This article is from 2009.
Exposing demons through vigorous research
There’s a fascination with secrets in the works of Tobias Hill. His 1999 début novel, Underground, depicts the unseen world beneath the streets of London, and The Cryptographer, from 2003, features a code breaker caught in a futuristic web of lies and corruption. Hill’s most recent novel, Hidden, again roots his characters in covert truths, this time unearthing ancient Spartan graves in contemporary Greece. But Hill is not a genre writer, secrecy is simply a motif used to expose the internal demons of his flawed protagonists. ‘Obsession’s my poison,’ explains Hill. ‘I see shades of these things in so many people; I think the wholly sane are very rare.’
A poet and novelist, Hill’s writing demonstrates his talent for acute observations. The author spent a year researching Hidden before embarking on four years of writing, in order for Hill to achieve its meticulous historical depth. ‘The digging wasn’t what I wanted to know about, I’m comfortable imagining that. But getting the feel of Greece, ancient and modern, all took time.’ With a location and its history so integral to Hill’s inspiration, I suggest that the Scottish capital may spark his imagination during the Festival. ‘I love the geography of Edinburgh; it’s as spectacular as Istanbul or Rio de Janeiro. But I’d have to spend a good span of time in it. I’d want it under my skin.’
29 Aug (with Claire Kilroy), 10.15am, £9 (£7).