by this author
Matthew Branton was born in 1969 and studied at Sheffield
Polytechnic and Manchester University. He divides his time
between London the beautiful north shore of Hawaii. He is
the author of three previous novels, including The Love
Parade (Penguin, 1997), The House of Whacks (Bloomsbury,
1999) and Coast (Bloomsbury, 2000). When not writing,
he can be found surfing the wild waves of the ocean, or teaching
the finer points of riding a skateboard. His website is www.matthewbranton.com.
On writing The Hired Gun:
Writing took nine months, start to finish. I know when I
first got the idea because it all came together around a certain
song that one of my sisters played me when she was back from
college for spring break 1999, and I remember when I finished
because I didn’t sleep for three months.
I wanted to write about living in a sharp economic boom,,
with everyone working too hard, feeling like their job is
making impossible demands upon their whole life, and that
it’s never going to end. A worn-out hitman whom no one
will permit to retire seemed like a good story vehicle to
carry that. I was also particularly interested in the increasingly
common problem that is known colloquially amongst political
scientists as the madman-with-an-ax scenario – the fact
that if a competent individual is motivated to carry out an
act of violence in the modern world, there is no way to stop
them, from the Unabomber and Tim McVeigh to Bin Laden and
More about Matthew:
Why do you write?
Because I read, and I know what a novel can do to a person.
What writers do you owe a debt to?
The establishment British novelists – Rushdie, Amis,
Winterson, Barnes, McEwan, Kureishi - who have been showing
us how not to do it for the better part of three decades.
Writers currently publishing whom I enjoy include a fly young
Brazilian novelist named Patricia Melo, the endlessly versatile
T C Boyle, the delightful short-story writer George Saunders,
the blistering Chuck Palahniuk, and the unfailing genius,
Don Delillo. Novelists whom I especially admire – Dickens,
Hardy, Orwell, Delillo - seem to have a way of passing the
baton on about them, if you know what I mean. The twenty-five-hundred
year-old line Hoc dixit Xenon, quid tu? [this is what Xenon
said. How about you?] is sometimes quoted as being the beginning
of modern philosophy; I think it’s a nice way to describe
how the very best writers hand work on to each other.
What do you aim to do in your writing?
My mission is to improve conditions amongst readers of contemporary
Is film important to your work?
Structure is important to my work, and the R&D work on
narrative structure has been carried out almost exclusively
in Hollywood. Structure has long been regarded as a thing
of beauty by cineastes, but is usually ignored by novelists
and critics in favour of style; style over substance, in my
Why do you live in Hawai’i?
Because the Pacific way is a beautiful way. It is almost
impossible to live a garbage life in rural Hawai’i,
and it is almost impossible to live a good life in Britain
(too dirty, too crowded, too expolitative, too violent). But
on the north shore of Oahu we don’t wear shoes, even
when we skate; we surf, we fish, we paddle, we dive; we grow
bananas, papayas, mangoes and avocadoes; we hang with the
geckos (there is no point trying to chase them out of your
house, and besides they eat the roaches). The water is 74
degrees every day (in Britain I surf in a heavy wetsuit, boots,
and a hood), the moon is bright enough to read on the beach
at three a.m., and the sun is hot enough to have my tats out
permanently, in addition to turning my skin brown and my butthair
blond. What more could a white boy want?