“In this country, the over 70s are sidelined”

The success of the books, however, is bad news for fans of Useless, whose numbers apparently include the Queen and A.S. Byatt: Osman left the show to focus on writing. The new book includes a tribute to Pointless when, for sleuthing purposes, Elizabeth and Joyce go to a taping of popular television quiz show Stop the Clock to interview the host – an “over-promoted producer to presenter”, according to the words of a rival.

It’s Osman’s own story, the executive (of hit formats like Deal or No Deal) who showed up on camera and turned out to be a natural. “For the first three episodes or so, I was constantly thinking, ‘What do they want? What do they want?'” he says. , it clicked.”

Whether on television or in novels, trying to guess what an audience might want is, he now believes, a recipe for disaster. “The moment you do that, you are sunk. I wrote a book that I would like to read and I happen to have fairly traditional tastes. You have literary writers sometimes who decide to write a genre novel, and it never really works, because they say “Oh, I read that, so I can say what people like” – well , if you could say what people like, you would I didn’t end up as a literary novelist.

Osman, on the other hand, has been a dedicated reader of mystery novels for decades and is keen to emphasize that he is no overnight oddball in the genre. Naturally, he turns his slightly defensive attitude about it into a running joke of self-deprecation – “Would Ian Rankin say ‘nasty’?” he grows concerned after using the word to describe one of his villains.

Initial critical response to the books was mixed; a review from the Sunday Times particularly stung him. “It felt like it came from a very posh place,” Osman says now. “It’s fine that it’s not your bag, but if you can’t explain the success of certain things other than to say that the people who like them are stupid, which was basically the whole point of this article, then you missed something that it’s your job not to miss I guess.

He dislikes the “cozy crime” label, a subgenre he’s been credited with reinvigorating. Curiously, many of the cozy crime books that have followed in Osman’s wake have cover designs and dipping calligraphy that strongly resemble the distinctive look of his novels.

“I get it. If I was their publisher, I would 100% tear off my cover and put it on their books,” he says. [my books] just to be judged on how they make people feel – but as soon as there are other books like yours, you suddenly become part of a movement. I write my books, other people’s books are their business. It never occurred to me that I was writing a cozy book: it’s wrapped in cozy gift paper and there’s a cozy bow on top, but I don’t think the gift itself is cozy.

It’s true that the less than cozy subjects covered in his novels range from gang warfare to insanity, but part of the reason the books soothe more than they worry is that they’re still very funny. . Crisp dialogue comes naturally to Osman when he writes, he says, giving the novels the same sense of spontaneous wit that makes his television appearances so refreshing – not that his talent for repartee is something he be unduly proud.

“I absolutely surfed on my speed of thought. Speed ​​of thought has always been my strength; depth of thought never was,” he says. Indeed, Britain, he believes, is “run by people who have the speed of thought. When someone says someone has charisma or is good at television, it just means they have speed of thought. People with deep thinking are sitting in universities and research institutes across the country – they really understand the world on a tectonic level, and because they can’t be super bright on a daily political show, we ignore them.

As a man involved in the production of television comedies, how does Osman feel about recent claims by some comics that censorship is killing comedy? “Actors have always had this expression: read the play,” he says. “You can always say whatever you want in the right room. It’s a good idea to say you can’t say what you want, especially if you’re not getting the bookings you want – but I think they can always say what they want, but maybe- be that they don’t say it funny enough. ”

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