Can you tell us about yourself?
Hi everyone, I’m a former playwright, journalist and spin-doctor. In an even earlier life I served in the Royal Navy for 16 years. I’ve got an MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) from UEA and volunteer as a chef at the People’s Kitchen, in Newcastle, a haven for the homeless people in the city. I’m the author of The Man on the Street, a crime thriller set in Newcastle’s homeless community, which has won the Crime Writers’ Association’s John Creasey New Blood Dagger and the Crimefest Specsavers Debut of the Year. It was also selected by Val McDermid for the Theakston’s Crime Festival New Blood panel and has been longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year.
The sequel, One Way Street, which sees the return of the homeless protagonist, the PTSD-suffering veteran Jimmy Mullen, is already out in e-book and audio and will be published in hardback and paperback later this year.
Are you working on something now?
The third book in the Jimmy Mullen trilogy, Dead End Street is written and currently with my copy editor but not due out until 2022. I’m currently working on a standalone thriller set in a remote Northumberland village, provisionally called You Can Run, which gives me a great excuse to spend some time hiking around the countryside and calling it research.
Which six books will you take to the Island?
A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess. A far better book than the movie made from it would suggest and one of the few books I re-read on a regular basis. Particularly handy for a desert island as it’s partially written in a made-up language, Nadsat, and I could try and learn that to fill the time.
Different Seasons – Stephen King. A bit of a cheat as it contains four different novellas, three of which were made into the terrific movies, Stand By Me, The Shawshank Redemption and Apt Pupil.
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens. Love the movie but never read the book. I’m imagining it’s both meaty and quite long so will be good to finally get my teeth into it.
King of the Crows – Russell Day. One of the most inventive, imaginative books I’ve read during lockdown (probably ever, actually). A heist novel set during a pandemic using so many different mediums to tell the story: film scripts, memoir, graffiti, chat room convos, dictionary definitions and many others I’ve forgotten. I’m sure there’s a ton of stuff in there I missed first time round so a re-read would be great.
Glastonbury 50: The Official Story of Glastonbury Festival – Michael and Emily Eavis. I’ve been to Glastonbury many times, including the last five or so in a row, and have missed both it and live music hugely during the lockdown. This will bring back a lot of great memories and remind me of a lot of good tunes to hum while I build my shelter and try to catch fish.
What a Carve Up – Jonathan Coe. The best political satire ever, bar none. I hope it will be an antidote to the strange times we live in which have gone way beyond satire.
Which disc will you take with you?
Poem by She Drew the Gun. A wonderful song-poem about homelessness which I hope would be on the soundtrack if The Man on the Street makes it on to our TV screens (It has been optioned by World Productions, who make Line of Duty).
I’ve been given permission by the band’s leader, Louisa Roach, to quote a couple of lines from it in an epigraph at the start of my third book Dead End Street, which I’m thrilled about.
What luxury item will you take?
My luxury item would be a shaving kit. I don’t look good with a beard
Which fictional character will you meet??
Clinton Tyree, otherwise known as Skink, who features in several books by Carl Hiaasen. He’s a former governor of Florida who has gone rogue and now lives in the wilderness, surviving on roadkill. He’s clearly a really interesting guy but also has developed many survivalist skills which would come in very handy.