About News & events Books Other writing Standup Reviews Contact Links Forum Tom Thorne Triskellion
Forum Mark Billingham text and Photo

The Billingham Talk Zone

Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length

The Billingham Talk Zone is no longer active.

All existing threads and discussions have now been archived but if you want to carry on talking about Mark's books, please follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Pages: 1 2 [3] 4 5
Print
Author Topic: "Who Is Conrad Hirst?" By Kevin Wignall  (Read 31816 times)
kevindj
Hero Member
*****
Posts: 6574


Simply the BEST!


« Reply #30 on: August 24, 2008 »

I don't know, ravens. Jayne is away until Tuesday afternoon/evening.

Why not put your two penn'orth into a Word document and copy and paste when the thread opens?  Smiley
Logged


AlisonB
Serial Poster
***
Posts: 626


« Reply #31 on: August 24, 2008 »

Iím eager to hear what you all think of the book and weíll start the discussion on 31st August, to give everyone a chance to order it.
Logged

kevindj
Hero Member
*****
Posts: 6574


Simply the BEST!


« Reply #32 on: August 24, 2008 »

AlisonB, well done on actually being bothered to look up the relevant post. It's very conscientious of you. Smiley

Ravens - hold your horses. Smiley
Logged


Jayne
Global Moderator
Hero Member
*****
Posts: 5283



« Reply #33 on: August 26, 2008 »

Sorry, guys, I've been away at a wedding and only just returned.

Ravens - especially for you - I'm happy to start the discussion now. I think most people that will be joining in have now read the book. For those who haven't - there may be SPOILERS in the following posts, so please DON'T read on unless you have read the book!

I read this book in a day, so impressed was I with it. Itís fast-paced, exciting with great twists, and I was intrigued by the letter at the very start of the story. I found myself asking questions after reading just the first page. Who is Anneke? Why did she have to die?

Conrad Hirst is a contract killer. The girl he loves has been killed (or so he believes) and he has used her death to justify his descent into violence and murder. I felt much sympathy for Conrad, who has been desperately lonely since the death of Anneke. He hasnít had a woman in his life for the whole ten years since her ďdeathĒ and he has no family or true friends. Maybe some of the guilt over his killings is removed by writing the numerous letters to Anneke. I also believe he writes to her out of loneliness, even desperation.

I never expected him to shoot Frank so quickly! That took me by surprise and I had to read the sentence again to be sure I wasnít mistaken. Frank was a liar and I was glad to see him gone. He got what he deserved.

I couldnít decide what to make of Alice Benning when she met Conrad on the train. There was a part of me that trusted her, but another part of me was suspicious because of her over-friendliness. I was surprised when she turned up again later in the story and we found out exactly who she was.

As for Delphine, I couldnít take to her and knew she was trouble the moment Conrad entered the house and met her for the first time. I also didnít like the fact that when they shared a bed together, she insisted she didnít want sex, yet at the same time was cuddled up to Conrad and had her bare leg against him and her hand on his chest. Talk about leading a man on! I wanted to slap her. I wouldnít have been sorry if she had ended up dead.

What can I say about Anneke? Wow, what a surprise ending! Iíll be thinking about this for days. I never saw this ending coming at all. But will Conrad finally stop killing now that his torment is over?

All in all, this is a terrific book and Iíll never know why it didnít win an Edgar award.





Logged

Rock chick
Hero Member
*****
Posts: 5287


I wanna be a Debaser....


« Reply #34 on: August 27, 2008 »

As I actualy read this a couple of weeks ago, I'd better post whilst it's still reasonably fresh in my mind!

ĎWho is Conrad Hirstí is such an intriguing title!

As has been said before, Conrad is a contract killer apparently without conscience or feeling, and executes friends, enemies and strangers in the same impersonal manner. He appears to have little contact with his employers and carries out his orders without question.

However, there is a good deal more to Conrad than meets the eye Ė he suspects his employers, and begins to realise he is a marked man. He is clearly still deeply connected to his girlfriend and his coldness and indifference seems to stem from her death. We follow his journey both in distance and the mind as he tries to free himself from those pursuing him and from his own personal demons.

The style of the writing is bleak and spare, with little description. I found this difficult to begin with Ė I would have liked a little more detail and background of Conrad and the other characters, but as the book progressed, I realised that the style of the book reflected the plot and the people perfectly Ė this was no green and fluffy tale with a happy ending, it's a sorrowful and desolate one, and not a word was surplus to requirements.

I enjoyed WICH more than I anticipated, and will certainly seek out more of Mr. Wignall, but ideally I would generally prefer a fuller, longer, more rounded story. An unusual and original work in many ways.

Logged

I'm a S-k-g....

chelbel
Hardened Forum Fiend
****
Posts: 4654


« Reply #35 on: August 28, 2008 »

How beautifully written  this book is, from the letter at the very begining i was drawn in.  So different to any letter i've ever imagined reading.  A confession or question?  Conrads confusion had me hoping for him.

    What struck me most was how he had just existed for so long not caring who he killed or why.  His ability to just switch off? And why did he never once return for comfort to his best friend.  It made me question Conrad, why run?
    I began to have a little faith in him when he  questioned himself  for pulling the trigger on Fox and afterwards the way he weighed others lives up against Fox's.  It started to make sense, he was breaking, finally the mist was clearing.

    The way he so boldly wrote I Love You at the end of his letters has really stayed with me, such a childlike action.  And i think the reason why is because he is portrayed as a cold murderer.  And you never expect a murderer to write a love letter?  He confesses to Anneke like a child does to a priest. It makes what he has done okay.
    I just knew in my gut that Anneke was still alive out there somewhere but the way they met again was so bittersweet.  I remember still a year later having tears in my eyes as he walked away.  And feeling annoyed with myself for wishing he could have a happy ending. Conrad is after all a cold hearted murderer!

   I loved reading through Conrads realisation of who his real employers are and it was a twist i hadn't expected. And i think this tied the book together nicely. The questions he began to ask i felt were a realisation of the monster he had become.

   A sad story i thought but one that showed the softer side to the hard guy. Made me hate myself for feeling compassion towards him.
Logged

Linda L
Hardened Forum Fiend
****
Posts: 3514



« Reply #36 on: August 28, 2008 »

I think everyone here has already commented quite accurately on the book.  What I really loved about this novel, and Kevin's other books (well, not Among the Dead as much), is how brutal they are. When I met Kevin at Harrogate last year, I hadn't read any of his work.  He is funny and erudite and witty, and as such I expected his books to be the same.  But they aren't.  It's almost like Kevin has this whole different persona when it comes to writing. 
As Jayne commented, when Conrad shot Frank, it was so totally sudden that, for me, it gave an insight into how ruthless this character really was.  The sad part really is that at the end of the day Conrad had set off on this path of "mayhem" in the belief his girlfriend was dead.  Of course we find out she isn't by the end of the book, but that discovery is the start of the story for Conrad.  This was my second time reading the book, first time around I felt Conrad was half James Bond, half Kevin Wignall.  This time I didn't get that feeling at all. 
Kevin deserves far more accolades than he receives , I love his work, its gritty and sharp with interesting dialogue and characters.  I haven't come across another author yet with the same edge.
Logged

People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.

clashcityrocker
Hardened Forum Fiend
****
Posts: 1158



« Reply #37 on: August 28, 2008 »

I may be a little late posting about this one, the reason being I read it about three weeks ago and have forgotten almost everything I read. I hasten to add that this is in absolutely not to suggest that the book is in any way forgettable, because the opposite is true. No, the fact is I can't seem to retain any detailed infomation for longer than a week; so to do justice to Who is Conrad Hirst I'll re-read it as soon as I can and post my thoughts the day after I've finished it, otherwise the whole process could begin again.
Logged

ravenscross
Hardened Forum Fiend
****
Posts: 2750


Read my tweets... on twitter


« Reply #38 on: August 30, 2008 »

Firstly, I'd like to thank my own personal library service, Rock Chick. You helped me out again and I'm thankful that you're there.

Right, back to the book. What can I add?

Well, I loved it. From the first moment you get a feeling of a man lost in his own pain and trying to sort his life out (a feeling that we've all had at some point). The opening gives you the impression of someone who still feels enormous amounts of love and compassion, but then throws you into the corner cowering with the non-emotive rush of the first killing. After this you get an amazing Bond like adventure as he rushes around the world, seeking out the only people who could stop him.

One thing that struck me is that the story had that sense of familiar about it whilst being unique in its style and substance. At times, I had memories of 'Layer Cake' running along side, with the hero being an anti hero and you start to question if you should be wishing him on his way to salvation or hoping someone shoots back. In the memory sequences, you see flashes of other references too, the ears, the beatings, the pathway to darkness being walked down. I also loved the fact that no-one could be trusted, that even though he was trying to escape, you knew he'd be watching over his shoulder forever.

On the whole, I enjoyed the book and it makes me want to hunt out the others by Kevin. It's a style I enjoy and can get caught up in, along with an entertaining storyline. One of the other great things was that reading it in the pub after a days working on-site allowed me to hide away for a little while, instead of hunting the channels for something to watch and I was intrigued by how many people point to you and mutter things about people reading. In some cases I almost felt like Conrad, starting to question everything around me. God job I didn't return from the bar to find someone sitting in my seat!

So what and who's next to entertain?
Logged

AlisonB
Serial Poster
***
Posts: 626


« Reply #39 on: August 30, 2008 »

they think internet is a command to shout at fish. Wink

 Grin  Grin  Grin

I really want to re-read WICH? before I comment properly, but I couldn't help noticing that both Chelbel and Ravenscross have brought up the opening, Conrad's first letter to Anneke. Heartless as I am, I melted, and it got me on Conrad's side from page one. The letter also does a brilliant job of placing us directly into Conrad's present with just enough of a taste of his past and of his plans for the future to make reading on irresistible.

Hoping to have time to re-read tomorrow so will post any further thoughts then.
Logged

smudge
Hardened Forum Fiend
****
Posts: 3822


« Reply #40 on: August 30, 2008 »

You are one weird sausage, Chris.

I have enjoyed Kevin Wignall`s work for many a moon now and, though we had a Twiglet fight over my insistence that `People Die` should have had at least ONE question mark, and the fact he pierced my defences with a branch covered in Marmite, purporting to BE a Twiglet, I do love him madly and hereby employ him to pen my letter of introduction to the RSPCA.
Logged

Kevin Wignall
Repeat Offender
**
Posts: 119



« Reply #41 on: August 30, 2008 »

Goodness, I'm touched by the comments I've read so far.  I always thought of this as a love story (hmm, that doesn't exactly make me sound like prime boyfriend material, does it?) so I'm pleased that some of you have responded to that element of it.  I'm also pleased that people have enjoyed the challenge of being made to think and feel about things in a different way - eg, feeling compassion for someone you really shouldn't like.

There are a few points I'd like to raise, perhaps as possible discussion topics. The first is a puzzle to me.  My writing is spare, and I think it was Carol who said she'd like to see more description. Yet a lot of people describe my books as very filmic and visual, in that they "see" what they're reading. I have a feeling it could come down to the speed at which you read (I write for people who read quite slowly, if that makes sense).  Any thoughts?

Secondly, and with an awareness that some people are still to post, are there elements that jarred?  For example, some people felt Conrad was naive and that he should have seen through Delphine. A good friend who's an editor in London really objected to the scene at the end with Alice Benning. Other people suggested Conrad should have more "spycraft" of the Jason Bourne variety (this annoys me because Conrad has never been trained as a spy).  Anything else?

And finally, the directors who currently have the film rights (it's still up in the air as to whether the film will get made, but we're hopeful) are keen on the idea of killing Conrad at the end.  So I'd like to hear your thoughts on that - should he live as he does in the book, or would it have been more "satisfying" to see him die at the end?
Logged

Rock chick
Hero Member
*****
Posts: 5287


I wanna be a Debaser....


« Reply #42 on: August 30, 2008 »

Interesting point, Kevin - I'm definitely a quick reader, maybe too quick, or perhaps just a bit lazy and want the writer to do all the work for me! Hmmm.
However, as a rule I'm not a very 'visual' person at all, so maybe that's why I prefer descriptive books.

As you ask, Conrad should definitely get to live and love another day! I can't see the point of killing him off, and it would make the film and Conrad's character a whole lot less intriguing.

Who has the film rights -  British or American? I only ask because my experience is that the American's do like to have a beginning-middle-end to their films, and deal a lot less successfully that the Brits with a more abstract, open-ended approach.

Logged

I'm a S-k-g....

Jayne
Global Moderator
Hero Member
*****
Posts: 5283



« Reply #43 on: August 31, 2008 »

I would have hated to see Conrad get killed off at the end and I'm hoping that this isn't the case if the book is made into a film. It just wouldn't be the same, in my view.
Logged

Kevin Wignall
Repeat Offender
**
Posts: 119



« Reply #44 on: August 31, 2008 »

Carol, this may surprise you, but it's actually two British directors who have it at the moment - they did that amazing Virgin Trains ad that spliced lots of characters from black and white films into a modern train journey.

My argument to them was that killing Conrad is actually the easy option because it removes the burden of moving forward.  In a sense, leaving Conrad sitting on those steps at the chronological conclusion is bleaker but also more intriguing. (I'm not writing a sequel, but I also pointed out that from a commercial point of view, they'd also be shooting themselves in the foot if they killed the central character!)
Logged

Pages: 1 2 [3] 4 5
Print
 
Jump to:  

Powered by SMF 1.1.19 | SMF © 2013, Simple Machines
XHTML | CSS