Interview with Math Bird

So Math Bird is a penname? It's not your real name right?
Unfortunately, yes. My name is Matthew, but in parts of Wales, it’s shortened to Math, and that’s what I’ve always been called (I’m sure I’ve been called other things, but you know what I mean).
Ok, sorry, so you mentioned you grew up in Wales, which part?
In northeast Wales, by the Dee estuary, it’s near the English border.
Yes, that’s right. It features a lot in your work.
Yes, a beautiful, ugly place, part Welsh, part English, neither fish nor fowl so to speak. I write about it a lot. Culturally, it’s a hybrid. When people think of Wales, they tend to think of Dylan Thomas, Welsh Male voice choirs and How Green Was My Valley. Northeast Wales is nothing like that. Don’t get me wrong it’s picturesque and has plenty of sheep. But it has never sat comfortably with common notions of Welsh identity.
And you try to address that through crime and noir fiction? The Genre has been a big influence on your work?
In my own little way, yes. For me, story is the most important thing. But through that, I try to blend in some of the cultural and social themes that interest me.

Yes and No. TV-wise, I grew up watching Frank Marker’s Public Eye, and Callan, and loved films such as Get Carter, and The Long Good Friday. But when it came to reading, I loved and tried to copy (very badly may I add) classic Welsh writers, such as Gwyn Jones, Rhys Davies and Caradoc Evans. Especially Gwyn Jones, some of his darker stories such as The Pit, The Green Island and the brilliant Brute Creation are noir without the title. So I started writing noir without actually realising it and as I discovered Jim Thompson and James M Cain added more crime elements into it. Then, when I started reading brilliant magazines such as All Due Respect, Pulp Modern, Shotgun Honey, ThugLit, Plots with Guns, Plan B Magazine etc., I thought this reads like the stuff I write.
And you’ve placed stories in some of these magazines?
Yes, I’ve been very fortunate to do that. My story Histories of the Dead was written especially for All Due Respect and my story the Devilfish was written especially for Pulp Modern, and luckily, they were both picked. I love the fact that among stories set in Texas, Chicago, Seattle, there are crime stories set in Northeast Wales, and I love and respect magazines such as ADR, Pulp Modern and PWG etc., for taking that chance.
But your latest novella, the psychological noir thriller The Whistling Sands, isn’t set in northeast Wales; it is set in West Wales, right?
Yes, but the main character, Ned Flynn is from northeast Wales, and he has all the baggage that comes with that.

Without giving too much away. The story is in the tradition of Jim Thompson and James M Cain, with a modern take. Fundamentally, it’s about obsessions, greed, lust and the stories we tell ourselves, and what we want to believe. It has a lot of noir elements, losers, femme fatales, murder, and good intentions gone wrong and spiralling out of control. And the ending, in my opinion, pulls no punches.
Sounds great, so what are you working on at the moment?
I’m writing a new set of novels entitled WELCOME TO HOLY HELL. These are a noir, crime, hardboiled mix. Three separate tales set in northeast Wales in the 1970s,1980s, and 1990s. The first novel is set during the drought and long hot summer of 1976. I’m enjoying researching and writing it, as it’s something I’ve wanted to write for a while. It draws its influences from Barry Hines’s KES and Jim Thompson’s THE GETAWAY, and of course, the influence of place, and regional identity play a key role. After that, I want to write a few more Flynn novellas as his story isn’t over.
Published 2016-12-06.
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