Publication Day Interview: The Birdwatcher by William Shaw

I’m delighted to welcome award winning journalist and author, William Shaw to the blog today as he releases his fourth novel, The Birdwatcher. Doesn’t that cover look intriguing? Here’s William to tell us more about it.


Can you describe your new novel in one succinct but sensual sentence?
Two men have moved to the remote shingle shore of Dungeness to hide from the things they have done, but, befriending each other, their secret pasts prove deadly.

Who is your favourite character and why?
There are two timelines in The Birdwatcher; William South as a middle aged man, and William South as a young teenager in Armagh. Easily my favourite character in the book is the teenage boy, troubled by the violence within his family and by his own darkness. I think like quite a few boys from that era, he found a kind of refuge in nature, in birdwatching in particular, maybe because nature has a kind of sense of order that can be quite therapeutic.

Which authors have been your main inspirations?
For crime writing, Simenon and Nicholas Freeling who for me created the idea of European crime – which for me means as much atmosphere as plot, and a sense of the society in which crimes happen. For economy, short story writers like Chekov and, unfashionably, Hemingway. Also Raymond Carver. I think economy is really a big bit of crime writing, though I often fail to achieve it. I write a lot of dialogue, and nobody does it better than Alan Warner, who wrote The Sopranos. I love writers like Nicola Barker and AM. Homes who can take you somewhere you don’t expect within a couple of paragraphs.

How does your writing process work; confusion and paper flying everywhere or calm and ordered?
My desk is hell. Chaos works for me best. Order produces nothing at all. I make plans in order to tear them up, or to make sense of what I’ve already written. I am rarely out of my pyjamas before lunchtime.

What is your guilty pleasure when writing? (Chocolate, wine, coffee…)
My guilty pleasure is giving myself no deadlines. I write as much as I feel like writing but ALWAYS write five days a week. I don’t find slogging at it for eight hours produces much that’s interesting, so I don’t feel guilty about getting up, wandering around, or doing something utterly pointless on the internet.

Please share your blurb with us

Police Sergeant William South has a reason for not wanting to be on the murder investigation.

He is a murderer himself.

But the victim was his only friend; now violently beaten to death. Only rage can kill a man like this, and South knows it.

Soon – too soon – they find a suspect – a drifter from Northern Ireland, who would remain unknown, unnamed but for that South recognises him. He knew him as a boy, before he fled his home. And even as south desperately investigates the connections, he knows that there is no crime that can compare to the great lie of his childhood.

The Birdwatcher is a crime novel of suspense, intelligence and powerful humanity about fathers and sons, grief and guilt and facing the darkness within.

Thanks William! You can buy The Birdwatcher here.



The New York Times has called William Shaw’s trilogy of detective books set in late sixties London “an elegy for an entire alienated generation.” Featuring DS Cathal Breen and the brash young constable Helen Tozer, they are set against the cultural and political revolution of the times. The third book in the series, A Book of Scars, was picked by The Sunday Times as one of their picks of 2015. His new standalone novel, The Birdwatcher, set in Kent and Northern Ireland, is out this June. CJ Sansom has called it “his best so far.”

Before becoming a crime writer, William Shaw was an award-winning music journalist and the author of several non-fiction books including Westsiders: Stories of the Boys in the Hood, about a year spent with the young men of South Central Los Angeles, and A Superhero For Hire, a compilation of columns in the Observer Magazine.

Connect with William on Twitter @william1shaw or visit his website here.

Leave a Comment

Subscribe To Blog

Don't forget, if you would like to receive notifications of my latest posts, you can register with my blog. Click on the link below.

Click To Register