Booker longlist: AD Miller on Snowdrops

By Tim Masters
Entertainment and arts correspondent, BBC News


In the fourth and final interview with the first-time novelists on the Booker longlist, AD Miller reflects on how living in Russia inspired his thriller Snowdrops about the dark side of Moscow.

In Moscow slang, a snowdrop is a corpse that lies buried or hidden in the winter snows, emerging only in the thaw.

It was an expression that AD Miller came across during his three years as The Economist's correspondent in the Russian capital.

"It seemed a very striking image for the harshness of life in Russia," explains Miller.

"It also seemed to be a novelistic image that could stand for things you try to repress that come back to bite you."

In Snowdrops, Moscow is seen through the eyes of Nick Platt, an English lawyer living in the city during the Russian oil boom.

When he rescues two sisters from a purse snatcher on the subway, it sets in motion a chain of events that take him from the Black Sea to the Arctic.

"It is a pretty dark view of Russia," Miller admits.

"It is a place where if you don't have powerful connections your life is a bit of a tightrope walk. If something goes wrong you can be in very deep trouble very quickly."

How did he find those Moscow winters?

"It's not the cold that gets you - it's the ice," he recalls. "But the winters can be very exhilarating and beguiling. Hopefully I've managed to convey some of that in my book."

'Very bad deeds'

Born in London in 1974, Miller studied literature at Cambridge and Princeton, and began his journalistic career writing travel pieces about America. He worked as a television producer before joining The Economist, where he is currently the magazine's Britain editor.

Miller's own experiences in Russia were "slightly more uneventful" than those of his fictional creation.

"Snowdrops draws on my observations of Moscow, but in the end it's about moral degeneration about how even the most normal seeming people can become embroiled in very bad deeds," he says.

While Snowdrops is his first novel, Miller is also the author of The Earl of Petticoat Lane, a family and social history published in 2006.

Not surprisingly, Miller is keen on the great Russian novelists. He has also been reading The Stranger's Child, by fellow Booker hopeful and former winner Alan Hollinghurst.

"He's an inimitable and beautiful writer. I loved The Line of Beauty," says Miller, who learned of his own Booker longlisting while at his desk at work.

"I was astonished. It was a little hard to concentrate for the rest of the afternoon and at 5pm I knocked off to have a glass of champagne."

He adds: "When I was writing this book I was by no means confident it was going to be published at all. The idea of it being on the Booker longlist was not remotely on my radar.

"I've been in an uncharacteristically good mood."

The shortlist of six authors will be announced on 6 September with the winner of the £50,000 annual prize named on 18 October.

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