> Skip to content

Q&A  •  18 October 2023

 

Benjamin Stevenson shares how the authors in his new novel differ from real-life Australian crime authors

Plus, the writing advice (and life-advice) he’d give his past self.

Everyone On This Train Is A Suspect is a follow-up to your previous bestseller, Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone. Do readers need to have read the previous book to enjoy this one?

Not at all – this is a classic Golden Age mystery type of sequel: same detective, brand new case. New killers, suspects, location and crime! If you did like the first book though, there’s plenty more fun with Ernest Cunningham – so it works both ways.  

What gave you the idea to set this story on the Ghan?

I love locked room mysteries, and my last was locked in a snow-storm-struck hotel, so I wanted a locked room that felt as far as possible from there. Of course, there is a great history of trains in mystery in fiction, but the chance to reinvigorate, modernise, and Australianise the concept was irresistible!

You’ve said that it was always your goal to publish a book before you turned thirty. What inspired that ambition?

Ego. Every young person feels they are running out of time – and I was a victim of that – but I’m glad I was so driven as it was a lot of hard work to achieve. That said, I think my best work is ahead of me.

What would you go back and tell your past self, who was striving for this goal?

As above, that your best work is ahead of you (and don’t eat that plate of Mussels in Madrid that one time…).

Which character from Everyone On This Train Is A Suspect did you enjoy writing most?

There’s a character named Alan Royce who is absolutely vile – part sleaze, part narcissist, all clueless – and was such a joy to write.

How do you balance humour, crime and puzzles in a complex mystery like this?

With a lot of editing! Getting the balance right is key, you can’t tilt the book too far one way otherwise you risk changing the whole genre. Ernest’s voice is so key to the tone of the books, so I just try to make sure I’m properly in his head while writing. As for the puzzles, in this book, I wanted to increase the cryptic elements. So there are more puzzles – anagrams, codes, numbers – in this book than the last. That required a lot of careful plotting and research!

You’ve been to several writing festivals yourself. What from your real-life experiences did you use in the book?

The writers in the book are the complete opposite of the wonderful bunch of crime writers in Australia (not least because our real-life writers don’t kill people!) – but I certainly tried to give a glimpse behind the curtain of what it’s like in what is, let’s face it, a competitive and sometimes cut-throat industry.

 

Want more fun? Do a crossword puzzle based on the book here

Feature Title

Everyone On This Train Is A Suspect
The eagerly awaited follow-up to the international bestseller EVERYONE IN MY FAMILY HAS KILLED SOMEONE - another deliciously witty locked room mystery, for fans of Richard Osman and Anthony Horowitz.
Read more

More features

See all
Q&A
Author's bizarre Google search while writing new book

Benjamin Stevenson talks to us about his new must-have mystery and his friend's odd act that inspired his book.

News
2024 ABIAs shortlist announced

Check out the Penguin Random House books that have been shortlisted for the ABIAs in 2024. The winners will be announced on 9 May 2024.

Article
The best book duos to gift for Christmas 2023

Perfect book pairings to give loved ones this holiday season.

Article
Penguin picks: 6 employees share their favourite books of 2023

See what Penguin Random House employees chose as their favourite books of the year.

Article
Everyone On Train Is A Suspect Crossword

Put your sleuthing to the test with this train- & crime-themed crossword inspired by Benjamin Stevenson's Everyone On This Train Is A Suspect.

Article
6 authors share why they love meeting readers

Find out what authors think about book events and learn about upcoming chances to meet your favourite authors in person.

News
Penguin Random House AU celebrates first-ever Penguin Noir event

On 9 August 2023, Penguin Random House AU hosted our first-ever in-house author event for Penguin Noir: A Crime Author Showcase.

Article
4 of the best Australian Outback crime novels of 2023

Australian crime fiction is having a moment; see the new books to have on your radar in 2023.

News
Penguin Noir: A Crime Author Showcase

An exciting Penguin Random House author showcase on 9 August!

News
2023 ABIAs shortlist announced

Winners will be announced on 25 May 2023.

Article
Catch these authors at Australia’s biggest writers festivals this May

Find out which Penguin Random House authors will be attending writers festivals in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney this May.

Article
Authors were back on the road in 2022 - and we loved it!

Join us as we travel back in time through 2022 with the authors that hit the road this year.

Looking for more Q&As?

See all Q&As