Short, Sharp Interview: Nick Quantrill

Nick Quantrill, short sharp interviews

To be published by Caffeine Nights, late 2009.

March sees the publication of Hull writer Nick Quantrill’s long awaited first novel ‘Broken Dreams’.

Here’ s the buzz:

Joe Geraghty, Private Investigator, is used to struggling from one case to the next, barely making the rent on his small office in the Old Town of Hull.

Invited by a local businessman to investigate a member of his staff’s absenteeism, it’s the kind of surveillance work that Geraghty and his small team have performed countless times. When Jennifer Murdoch is found bleeding to death in her bed, Geraghty quickly finds himself trapped in the middle of a police investigation which stretches back to the days when the city had a thriving fishing industry.

And here’s the interview:

PDB) Pitch me Broken Dreams in 25 words or less

NQ: ‘Broken Dreams’ is the story of a forgotten city’s past, present and maybe its future. With added murder and corruption, of course.

PDB) Where did the idea for the story come from?

NQ: I’ve always written stories set in my home city of Hull, so ‘Broken Dreams’ was kind of inevitable. Until the mid-1970s, the city was a thriving fishing port which employed huge numbers of people. When government policy changed, countless people’s work was ripped away from them with little or no compensation. Worse, it demoralised the city and in truth it’s never really got back on its feet. With ‘Broken Dreams’, I wanted to explore what happens to people in those circumstances, how it still ripples down the line in the 21st century. Once I got that, the optimist in me started to think about the regeneration and opportunity it brings. It didn’t last long though, and I started to see the potential for a crime story in there, and it quickly fell into place. It’s not something, so far as I can see, which has really been tackled by other writers in the city, so this is my way of trying to readdress the balance a little. Not that I’m expecting a thank-you from the local tourist office for my efforts…

PDB) Why a PI story?

NQ: I’d messed around with a police character for a while in an unpublished novel and some short stories. I was really lucky to have decent access to a couple of local detectives but it never quite seemed to gel right. At best, I was second-guessing how a policeman thinks and feels. I had to change it and the PI seemed the obvious choice. I could still write about the same kind of issues but without the worry of getting it ‘right’. One thing I did carry over was the decision to make Joe Geraghty, my lead character in ‘Broken Dreams’, ‘normal’. The thing which had really struck me when meeting the local police detectives was how regular they were. They weren’t superhuman. They were just ordinary guys trying their best to do extraordinary jobs. And that was something I wanted to bring to the story, whilst still letting Joe mix it up a bit when needed.

PDB) Would you consider yourself a political writer?

NQ: No, not at all. I think what fuels ‘Broken Dreams’ is anger rather than politics. In truth, I can’t claim to know an awful lot about the politics behind the decisions which impacted on Hull, and the North of England, so severely. Furthermore, as a writer, I’m not hugely bothered. My interest is more in the consequences and the effects of these decisions, rather than their causes. The novel I’m currently working on is about a missing musician, so it’s definitely a change in that respect.

PDB) Is the North of England a good place to set a crime novel?

NQ: Too right it is! The North of England is often portrayed as a grey, dark and wet place but it’s an area of huge contrasts. For a crime writer, it’s got it all. Some areas of the North have been decimated through death of industrial work, yet other areas attract huge investment. You’ve got important cities like Manchester and Leeds, yet you’ve got glorious rural spaces like the Yorkshire Dales and the Peak District on your doorstep. I’ve visited some great places around the world over the last few years with my wife, but there’s nowhere like home.

PDB) Which writers blow your skirt up?

NQ: I’m a big crime reader, though I read widely within the genre. If I had to pick a few favourites, George Pelecanos would be pretty much at the top of the list. I love the way he can pick apart seemingly innocuous events and characters, yet be no less interesting for it. Equally, Graham Hurley writes a first-rate UK police procedural which never resorts to serial killers or policemen needing to flout the rules to get their man. They both seem to be able to make the everyday exciting. Ray Banks is my favourite ‘lesser known’ writer. I’m probably preaching to the converted here, but his Cal Innes novels have taken the PI novel into new and interesting places. I can’t wait to see what he produces next. I love some of the big hitters, too. Say what you like about Lee Child, but he knows how to make you turn a page and Michael Connelly is able to consistently produce intelligent blockbusters. Away from crime, I tip my hat to John Steinbeck. I’m a huge fan of all his work and I think you can detect his traits in the work of people like Pelecanos.

PDB) What’s next?

NQ: I’m chipping away at the next Joe Geraghty novel, provisionally entitled ‘The Late Greats’. I’ve broken the back of it, so hopefully I’ll have something worthwhile by the summer. Working with Caffeine Nights has been great, so hopefully it’s a relationship which will continue. I’ll worry about that side of things later this year. Hopefully, I’ll also find the time to write some new short stories, but other than that, I’ll be promoting ‘Broken Dreams’ to the best of my ability. I’m well aware of how many great writers there are out on the Internet snapping away at my heels, so to be given this chance is fantastic. I want to make sure I take advantage of any opportunity it brings. Rest assured, I’ll be giving it my best shot.

Broken Dreams will be published by Caffeine Nights in March 2010.

Nick’s Website – Hull Crime Scene – is here