Nick Quantrill

Published by, featured writer of the month, January 2013

When I was a child, I loved reading The Famous Five. And when I saw ‘loved’, I mean I really ‘loved’ the books. I’d drag my mum to the library, seemingly every other day, to borrow more of them. If they didn’t have any I hadn’t read, I’d look for The Secret Seven. If they didn’t have any of them, I’d borrow anything with a mystery in it. And so began a life-long love affair with crime writing. After moving on to Arthur Conan-Doyle and his Sherlock Holmes stories, I stopped reading when I hit my late teens, instead finding the world outside of books an awful lot more interesting. It took me a few years, but I slowly started picking up books again, mainly commercial fiction like Nick Hornby and Roddy Doyle. It was only when I picked up an Ian Rankin novel, quite possibly borrowed from my parents out of idle curiosity, that crime writing really hit me again.

Rankin’s DI Rebus series absolutely blew me away. Set in Edinburgh, the novels could easily be run of the mill police procedurals, but when you take the time to digest them, it’s clear they go far deeper than that. At their heart, Rankin creates great characters, not least the flawed John Rebus. But the novels also have many other things going on within them and they become a master class in writing crime. Rankin clearly understands the value of a great plot and pace, but also the value of drawing on a city to add characterisation. Maybe the sum of the parts becomes stronger than the individual pieces, but what truly sets Rankin apart, and what became a massive inspiration to me when I first felt the urge to write, was the social realism of the Rebus novels. Not only are the classic crime stories, they chart life in Scotland over the course of the last twenty five years, covering many bases.

Although novels are primarily entertainment, crime writing offers more than just exciting reading and escapism. It gives genuine insight, holding up a mirror to society. Crime writing can say this is what it was like to live in a specific place at a particular time. When I write my novels, I want them to also stand as a record of what it was like to live in a largely ignored northern city trying desperately trying to reinvent itself. As readers, we choose what we take away from a crime novel, but for me, it combines the head and the heart to produce the most vibrant of reading material. That’s what excites me as a writer and that’s what I strive for in my work.

Nick Quantrill

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