Mark Henshaw’s top cultural picks
April 9, 2015, Article by Beau Merchant in Books
Mark Henshaw’s first novel, Out of the Line of Fire, was published over 25 years ago to huge critical acclaim and is a classic, particularly in his native Australia. It’s been a while, but his new novel is out now in the UK and it’s been well worth the wait; The Snow Kimono is a gripping, stylish piece of literary fiction that reads like a thriller.
A retired French police inspector returns home to find a letter waiting for him, written by a woman claiming to be his daughter, and then a mysterious stranger turns up. The stranger begins to tell his story, and a bizarre and dangerous puzzle starts to be pieced together.
We loved The Snow Kimono, so decided to find out a bit about what makes Mark tick. Here are some of his cultural highlights…
Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was probably the book that did it for me. I read it when I was about seventeen and even though I didn’t think about writing myself until my early thirties, it’s a book that I’ve come back to again and again. It’s fantastic what Fitzgerald does in such a short space. Writers who have influenced me? Flaubert [Madame Bovary], Richard Yates [Revolutionary Road], Richard Ford [the early novels], and without doubt, the short stories of Alice Munro. But I also like the Dutch writer Cees Nooteboom [Rituals, The Following Story, A Song of Truth and Semblance] but there’s also Javier Marias [A Heart so White], Ian McEwan [Atonement], Michael Ondaatje [In the Skin of a Lion] and Michel Houellebecq [Atomised, Platform], amongst others.
God, where do you start? I worked as a curator of International Art for thirty years. So, Goya – hard-nosed, unflinching, incredibly ‘modern’. Ditto Otto Dix. And Max Beckmann. The later works of Willem de Kooning – fantastically lyrical and serene. But I also love Banksy – the works are brilliantly executed, and sometimes unbelievably poignant. He’s the artist I’d most like to own. The Australian artist Derek O’Connor. Plus I have a large collection of Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints.
Polanski’s Chinatown, David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, Mikhalkov’s Burnt by the sun, Inarritu’s Babel. It was Babel that confirmed for me that you could make something coherent out of three separate stories. Film in general has been a huge influence on my work.
Thai, Italian. But my wife is a gourmet cook who likes to mix it up a lot. I like the unpredictable day-to-day adventure.
Coffee. I love coffee.
Place or holiday destination:
I’ve lived at various times in Germany, France, Yugoslavia and the US, but I’ve had wonderful holidays in northern Greece. I’ve driven twice from Athens to Paris and back. Paris has lots of good memories for me – The Snow Kimono is partly an homage to Paris. I like the south of France – small towns, modest lives, rich landscape. On the other hand, I have a house on the Australian south coast where the light is just unbelievably beautiful. This is probably my favorite place to go.
My tastes are pretty varied. At the moment I’m listening to Frazey Ford’s Indian Ocean. Leonard Cohen’s nostalgia speaks to me more and more as I get older. He’s a better philosopher than Sartre. I’m also a big Elvis Costello fan. I miss Amy Winehouse. Plus I listen to a lot of ‘classical’ music from Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time to Vivaldi.
Driving, cars – I currently drive an Australian-made 420 bhp V8 SSZ Commodore; fantastic fun, but I’m thinking about trading up to a VW Golf R. What else – gardening and garden design. Women’s fashion! Lastly – I’ve absolutely loved watching my two children grow up – I have a daughter who is 22, and a son who is 15. Best slow-narrative unfold ever.
The Snow Kimono is out now in hardback and ebook, published by the good people at Tinder Press