Today I'm joined by Nick Quantrill, author of the Hull-based Joe Geraghty novels, Broken Dreams and The Lates Greats. This month sees the release of the third in the series, The Crooked Beat, with Geraghty doing what he does best, finding trouble and making it his own.
So Nick, can you tell us a bit about The Crooked Beat?
“The Crooked Beat” is the third Joe Geraghty novel, and although it wasn’t initially conceived as a trilogy, it effectively sees the PI back to square one and ready to start over. With no paying work to take care of, he finds himself trying to dig his brother out of a serious hole when a consignment of smuggled cigarettes goes missing from his lock-up. What Geraghty can’t foresee is that taking his brother off the hook for the debt will extract a high personal price from himself.
One of the things I loved about the book was how it hinges on an unflashy crime, what attracted you this kind of subject matter over something more glamorous?
More than anything, I think it’s an awareness of writing about Hull, an isolated city on the north east coast of England. It’s what feels real to me when I look at the place. I do like the idea of what starts as a relatively low-key crime rippling outwards and exploding across a range of characters. If I had to pinpoint three authors whose work I really admired, I’d go for George Pelecanos, Graham Hurley and Ray Banks. It seems they all have that strand of realism running through their novels. Many years ago, I studied for a degree in Social Policy and Criminology, so maybe I took more from that than I anticipated.
Do you consider yourself a politically motivated writer?
I don’t consider myself to be motivated by politics. Motivated by anger? That sounds more likely. The first Geraghty novel, “Broken Dreams”, essentially used the death of the fishing industry in the city as a backdrop. Although it happened in the mid-1970s, it was a situation which came about after decades of struggle. Both political parties have to share the blame.
From the moment I started to think about the story, I wanted to examine the trickledown effect on the city in the present day, the idea of loss of work and purpose. I do like to play with themes of urban decay and regeneration simply because it’s a real issue in a city like Hull. You only have to look at how such cities in the north of England have been disproportionately hit by government funding cutbacks to understand the ongoing struggle.
Why a P.I. rather than police?
The truthful answer is that I couldn’t make a police character work. I dabbled with one in an unpublished novel and it didn’t quite gel. It’s such thoroughly explored terrain, you need to find an interesting angle to make the character compelling. I’d hopefully make a better fist of it if I tried again, but a P.I. seemed a nice compromise. I owe Ray Banks a debt of gratitude, as he showed with his Cal Innes series that you can make the P.I. a relevant character.
I didn’t want Geraghty to be crossing paths with femme fatales and wisecracking his way out of situations. I wanted him to be a man grounded in a northern city in the 21st century. Of course, as a writer you can have a lot of fun with a P.I., too. You’re not tied to procedure and rules like in a police novel.
You've recently been working as writer in residence at Hull Kingston Rovers rugby club, how has the experience been?
I had an amazing year working with the club. I was brought up a KR fan and was taken to games from a young age, so it was a real thrill to be offered the role. One of my jobs was to write flash fiction pieces featuring Joe Geraghty (he’s an ex-player) for the match day programme. It was definitely a challenge.
The real thrill, though, was going into schools to work on short story writing with pupils. I had an amazing response and the link between sport and literature seemed so obvious. It’s a cliché, but trying to engage boys is the hardest thing, and this was perfect. I’m hoping to do more stuff in the community in the near future and I would recommend it to any author. What’s better than sharing a passion for reading and writing?
What's coming up next for you?
I’m fighting on two fronts. Part of my time will be spent promoting “The Crooked Beat” at events around Europe. I can say ‘Europe’, as I’ve received an invite to talk at Iceland Noir! It’s a really exciting opportunity for me. Hull is twinned with Reykjavik and there’s plenty of shared history, so it feels right. I’ll also be talking about the book at several equally cold places around the north of England over the coming months. The rest of the time will be spent writing. I’m well on with the next novel, which is crime (of course) and set in Hull, but features a different protagonist(s).