Matthew Branton

book 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 Atta.

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 fiction.

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 opinion.

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?


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