Crime writer and Nowhere Town contributor Nick Quantrill is set to release his latest novel this spring. Combining two of his great loves, the afore-mentioned crime literature with music, The Late Greats sees ex-rugby league player turned private investigator Joe Geraghty embroiled in the attempted comeback of New Holland, Hull’s most successful band of the 1990s. Nowhere Town talks to Nick about his new novel, ‘proper’ rugby, and if there are any good bands from his hometown Hull.
NT: The Late Greats is your second novel, following on from 2010’s “Broken Dreams” which introduced your lead character Joe Geraghty. Tell us a little about Joe’s background and the lead up to the new story?
Nick: That’s right – “The Late Greats” is the second Joe Geraghty novel. Joe’s a small-time Private Investigator, but he’s essentially just a fairly normal bloke trying to do a difficult job. “Broken Dreams” was very specifically about my home city of Hull, as it looked at the implications of the death of the fishing industry. With “The Late Greats” I just got a bee in my bonnet about bands like Blur reforming. It’s not about ‘art’, it’s not about ‘the fans’ – it’s about the money. And where there’s money in situations like that, there’s bound to be bad blood. The perfect place to start a crime novel!
NT: Is there any follow on from “Broken Dreams”, or is it a completely independent story?
Nick: It’s both. You can pick up “The Late Greats” and read it is a self-contained story, but as it features Geraghty again, it picks at some threads which start in “Broken Dreams”. Some readers like to read in order, some don’t – I don’t think it really matters.
NT: But of course they should buy both!
NT: Do you have a future/story arc planned out for Joe? Is there a third book in the pipeline?
Nick: I’m about half-way through the third Geraghty book, “The Crooked Beat” (spot the music reference…), so I’m always busy. I’ve got plenty of ideas in mind for Joe, but nothing definite. There isn’t an overriding master-plan in that respect. I like the idea of throwing something in his direction and seeing how he reacts to it. I’ve got plans in my mind for both more Geraghty stories and some standalone stuff. When the time comes, I’ll make a decision on which idea is the strongest.
NT: If and when you feel Joe’s story has run its course, if a publisher came to you with a big cheque for another instalment would you be tempted?
Nick: There are a lot of things to consider. When I sit down to write a novel, I have to know it’ll keep me interested for at least a year, otherwise it simply won’t get finished. I’d also be a fool to carry on if nobody wanted to read about him, though thankfully that’s not the case at the moment. The other factor is Joe himself. Although he’s not real (apart from in my head…), his job sees him in physical danger far more than the average person. How many kickings can he take back before he decides on a new job? Putting all those things in to the mix, I hope I’d act with integrity and make the right decision for the books.
NT: Was there any particular real life inspiration for New Holland? Who were you listening to in Hull in the 90s?
Nick: Although Blur were very much in my mind when I was thinking about New Holland, one of the key relationships in the book is between Greg Tasker (front man) and Steve Priestley (guitarist), so in a broader sense, I was thinking Oasis. Although I was listening to my fair share of Britpop in the 90s, I was very much into the local band scene at that time. My friends played in pop-punk bands, Lithium Joe and Scarper!, so I found the whole independent scene they were part of to be very inspiring. In fact, if it wasn’t for those two bands, I wouldn’t be writing books. They self-released, managed and toured for most of the decade. A fantastic example of succeeding on your own terms.
NT: The biggest change in the music scene since the 90s has been the impact of the internet. For many bands it’s been a great thing, for others less so. What affect do you think it’s had for writers and publishers? How do you feel about e-books, Kindles and the like? Particularly with short stories perhaps, do you find it’s made it easier to get you work ‘out there’? And does that in turn make it even harder to stand out?
Nick: I think what’s happening in publishing mirrors what happened to the music industry. Once again, the big boys are struggling to adapt and the Indies are finding a niche and getting a foothold. It’s hardly a level playing field, but if you’re offering good quality products at the right price, the new technologies have to be a good thing. As a writer, I want my work available in whatever format readers want. As a reader, I love my new Kindle and the fact I can access whatever I want, be it bestseller or obscure title, at the click of a button. The Internet is certainly opening up new opportunities for writers, too. There’s a growing scene of short story websites, many of them excellent, and they’re a good way to build a profile. As for standing out, I suppose the cream always rises, but it’s very a supportive scene.
NT: How do you see the music ‘scene’ for want of a better word in Hull today? Anybody we should be looking out for?
Nick: Like anywhere, it has scenes within scenes. As I’ve got older, I’ve been drawn to Americana and folk, probably because it’s just storytelling and it has the same fire to it that punk has. There’s plenty of interesting stuff going on in Hull – I really like Last Winter Dance Party and Horse Guards Parade, who both have roots in popular 1990s bands in the city. I’ve not been massively grabbed by a singer-songwriter in the city for a while, but the front-man of Lithium Joe is now out and about under the name Joe Solo. He’s living in Scarborough, so he doesn’t count! But if you like your music passionate and with a point, you’ll like him. I’m not so clued up on the younger and newer bands, but the city seems to be doing ok in terms of venues and quantity. As ever, it really needs a band to take that next step…
NT: Looking from the outside, Hull always seems to be well served for gigs from bands on the verge of breaking through into the ‘big time’, but for a city of its size not so often on the listings for the bigger UK and international tours?
Nick: It absolutely is. It’s quite simple – we don’t have the venues. As you say, there are plenty of small venues that serve up and coming bands and the more niche stuff. The Adelphi remains the shining light in that respect, but there’s Fruit, Lamp and regular nights like The Sesh. For the bigger bands, there’s the City Hall and the Arena, both of which are desperately poor music venues and don’t offer anything like their equivalents in Sheffield or Leeds. It’s hard to see that changing when the facilities exist less than sixty miles away, but what the city really needs is a venue with a similar capacity to Sheffield’s Leadmill so it can attract the established touring acts.
NT: As a keen sports fan, you’ve also been involved in writing for and about some of your local clubs? Where does the link to rugby league come from with Joe?
Nick: I spent last year working with Hull Kingston Rovers as their ‘Writer in Residence’, which was great fun. The link came because I made Joe a former rugby player for the club. My thinking was quite clear – although football is my game, I could say more about Hull by using rugby. Although both sports are important to the city, there’s an inbuilt rivalry between the two rugby clubs which I can use to give the stories a little more colour.
NT: And do we even need to ask, league or union?
Nick: Hell, no! Sticking the ball up your jumper and moving it slowly up the pitch isn’t sport…
NT: You’re set to undertake something of a tour yourself as you hit the road promoting the new book. Where can people see you and what can they expect?
Nick: I’m going to be here, there and everywhere – basically, if you book me, I’ll come. Here’s what’s definite at the moment:
March 24th Waterstones Hull
April 7th Waterstones Leeds
April 14th Waterstones Bradford
April 28th Waterstones Grimsby
May 5th Waterstones Harrogate
May 19th Waterstones Doncaster
May 26th Waterstones York
June 2nd Waterstones Sheffield
Talks and events
March 10th The Back Page, Newcastle
April 12th Cleethorpes Library (with Nick Triplow)
May 12th Hull Central Library (with Richard Sutherland and Linda Acaster)
The Late Greats is published in March by Caffeine Nights. To read an excerpt from the new book plus other examples of Nick’s work and to see other launch events as they’re announced check out his website at: http://www.hullcrimefiction.co.uk.