Mark Billingham : biography
Mark Philip David Billingham (born 2 July 1961)“BILLINGHAM, Mark Philip David,” in Who's Who 2009 (London: A & C Black, 2008); online ed., (Oxford: OUP, 2008), http://www.ukwhoswho.com/view/article/oupww/whoswho/U247048 (accessed 4 January 2009). is an English novelist whose series of "Tom Thorne" crime novels are best-sellers in that particular genre. He is also a television screenwriter and has become a familiar face as an actor and comic.
Sky1's Thorne adaptation started broadcast in October 2010, with acclaimed actor David Morrissey starring as Tom Thorne. The first three episodes were an adaptation of Sleepyhead and were directed by Stephen Hopkins (24, Californication, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers). The final three episodes were an adaptation of Scaredy Cat, and guest starred Canadian actress Sandra Oh (of Grey's Anatomy).
In-between writing, acting and stand-up, Billingham finds time to support Wolverhampton Wanderers, although his protagonist Thorne supports Tottenham Hotspur FC.
- Maid Marian and Her Merry Men (1989–94)
- "Tunnel Vision" (1993)
- Harry's Mad (1993–96)
- various episodes
- Knight School (1997–98)
- various episodes
- Dempsey and Makepeace (1984) – Steve (1985)
- Juliet Bravo (1980) – Doyle (1985)
- Boon (1986) – Policeman (1986)
- News at Twelve (1988) – Wayne Harris (1988)
- The Bill (1984) – Pete (1989)
- Birds of a Feather (1989) – Phil the Plumber (1989)
- Maid Marian and her Merry Men (1989–1994) – Gary (1989–1994)
- The Upper Hand (1990) – Philly Fingers (1993)
- Harry's Mad (1993–96) – Terry Crumm (1993–96)
- Knight School (1997–98) – Scrubbe (1997–8)
As he has stated in a number of interviews, Billingham treats comedy – and his stand-up in particular – and writing as parts of a whole, seeing the two as complementary, using as they do:
- "..the same 'Tricks'... [in particular] a strong opening. When you do stand-up, you walk out on stage and you have a minute – 60 seconds to hook them or they'll start booing. A late show at the Comedy Store is not easy, ditto with a book. As a writer you again have the duty to deliver – a reader has not got time to say, I'll give him 50 pages as it's not very good yet, but I hope it'll get better."
He also cites the big ending, and "pullback and reveal", whereby the audience (readership) is led along a specific path and lulled into thinking that they can guess the twist, before: "boom! it hits them from over there." In comedy, he says, it is a punchline; in crime "something a whole lot darker... [but] essentially it's a similar kind of [misdirection] technique."
It is no surprise then that Billingham turned his hand to writing comedy scripts for television, as well as continuing to act and appear in front of the camera at various points. He joined with David Lloyd to write episodes and act in the children's TV series Harry's Mad (based on the book by Dick King-Smith), and wrote and presented two series of BBC's What's That Noise.. Accessed 9 February 2008 Between 1997 and 1998, he (and friend Peter Cocks) wrote and co-starred in Granada TV's Knight School, for which the two also produced a novelisation.
He is however, clearly less enamoured by scriptwriting than by novel-writing, noting that:
- "I can write a six part TV series and put my heart and soul into crafting it, and when it's done, it's jumped upon by a dozen people and torn to pieces and rewritten and messed about. Of those dozen people, perhaps two are qualified to do that."
In 2002, he was "in the middle of writing a screenplay for an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical and about to write a screenplay for a cult children's show," an original sci-fi drama for the BBC, but his prime consideration turned to writing novels.
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