Short, Sharp Interview: Nigel Bird

southsiders 1-3

PDB: What’s going on?

In terms of the business of writing, I feel very busy.

I’ve just released the latest Southsiders novel, By The Time I Get To Phoenix. I was really sad to see publisher Blasted Heath come to an end. They did a fine job of editing and putting covers to the Southsiders books, but only managed to put out the first two. They generously handed the covers over to me, leaving me the relatively easy job of putting them out. I’m holding back on book four, the final one in the series, after this latest one has bedded in.

I’ve also just finished a novel that I’m rather proud of. I’ll say more about it when the time is right. I worked hard on the edits and feel it’s in tip top condition at this point.

In case I didn’t have enough on my plate, I’m also involved in a new role as Editorial Consultant for the massively impressive All Due Respect. It’s a grand title for what I do – reading submitted manuscripts, making notes and comments and suggestions and passing them on – but I’ll take it. The role may adapt over time and I’ll be happy to take on the changes if and when they arise. When Chris Rhatigan asked me to do this I didn’t have to give it a second thought. Life may be busy enough, but if you’re going to be overwhelmed, it might as well be while doing the things you love. I was proud to be asked and delighted to accept. Chris and I worked together on the Pulp Ink books and he took on a short story of mine for the ADR anthology a while back. We also put a story together that was published in Needle Magazine. I met him in the summer when he came to Edinburgh and it was great to get to know him better. He’s a star in so many ways and as a writer he excels (check out his books when you can, they’re terrific).

PDB: Do you listen to music when you work?

If it’s there. I don’t make an effort to play anything particular and would most likely have the wonderful Radio 6 on as much as anything else. I’m also partial to a musician going by the name Long Hat Pins and I do play his tracks to get me into the groove by distracting me from anything else.

PDB: What makes you laugh?

I’ve been recording episodes of Fraser daily for a month or so now. There are so many of them that my memory is almost used up. I see it as filling up a bank with happiness for days when I feel a bit low.

PDB: What’s the best cure for a hangover?

I’ve not had one of those since I last had a drink just over twelve years ago. From memory, the best cure is another drink with a couple of Gregg’s cheese and onion pasties.

PDB: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Rather than pick a spot, I think I’d change world geography. Mostly I like it where I am on the Scottish coast. The attraction is the beauty of the area and the low density of humanity. I guess I’d really like to live by the sea in an area of outstanding beauty where the weather is warm and dry much of the time, there aren‘t many people around and there’s easy access to a wonderful city (I can tick most of those boxes here in Dunbar what with Newcastle and Edinburgh within range, but the weather one definitely contains a cross).

PDB: Do you have a bucket list? If so, what’s on it?

I get confused by this concept. To me a bucket list sounds like the place you put all the things you really don’t want in your life. That’s probably just showing my age.

PDB: What’s on the cards?

More reading for All Due Respect.

I’m also letting my mind marinade an idea for a prequel for the novel I’ve just finished.

nigelbirdPDB: Anything else?

If this gets out in time, the three Southsiders books will be free over the weekend of the 23rd and 24th September. If not, I think I’ve said enough.

Bio: Nigel is the author of a number of acclaimed novels, novellas and short story collections including The Shallows, the Southsiders series, Mr Suit, Smoke and Dirty Old Town. He is currently an editorial consultant for the publisher All Due Respect books.  As well as writing, he is a Support for Learning teacher in a number of schools in East Lothian.

Recommended Read: Inside Straight by Ray Banks

inside straightSelf- confessed geek Graham Ellis is a top-class casino pit boss who is ‘demoted’ to a low-rent casino is Salford after an altercation with his boss. While there he encounters Barry Pollard, a local gangster, and things soon spiral way out of his control.

Ray Banks’ Inside Straight is a masterful slice of Brit Grit noir, full of richly drawn, realistic characters, cruel humour, pathos, violence and bad, bad decisions.

Marvelous stuff.

Short, Sharp Interview: Nigel Bird

southsidersPDB: What’s going on now?

Southsiders has just been released by Blasted Heath and I’ve just returned from a school trip with my younger daughter’s class to John Muir’s birthplace (the man’s an inspiration).

PDB: How did you research this book?

Research and I don’t tend to get on. For Southsiders, I did look into the Titanic Museum in Belfast and took the virtual tour. It looks great.

PDB: Which of your publications are you most proud of?

I think I’d pick Southsiders. To my mind, the central premise is great and I believe I managed to write a story that does it justice. It flowed so easily at the first draft stage that it was a joy to write. It also benefits from a serious edit from Allan Guthrie, which means the process felt less solitary and wayward. To my mind it has the variety of shade and tone that I like to find in a story.

PDB: What’s your favourite film/ book/ song/ television programme?

Favourite film: Diner by Barry Levinson.

Favourite book…s that I’ve read this year?  I’d be selecting from Drama City by George Pelecanos, Dare Me by Megan Abbott, Gravesend by William Boyle and The Motel Life by Willy Vlautin.

Song? Because he’s such an integral part of Southsiders, it has to be something from Presley and Sun Records – Baby, Let’s Play House.

TV? University Challenge and The Apprentice.

PDB: Is location important to your writing?

It’s important to help me get a fix on a story and to help me find the voice. After that I just make it all up.

PDB: How often do you check your Amazon rankings?

Too frequently. I’m working on cutting it down to the beginning and end of the day.

PDB: What’s next?

Blasted Heath have the follow up to Southsiders in their hands and I’m expecting another hard edit to come back at me pretty soon. In between times, I’m writing a romantic comedy set in nearby Portobello (if I have to do any research, at least I can do it in a cafe overlooking the sea).

Bio: Nigel Bird is the author of several novels, novellas and short story collections, including SouthsidersIn Loco ParentisSmokeMr Suit and Dirty Old Town.

He lives on the East Coast of Scotland in Dunbar (Sunny Dunny) with his wife and three children.

As well as writing fiction, he has been a teacher for twenty-five years and has worked in a number of mainstream and special schools.


ansYep, the splendid Anthony Neil Smith’s HOGDOGGIN’ is heading for the big screen. Here’s the blurb:

‘Award-winning Southwest Minnesota State University Professor signs with two Minnesota production companies to produce popular Billy Lafitte novel.

Southwest Minnesota State University dean, Anthony Neil Smith, will have a new credit to add to his resume. This week Smith signed a deal with Minnesota production companies Killing Joke Films and Pounding Heart MultiMedia to turn one his popular novels into a film. A noir crime author, Smith is the author of seven novels, including the Billy Lafitte series–YELLOW MEDICINE, HOGDOGGIN’, and THE BADDEST ASS–and ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS, named by Spinetingler Magazine as Best Novel of 2012 in their “Rising Star” category. Hogdoggin will be his first book to be turned into a movie.

hogdogginThe follow-up to 2008’s YELLOW MEDICINE, HOGDOGGIN’ continues to follow the trail of rogue, ex-cop Billy Lafitte, as he returns home to Yellow Medicine County, Minnesota. Dodging a revenge plan hatched by the FBI special agent he once assaulted, Lafitte’s brutal adventures are best exemplified by the blood sport that provides the title, which matches vicious dogs like rottweilers against helpless pigs. In the words of Booklist’s Elliott Swanson: “Smith’s version of Minnesota is no Lake Wobegon; the inhabitants are refreshingly made up entirely of the deranged, the damaged, and the doomed.”

A native of Mississippi, Smith is now chairman of the English Department at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, MN.

killing joke films“I’m thrilled to let Minnesota’s best film teams take a chance on adapting this, the novel I was working on when I finally fell in love with Minnesota. Keeping it close to home is the right decision, and Pounding Heart MultiMedia and Killing Joke Films are the right people to do it.”

Killing Joke Films’ owner, writer and director Paul von Stoetzel, is known for his unflinching storytelling, winning numerous awards for his hit documentary, SNUFF: A Documentary About Killing On Camera. Von Stoetzel first met Smith online after being introduced to the crime writer’s community by noir author Dennis Tafoya and after reading Smith’s book Yellow Medicine von Stoezel became very interested in Smith’s work.

pounding heartKilling Joke Films signed a deal earlier this year with Pounding Heart MultiMedia to produce and distribute its films, including its first feature film, A Method, due for release this fall.

“I am extremely excited about pairing one of Minnesota’s best noir crime authors with one of the most fearless directors Minnesota has ever produced,” said Pounding Heart’s Executive Producer/Owner Bridget Cronin Sutton. “This will be a great movie that people will want to watch.”

Hogdoggin is slated for release early in 2015.

Short, Sharp Interview: Nigel Bird

nigelbirdPDB: Can you pitch SMOKE in 25 words or less?

 NB: The Ramsay brothers arrange a dog-fighting tournament to help them escape Tranent. A teenager and a one-armed man aim to throw spanners into the works.
PDB: Which books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?
NB: Ishmael Toffee and Lost Thingsare tremendous novellas.  Booze And Burn and What It Was are 2 top-notch novels. The Devil All The Time is amazing. The Great British Bake-off works for me on TV and usually makes me hungry. The Guard and The House In The Woods are very entertaining movies.
PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?
NB: I surely hope so.  I think I only notice things from a writer’s perspective if they’re really badly done and thankfully it’s not that often.
PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?
NB: I did once write what I thought was a romantic-comedy for the screen. I wouldn’t set off on the path for script-writing, but if I were asked I’m sure I’d jump at the chance.
PDB: How much research goes into each book?
NB: As little as possible.  None if I can get away with it.
PDB: How useful or important are social media for you as a writer? 

NB: I really enjoy the social media and the links with people I’ve made through them.  I’ve also been able to read a lot of good work (fiction or on the processes of writing) that I’d have missed if I wasn’t involved in social networks.  It’s like having a great filter that saves surfing through lots of crap to find the gems.

SMOKEIn terms of my perception of my own work, experiencing a feeling of worth and of being cared for, it’s been wonderful and it’s the online friendships that are most rewarding.  At Bloody Scotland I met a number of folk whom I’ve only known online and it was wonderful – there was no need for long-winded introduction, it was just like meeting old friends.
PDB: What’s on the cards in 2012?
NB: It’s been busy so far –Smoke, In Loco Parentis and Pulp Ink 2 all up and running.  I was made-up to have a story in Protectors and in Both Barrels, from Shotgun Honey.  I also have the first 6000 words of a novella on the shelves; I’ve been hiding from it, but it’s time to be brave and take on the next sections.

Short, Sharp Interview: Anonymous – 9

PDB: Can you pitch HARD BITE in 25 words or less?

Ever felt like killing someone who wronged you? This story is about an average, decent guy in a wheelchair, with a helper monkey—turned vigilante.

PDB: Which books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?

The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass (heads a large literary agency in New York). Revisited FADE TO BLONDE by Max Phillips, the first Hard Case Crime release from way back when. I’m always stunned at how strong that voice is.

PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?

No. I’m an editor and I still hired outside help, repeatedly, to get my manuscript in shape. Jenny Jensen, e-book editor was terrific and took two cracks at it. Then Allan Guthrie had a go. Before the pros got to it, a bunch of beta readers had weighed in. I rewrote or threw out tens of thousands of words.

PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?

I’m adapting HARD BITE into a screenplay right now. The novel is written cinematically in the first place. I have a degree in radio and television, so I’m trained to write for the screen (that and $2.50 will get me on the bus to Santa Monica). But novels are my first love. I have a stage play finished years ago in the dusty files.

PDB: How much research goes into each book?

Ah, tons. I know nothing about cops, guns, the courts and legal system. Every hour I spend writing, there’s 8 more researching. Very difficult in Los Angeles. If you live in a smaller town, count your blessings, because you can probably get the cops to talk to you.

PDB: How useful or important are social media for you as a writer?

You know, it’s a useful tool, but not everyone is a master at it like Paul D. Brazill, and I mean that sincerely. Your light touch, easy way with meeting people–it doesn’t come naturally to all of us, me included. The best way to use social media is to write something so good that other people want to use it to trumpet all about your book.

PDB: What’s on the cards for the rest of 2012/13?

I’m not a “series” kind of thinker or writer but it’s what Blasted Heath wanted. Once I started, my aim is to make it as good or better than the first. I love unusual plot twists and this cast of characters gives ample leeway for hairpin turns. I also plan to stay out of jail except for visitations, God willing.


Now have a gander at the book trailer for HARD BITE:

Top Tips: Recommended Reads.

I’ve read some cracking books over the last week or so, and here are a few of  my recommendations:

The Killing Of Emma Gross by Damien Seaman. Blasted Heath are simply one of the best publishers around. And this is one of the best books that they’ve put out. Maybe the best.

In Germany, before the war, a serial killer is on the loose – nicknamed The Ripper or The Vampire Of Düsseldorf. Detective Thomas Klein manages to get the main suspect-Peter Kurten- to give himself up in a Catholic church. But Klein himself is arrested  when his rival, Inspector Ritter, turns up with a squad of armed cops.

The Killing Of Emma Gross is Seaman‘s brilliantly twisty debut novel. A gripping, powerful story that is  full of clammy atmosphere and uses the historical setting to tell an involving tale of dark, complicated people doing very dark things. The cast of quirky characters, especially Klein are wonderfully drawn and , definitely deserve a second outing. Highly recommended.

Ask the Dice by Ed Lynskey. Tommy Zane is a poetry writing, jazz loving hit man who is starting to feel as if he’s had enough of the killing game. He is even becoming allergic to his gun.However, when he’s  framed for the murder of his gangster employer’s niece, his main aim is to survive.

Ask The Dice is smashing, smoothly written slice of hard-boiled. The fast-moving story is interspersed with Zane’s beat poetry and ruminations, so that it works well as a character study as well as a gritty crime story.

Monkey Justice by Patti Abbott. The e-book explosion has seen a deluge of short story and flash fiction collections, some decidedly  better than others. But Patti Abbott’s Monkey Justice stands head and shoulders above almost all short story collections out there, e-book or not. This is a mature and assured collection of brilliant stories that show us a great deal about the lives of  the wide range of characters. Personal favourites include ‘The Instrument Of Her Desire’, ‘Georgie’ and ‘The Squatter’ but there really isn’t a duff story in this fantastic, brilliantly written collection which spans noir, crime, slice-of-life, gothic and just- ace – writing.

Monkey Justice is published by the splendid  Snubnose Press, as is Les Edgerton’s Gumbo Ya Ya. Les Edgerton is one of my favourite writers – his novel The Bitch is a masterclass in character driven fiction, let alone crime fiction – so it’s no surprise that Gumbo Ya Ya is a knockout. The stories in the collection have a very autobiographical, authentic feel and focus on the harsh sides of life : broken relationships, the death of a loved one, life in prison. The standout story is the lyrical and moving ‘The Death Of Tarpons’ but ‘Pit Stop’ and ‘The World’s Fair’ are also faves. Gumbo Ya Ya also includes a couple of essays, including a cracking one about the dangers of censorship which was written more than ten years ago but is very pertinent today.

So, there you are. Every one a gem! Get stuck in there!

(pic by Walter Conley)

Short, Sharp Interview: H J Hampson

PDB: Can you pitch The Vanity Game in 25 words or less?
Beaumont Alexander, a vain Premiership footballer, has everything, but an incident at a celeb party leads to his life spiraling horribly out of control.
PDB: Which books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?
I read Megan Abbott’s The End of Everything while I was on holiday and really enjoyed that – I love her style of writing.
In terms of TV – Homeland. I thought it was an excellent series, really well paced, great plot. You just don’t get TV like that in the UK.
The last film I saw at the cinema was This Must Be The Place. I can’t say it was particularly good (which was a shame because the director, Paolo Sorrentino’s earlier film, The Consequences of Love, is absolutely brilliant), but I have a soft spot for old rockers so I loved Sean Penn’s character, and it does have Francis McDormand in which is always a plus.
The last really good film I watched was Cristian Mungui’s Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days.It’s about a Romanian woman having an illegal abortion, so not exactly lightweight, but dark, intelligent, shocking, occasionally humorous, occasionally uncomfortable – just brilliant.
PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?
I think if you are reading a really good novel, then yes it is, as you can still get lost in the story  – if the characters really come alive, I don’t analyse the writing at all, I just let them get on with it. 
However, personally, I do feel that it’s hard to be objective about badly written fiction. Maybe it’s the sense of injustice – when you see stuff like Stieg Larsson doing well, even though his writing is as clunky as a stuttering freight train, when there are so many brilliant writers who are struggling to be heard. 
Not that I am jealous of whoever is making all that money from his posthumous zillion-sales success or anything.
PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?
Yes! I am currently doing an MA in screenwriting.  I don’t really write for TV though. I find I can’t think in terms of episodes, but think more in terms of the big story, so I only really write film… though I am aware that writing spec scripts is probably as futile a pursuit as promoting communism amongst bankers.
PDB: How much research goes into each book?
Well, The Vanity Gamewas fairly easy to research because it’s about a footballer and his girlfriend. My old housemate used to buy quite a lot of those trashy celebrity magazines – they were excellent for research purposes! Other than that, I used luxury goods websites, fashion websites, sports car websites – it was quite a fun book to research!
The novel I have just finished is very different – it is set in the late 1990s so that required much more research. It’s so important to create a believable world for your characters, so research is important, especially if you are setting things historically.
PDB: How useful or important is social media for you as a writer?
Invaluable! As The VanityGame is only coming out as an e-book all the promotion is online.  Blasted Heath have got me blogging ( and tweeting (@monty9alexander) as the protagonist, Beaumont Alexander… I’m finding it worryingly easy to tweet as a footballer.
There is also a really supportive community of crime readers and writers online who are a great help too.
PDB: What’s on the cards in 2012?
I have just sent my second novel to my agent, so fingers crossed on that! I’m contemplating writing a ‘quasi-sequel’ to The Vanity Game, but at the moment I am concentrating on my MA dissertation – a comedy road movie script.