Q&A with Robert Wilson

CWA Gold Dagger award-winning Robert Wilson,  author of the Charles Boxer series, answers our brain teasers.


Who is your favourite author?

Elmore Leonard.

What book do you most often recommend to friends?

The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V Higgins. (An inspirational book for Elmore Leonard.)

Do you have any writing rituals?

I get up very early in the morning, like 5.00 am in the summer. It started when I was living in Portugal and the afternoon heat got up to 45°C outside and it was impossible to work. I give myself an extra hour in bed during the winter. I love the feeling of working while the rest of the world is in slumber.

If you weren’t a writer what job would you liked to have gone into?

Renewable energy.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

Your time is your own and you don’t have to turn up in anybody else’s office.

Tell us something that will shock your readers?

I stand on my head for a couple of minutes every morning.

What inspires you?

Place, always the place. I love travelling and I’m always looking for the next location for a novel. Then, of course, out of the apartments and streets come the characters and they are what make the place come alive.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Am English woman living in Portugal with whom I stayed while doing work on the house said: ‘Don’t put all your money into the house, hold something back.’ That bit of advice gave me 18 months survival money when I bought the farmhouse in Portugal and gave me enough time to write and publish my first novel.

What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Don’t bother with a skin wall on the back of the house, said the builder. It meant that the house had no protection from the north wind that came spanking down the valley in the winter. I had no heating for the first twelve years I lived there and wrote my first 8 books wearing fingerless gloves and four jumpers.

Favourite procrastination method

Looking up words in the dictionary, finding synonyms, and then looking them up, until I have precisely the right word instead of just getting on with it.

What is it about crime fiction that makes you want to write it?

I love creating situations where people have no alternative but to reveal their true nature.

Best piece of research / fact you’ve ever come across

Researching Nazi gold in the hope of finding a novel in there I came across the line: ‘The Portuguese gold reserves went up seven fold during WW2 because of wolfram.’ That last word handed me a whole novel, A Small Death in Lisbon, which went on to win the Gold Dagger.


Robert Wilson has lived and worked around the world, including spells in shipbroking, tour-guiding and exporting bathrooms to Nigeria. Eventually he settled in Portugal and turned to writing novels. Since then, he’s written many acclaimed crime novels including the CWA Gold Dagger award-winning A Small Death in Lisbon and the Falcón series, recently adapted for television. His first novel featuring Charlie Boxer, Capital Punishment, was shortlisted for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger award and his latest in the Charlie Boxer series, Stealing People, is published in June. Find out more at Robert Wilson’s website or follow him on Twitter.