Five minutes with longlisted author David Crane
How does it feel to reach the longlist for the Samuel Johnson Prize?
VERY surprised and delighted
What research did you do for writing your book?
Most of the research was done in the vast archive that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds, but of equal importance were the cemeteries and memorials themselves. There is nowhere like the Menin Gate or the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme to concentrate the mind on what one is writing about and why one is doing it.
How do you feel about the status/ popularity of non-fiction books in general?
It seems to me - if the review sections of newspapers are any guide - that it is very healthy.
What is your favourite non-fiction book and why?
An impossible question and one that would produce a different answer every week. I'd probably have to say Boswell's Johnson if that didn't sound so fawning in the circumstances, but it usually depends on what I'm working on at the time. Leslie Marchand's edition of Byron's Letters is hard to beat, or - the 'War and Peace' of travel writing, and one of those books that makes everything else written on the subject pale into insignificance - Cherry Garrard's The Worst Journey in the World.
What are you working on next?
I'm working on a book about June 18th 1815, the day of the Battle of Waterloo - twenty-four separate but inter-linked stories, told hour by hour, and ranging from infanticide in the Hebrides and the condemned cells in Newgate to Caroline Lamb, Byron and the battle itself, in an attempt to see what Britain was actually like on the most important day in its modern history.
David Crane is the author of Empires of the Dead: How One Man's Vision Led to the Creation of WW1's War Graves (William Collins)