A portrait of Irish mystery writer David Pearson
by publisher, Erik Empson
It is not uncommon to meet authors who are shy and lack a degree of confidence. This is not the case with David Pearson. A tall and slightly portly man, with the straight back of a pace bowler, he exudes self-assurance and natural charm. One gets the sense he would be like this if he hadn’t sold something like a quarter of a million books. Maybe it is having done so that adds the sly grin to the rosy face.
His background is in back-office technical infrastructure, IT systems for commercial banks, although he started his career in the tourism sector – package holidays, when they were still all the rage. For much of his working life he did the kind of technical jobs that would justifiably bore many people to tears but, for a fellow nerd like myself, are endlessly fascinating.
How, after oiling the wheels of industry for so many years, and gaining so much experience in a sector – David was a columnist for a respected computer magazine at a time when Mark Zuckerberg was still sucking his thumb – does one settle into retirement? Very badly, apparently. He soon got under the feet of his family and, blessedly for all concerned, took up writing crime fiction.
Smart and clean cut, it is perhaps hard to imagine him in his youth on his Honda 50 motorbike with a camping roll strapped to the pannier, travelling out to Dog’s Bay on the west coast of Ireland – a place that often features in his Galway murder mysteries and won his heart many moons ago. But you can imagine him donning a set of ironed overalls and taking apart the carburettor for a quick clean, just in case it should fail in the future.
Indeed, engines, particularly those normally attached to jumbo jets, are a passion of David’s, as are most things aeronautical. We quickly, like guilty schoolboys, share notes on various aviation disasters, from the recent tragedies of the Twin Towers and Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, to more historic events like the loss of an Aer Lingus passenger plane near Rosslare in the south, which I chanced upon when reading up on the Tuskar Rock lighthouse so conspicuous from the ferry. David’s power of recall is fantastic and his knowledge encyclopaedic. He knows when the plane crashed, why it crashed (a leaky toilet apparently), how it crashed, and why others think differently.
We can’t talk about planes all day, but the conversation won’t settle on any one topic for long anyway. I duck some of the acute questions about my business flung like bouncers, more per over than would be acceptable outside a Windies tour in England, but happily knock willow to leather to feed his hungry appetite for relevant information about his books. This is a man who, when in the travel business, would join pilots in the cockpit – at a time when one still could – to learn how to fly; something he later did by more conventional means, though leaving it behind – presumably when he wasn’t allowed to take the aircraft apart and put them back together again.
One might think that for a man with such an interest in the mechanics of the world around him, his books would be drier and more detailed than a macro-economics textbook in a microwave, but far from it. In fact they are delightfully fun and deceptively simple light reads, full of local character and charm. The characters are line drawn, so a reader can form impressions of the personalities in their mind’s eye, the plots slam dunk, the settings photo-realist and the banter practical and forthright. There are no ruses or sleights of hand in David’s books, rather they offer a premise and deliver on it as sure as night follows day.
If some self-doubt does show itself, it is as regards the longevity of his murder mystery series. The twelfth Galway book, MURDER IN A SEASIDE TOWN was released recently; how long might they continue? I am happy to drive this question into the covers. As long as the ideas still come. Georges Simenon wrote some 75 books in his Maigret series – the comparison is not a poor one – and readers still wish there were more. Fortunately, like Simenon, who penned over 500 novels in total, David also has another series on the go: a Dublin based murder mystery series about a cop struggling with the bottle, and not how to unscrew the top, and a more junior, somewhat smarter female detective who is quickly picking up the reins. In these titles David has drawn more on his career experience in computer systems for finance and his passion for aviation, and dare I say it, they appeal perhaps more to the male reader because of it.
We’ve met in a hotel in Portmarnock, north of Dublin, pretty much on the same latitude but on the opposing coast to the setting of his Galway series where his heart clearly lies. Here, life has a slower pace than busy Dublin which, if driving past at 7am on a Monday is anything to go by, seems to suck up the energy from its surroundings. But compared to places like Roundstone, Clifden and Ballyconneely, which he paints in watercolour in his books, it is relatively spinning. A golf course meets the lazy, sandy beach in Portmarnock, and I idly wonder how many balls find their way into the sea, and then abruptly self-censor my thoughts because I’d find it as much disturbing as likely that David would know the answer. I do, however, ask if he plays the game, and the reply to the question is uncharacteristically short shrift. No.
And there lies the rub, really. Behind the composed and accomplished exterior, I don’t think David can or will rest, and certainly won’t spend his time unwisely. I don’t think he likes the idea of retirement, relaxed or otherwise; he is far too industrious. When he is not writing crime fiction, he is reading it: endlessly trying to unlock its inner mysteries, and practically mugging anyone he thinks has a key. But this is not a nervous excitement, at least not evidently, but a patient absorption of detail. And if it could fit into a spreadsheet, it would. Did he mention he’s installing the latest version of the Linux operating system software Ubuntu? Taxi!
I won’t make it over to Connemara on this trip, much to my chagrin, but I have fallen for its twelve austere quartzite peaks and crystalline waters already, as much as I am charmed by the author who brought the area to life for me. Hmmm. Twelve bens, twelve books. Don’t stop there, David, we are only just getting started!
A full list of David’s books is available on his page here. Coming soon is PLANE DEAD, the fifth book in his Dublin Homicides series. From 3rd October to 10th October, the first book in his Galway series, MURDER ON THE OLD BOG ROAD is available on Kindle for the special price of 0.99 in the UK and the US. The first book in his Dublin set, A DEADLY DIVIDEND is 0.99 for the whole month in the UK only.