To accompany our latest Weekly Wonder on 29 Argyle Drive, we have invited author David Turri for an interview regarding his books 29 Argyle Drive and Escarpment. Check it out!
1)May I request you to please introduce yourself and tell us about your work?
I am in my early-sixties. Born in Liverpool, England; moved to Christchurch, New Zealand when I was ten. Came to Kobe, Japan after graduation from university; initially, for one year. But I met my wife, a Japanese girl. Which fact more or less sealed my fate! We lived for a few years in Barcelona, where I taught high school. Returned to Japan, where I have been living ever since. I have two grown daughters and two young granddaughters. My ‘day job’ is English teacher and teacher supervisor for a company involved in the English teaching industry.
As for my work, I think of myself as a story-teller. Some writers start with a character and the story evolves from that character. I start with a story that intrigues me; hopefully, the characters evolve through the story; almost, sometimes, of their own accord. My first published novel was called “Damaged Cargoes”. It is a story about child trafficking and opium smuggling set in Meiji-era Kobe. The genres that interest me are espionage, war, occult – and comedy. The book I am most proud of is a black comedy called “A Pig with Three Legs”. Alas, it is too short to have found a publisher. Yet!
2)What inspired you to write in the horror genre?
The Japanese people seem to have a much more intimate relationship with the dead and with the other world than we in the West do. I have a number of Japanese friends and acquaintances who either possess a Sixth Sense/Second Sight or know other people who do. For many years, they have told me personal anecdotes of their experiences. From these many true “horror” stories the seeds for both 29 Argyle Drive and Escarpment were planted.
3)Japanese culture is a clear influence on Escarpment. Can you tell us how that came about?
Japanese culture has an almost obsessive preoccupation with spirits, ghosts and hauntings. Witness the summer celebration of “Obon”, when the spirits of dead family members and ancestors are welcomed back to the family home. Coupled with the personal stories I have heard (mentioned above), this preoccupation has had a strong influence on my writing. Also, I have always been interested in Japanese military history; specifically, the battle of Okinawa. In a metaphorical way, that battle is still being fought today – in the uneasy relationship that exists between the people of Okinawa and the American forces stationed there. Perhaps the strangest influence in Escarpment is the relationship between the narrator and his wife. The narrator is called Dave – my name; and his wife is Keiko – my wife’s name. I never intended anything to be autobiographical, but eerily I found myself painting two real-life portraits. I hope that in real life I am less grumpy and intolerant that I portray myself in the story. But I doubt it.
4) What were your influences when it comes to 29 Argyle Drive?
Christchurch was the environment of my formative years – high school; university; my first work experience as a junior reporter with a Christchurch local newspaper. I ‘came of age’ in that hard-drinking, beer-fueled world of the local pub. Like almost everyone, I had some spooky experiences with the Ouija Board. But most of the real horror in that book – for example, the concept of “stalkers” in the spiritual world – have their roots in tales told to me by my Japanese acquaintances who have a Sixth Sense. The most profound influence, however, was the devastating earthquake that destroyed much of the city. I had already finished an earlier draft of the novel before the quake struck. I had to rewrite in order to ‘accommodate’ that event somehow into the story. The more research I did, the more I was emotionally affected by the plight of the people of Christchurch. I was living in Kobe at the time of the devastating 1995 quake; so I had experienced myself some of what they were going through. That emotional impact forced a change in the ending of the novel. For better or for worse, I moved from the fictional horror of a ghost story to the real tragedy Christchurch had suffered. Many readers have not been happy with that.
5) Escarpment has been likened to Robert Goddard’s ‘Into The Blue’. Was that intentional?
I have never read that book. In fact, I had never even heard of it until a reader mentioned it in his review.
6) Which book/authors would you say were an influence on your work?
An early influence on me was Graham Greene. I read all of his novels – sometimes several times – while growing up. And since. I hope the clarity of his style has influenced mine. My favorite American author is Steinbeck. I love all his writings. Another possible influence is Bruce Catton’s books about the American Civil War and the Army of the Potomac. I keep rereading them. His poetic style gives me goose bumps all the time.
7) You have been commended for your ability to make readers want to sleep with their lights on. Any advice to authors who wish to create such great atmosphere?
I really don’t know. One peculiarity of my writing method is that I do almost all of my initial “creative” writing with a pen and paper outside and at night. In local parks and along riverbanks. They are often dark and lonely places. In Argyle Drive, the trees on the property figure prominently – always swaying and seemingly whispering to one another. Those trees crept into the story from the actual trees that loomed over my bench in one particular windy park in Kobe.
I like to loosen my imagination on those park benches with a little wine. That lubrication tends to get me excited, scared and lost in the scene I am writing. The result is often a too melodramatic, B-grade horror movie style. But then, the next day as I transfer the hand-written pages to the computer, I reread with a more objective eye; often rewrite and more often cut. So that the final result is colder and more distanced than the over-ripe prose of the park. Maybe this two-stage approach has something to do with the atmosphere I was able to create.
8) If either of your books were made into a movie, which actors would you like to play which character?
What can I say? I grew up with De Niro and Pachino, although both are older than me. Those are the faces I see in my mind’s eye whenever I think about my stories as movies.