Richard Osman

Stuart Simpson / Penguin Books

Richard Osman found the idea for his bestselling crime novel The Thursday Murder Club while visiting an real-life retirement village, the comedian-turned-author has revealed.

The whodunit, about a group of retired cold-case enthusiasts thrown headlong into a real-life murder investigation, became one of the fastest-selling debuts in history after its publication last year and has proved one of the runaway hits of 2020.

Speaking exclusively on an episode of the Penguin Podcast, he said he was moved to write the novel after stopping by at a pensioners' community last year – an environment, he realised, that would make “the perfect place for a murder”.

“Firstly I found it very moving,” he said. “I found it very beautiful. Everyone’s in their seventies and, you know, we’re told to think certain things about people in their seventies. But they were having such a laugh. They were drinking, gossiping. There’s loads of politics. Extraordinary people from loads of different backgrounds all mixing together. And I thought this is an interesting gang of people.”

He added: “I thought, ‘Well if there was a murder here, these people would solve it, that’s for sure.’ And that’s where the idea came from really.”

And so, The Thursday Murder Club was born. It's the story of four incurably curious pensioners — an ex-spy, an ex-psychiatrist, an ex-nurse and an ex-trade union leader — who meet in their retirement village every Thursday to discuss unsolved murders over tea and cake.

But when a dead body is discovered right under their noses, they pick up the scent, falling headlong into a real-life game of Cluedo that puts their nerves, wits and creaking bodies to the ultimate test.

“Nobody wants a television presenter to write a novel,” says Osman in his wide-ranging chat with regular Penguin Podcast host Nihal Arthanayake. “So I wanted to do it on my own terms. I wanted to finish the whole thing and just look someone who I trusted in the eyes and say, ‘Look, is this a book, or is this a guy from the telly who wants to write about some older people and there’s not much to it?’”

Listen to full conversation on the Penguin Podcast

In his episode, Osman also talked about his desire to show older members of society in a fairer light. “People in their seventies and eighties are such allies for every movement of progress there is. [So] I just wanted it to be noted that in your seventies the new world is still coming at you. And there is a generation of people who are still excited and interested in the fact that Tinder exists and want to see how it works. And want to have a play with it. Because why wouldn’t you?”

The multi-award-winning Penguin Podcast, which comes out every fortnight, invites writers to share objects that inspire their creativity and help tell the story of their lives. Recent guests have included Ruth Jones, Anthony Horowitz and Kevin Kwan. 

Listen to Richard Osman's full conversation on the Penguin Podcast above and subscribe for future episodes here.

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