 House of Games—so I can get through work quite quickly. I’m hoping to be writing for the next 20 years, I don’t want to stop now.
If the first chapter is 80 pages it puts me off. My books are short and snappy. I think that’s a TV thing. I know how quickly people can change channels if they’re bored. When people read my books I want them to get to the end of a chapter and think, ‘Oh’ I’ll just read one more.’
So many people say to me, ‘Oh, I wish Coopers Chase was real,’ and I say ‘It is!’ These places exist and I think as we get older we all want sociability. Loneliness in old age is a terrible thing and it’s unnecessary. Living in a retirement community is like being in university halls for older people.
I’ve just filmed another 100 House of Games. We filmed 300 shows during the pandemic—all safely too. I’m about to do another 100 Pointless episodes too, and I’m writing the third installment of The Thursday Murder Club now, which will be out next Autumn.
The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman is out now.
The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman
The follow-up to the hugely successful The Thursday Murder Club, the second book in this popular series sold 114,202 in its first week, making it a record breaker. In this ultimate cosy crime novel we re-join the Cooper Chase gang, as Elizabeth receives a letter from an old colleague who she has history with. Cue endearing characters, comedy, fantastic plot twists and a lot of Britishness.
Richard Osman's Book Choices
A Month In The Country by J L Carr
In this poetic novel, we explore the story of war veteran Tom Birkin, who is looking back on his time in the Yorkshire village of Oxgodby to restore a medieval mural in a church. Tom reflects on the passage of time and the power of art in this touching book.
Read it because: "This is a delightful book. It’s basically a guy looking back on his time renovating a church in a northern village. Sounds a little snoozy, but he’s such a funny writer, and it’s such a great book. I would honestly recommend it to anyone."
A line we love: "Well, we all see things with different eyes, and it gets you nowhere hoping that even one in a thousand will see things your way."
Golden Hill by Francis Spufford
Set in New York in the 1700s, one November evening a man turns up with a note suggesting he’s owed a million dollars. The New York merchants aren’t sure whether to trust him or kill him.
Read it because: "It’s like a Dickens novel—amazing characters, great stories and you’ll just be utterly immersed in it."
A line we love: "'I think,' he said, 'that you may be the kind of dog who bites because she is chained up.'"
Grown Ups by Marian Keyes
Marian Keyes' Grown Ups tells the story of the Caseys, who appear to have the perfect family—Johnny and his two brothers Ed and Liam, plus their beautiful, talent wives, and collective kids. But the facade of perfection begins to break down when Ed's wife Cara gets a concussion and can hold her tongue no longer...
Read it because: "I think Marian Keyes is the most wonderful woman and the most wonderful writer. She just gets better and better. She is another writer who believes in the best of us. She shows people’s foibles but she also shows the love that binds us together in a very real way. I’m a big fan."
A line we love: "When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable."
Interesting Richard Osman facts
- Richard Osman's net worth is not officially known. But his success as a TV producer, presenter and author has led to an estimated net worth of around £1.38m.
- Richard Osman is not married. He divorced in 2007.
- Richard Osman's children are grown-ups. They are Sonny and Ruby
It’s safe to say, woman&home’s Books Editor, Zoe West has read a LOT of books.
As an avid young bookworm obsessed with the adventures of The Magic Faraway Tree and the misadventures of red-haired orphan, Anne Shirley, Zoe never lost her love of reading - and the fact she now gets to do it as her job is a constant source of wonderment for her.
When Zoe hasn’t got her head stuck in a book she is interviewing authors, hosting live events where she gets all the gossip, and seeking out exciting new writers she can’t wait to tell her readers about. You’ll often find her on twitter @zoeannewest looking for ideas and shouting to anyone who will listen about the books she loves.
In a previous life Zoe planned advertising campaigns for major record companies but these days you’re more likely to see her out and about on a book brunch with a flat white and pile of exciting new reads.
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