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Keith Nixon

Author of the Week at Digital Ghost

 

British crime author, Keith Nixon, takes a scientific approach to noir, without sacrificing the artfulness.

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By Will Viharo

Keith Nixon is a British author I’ve known virtually for sometime via social media. I can “hear” his words in my head, whether fictional or Facebook posts, even though we’ve never met in person.

This is partly because he has a very affable public platform presence, but also because he’s one helluva skilled writer.

Sometimes we share a common language, but with different accents. This is true not only regarding national identity, but also when it comes to literary voice. For instance, there are many equally valid ways to translate “noir.”

Since I may never make it across the Pond, the colloquial term for the Atlantic Ocean, there’s a good chance I may never get to shake Keith Nixon’s hand. But I still feel a virtual kinship with him, since while I’m not a “crime writer” per se, we do share a certain hardboiled sensibility, even though my stuff is both acutely American and distinctly unconventional.

Keith, on the other hand, is a skilled wordsmith and storyteller who dedicates himself to the authentic art of grittily realistic noir fiction with the precision and passion of a serious scientist interested in solving problems large and small, leaving his own unique impression on the field as he goes.

And since we’re talking about carefully crafted creativity, I should mention this approach is no accident…
 

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You have experience as a chemist. Does this scientific background inform your crime fiction (since several are police procedurals) in any way, in terms of content, structure, or even daily writing regimen?

No and yes! Initially the science background was a drag, I was far too specific about the facts in the early days. I didn’t have sight that the story is the most important factor and specifics are there for support, not the other way around. So now I attempt a balance between the two – get the details right, but not so layered as to lose the plot (literally).

I used to be pretty rules orientated in most walks of life (cooking, for example. If a recipe said two hours at 250F, that’s when it came out, finished or not!) but a combination of 20+ years of my more artistic wife kicking me and a commercial job in sales where you have to think on your feet have altered the science stuff. Now it’s just a thread in my life.

In your view, what are the unique distinctions as well as the universal similarities between American and British noir fiction?

Wow, great question! It always amazes me when I see authors crossing the pond – American writers set in the UK and vice versa. I work for an American company and have travelled Stateside a lot. There’s a lot the same in terms of language and culture, and some yawning gaps too.

In terms of distinctions, language is one. The differences between how we speak are subtle, but then again, so are readers. I’ve read a couple of books where the author thinks they understand the British crime psyche but don’t. The result is everybody speaks like the Queen. Likewise with the reverse, everyone speaks like an Italian American from Goodfellas.

Ultimately, there’s a bit of a problem pigeonholing noir on such a broad basis – there are differences between Scottish, Irish and English noir (I’ve never read Welsh noir, so wouldn’t know). I’m sure it’ll be the same in the US. Most people revel in localization these days.

I guess ultimately everybody likes an engaging story, living characters, sappy dialogue and a sense of realism across pretty much every genre, right?

You are amazingly prolific, with several ongoing series to your credit, including Konstantin and Detective Solomon Gray, as well as historical fiction set during the Roman Empire. Commercial considerations aside, what compels you most to devote so much of your talent to this particular medium?

I’m a compulsion writer – I do something every day with regard to a book. Either at least 1,000 words on a manuscript or a marketing task, anything really. I have a full time job and a family so what little time I have needs to be used effectively. I can’t ever imagine not writing. I do so on holidays and birthdays too.

I started with historical fiction, I felt I needed a factual event to base a fictional story around (because of my scientific background!) as I didn’t feel I could come up with a whole book by myself. The research that went into those two books was ludicrous. Eighteen months from start to finish.

Then I was made redundant – which I wasn’t overly happy about. I realized I could kill people I didn’t like, but not get arrested for it, by writing a book and that got me into black comedy crime. Then I gravitated towards police procedurals – primarily for commercial reasons. Until then I’d written what I enjoyed.

The trouble was I lost sight of why I was writing – for fun. I started the Gray series and was fortunate enough to work with Allan Guthrie as an editor and mentor. He broke me apart as a writer and I feel I’m a lot better for it.

What are your influences, literary or otherwise?

I take little pieces of influence from all over. Lines of songs give me ideas, for example. Maybe for a character or a small scene. Then there’s the overall structure of a film and how it plays out. For example Fight Club, I love the multi-perspective aspect of the movie. And Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – how the seemingly unconnected strands of the story and the characters miss each other all the way up to the end.

From a literary perspective, I’ve read for as long as I can remember. And I’ve been writing on and off since I was nine – the two are inextricably linked, I think. I started with adventure stories, then to sci-fi, to fantasy, to thriller, historical fiction and finally to crime where I’ve stayed. My wife bought me three books by Scottish writer Ian Rankin. I’d never read police procedurals before and I was hooked. These days I read a lot less. Primarily because if I’m reading I’m not writing and I don’t want to subconsciously absorb other people’s ideas. However, it’s probably too late for that!

What’s next for you?

I’ve taken back the rights to all my previously published books, so there’s some marketing to be done (when I get time!).  The fourth and final Gray novel is being edited and should be out November 1st.  I also have the first book of a new series (black comedy crime again) written. I’ll be looking for an agent with that one.  And I’ve just started a new Konstantin for a bit of fun.
 

 

The Eagle's Shadow - over at David's Book Blurg

Synopsis

The British army is shattered, defeat snatched from the jaws of victory by subterfuge and betrayal. Caradoc flees the battlefield, the crown heavy on his head and his heart set on retribution. He has to make hard decisions and tough compromises, but with the sovereignty of Britain at stake, personal pride sometimes has to take second place.

Emperor Claudius is determined to make as much political mileage as possible out of the Roman victory in an attempt to consolidate his own position. That doesn’t sit well with the Roman military, who have their own objectives and who will do whatever it takes to achieve them.

As the Romans consolidate their gains and begin to push west, Caradoc finds he has few friends left. He must turn to the Durotriges, a wild, hill fort dwelling tribe. But the Durotriges are riven by strife and petty squabbles.

Aulus Plautius, commander of the Roman army, brings his siege weapons to bear, can Caradoc resist the onslaught?

Review

Before I start have you read my review of The Eagle’s Shadow?? If not where have you been? Check it out here

Ok. So here we are trust back into the war between the British and Roman armies. During the first book we learn of a battle which turned out to be a major win for the Romans due to the divided loyalties of the British tribes at the time. This book continues on after book one and we are back we one of my favourite characters Fionn and the action is pretty much non-stop in this fast moving tale.

In the first book I really liked Caradoc but in this book you see a different side to the man. He becomes blinded by revenge and we see Fionn and his friends struggle to see eye to eye with his decisions. Fionn has his own demons in this book too.. I’m not saying too much as it would spoil it for you.

While Caradoc has his mind set firmly on revenge Fionn wants to hit back at the Romans so this book mainly focuses on the period where they are trying to gather support from the other tribes. Needless to say things do not go Fionn’s way.

Keith has written an excellent follow up book which he clearly researched well. I think it’s always hard to get the flow right between two books but the transition is seamless and it felt as if I’d never but the first book down. There were some great additions to the characters in this one which made the book feel fresh but you also had a lot of detail given to some of the characters from the first book which gave them more depth. I particularly enjoyed reading anything involving Anatolius.

One of the things I loved the most was the different point of views. You see the story play out from both the British and Roman stand point and it made for compelling reading

There’s only one downside to this book.. it had to end..I just wanted to turn the page and keep reading. It’s a true talent to keep a reader wanting more when it comes to a series of books but Keith managed to do this within the first few chapters and has hooked me in with his story telling so much already that I already have another non historical fiction piece of his in my review pile and I intend to read more of his work over the next few months

If you are a fan of the genre this series is a must!

Here’s hoping Keith writes Caradoc #3 soon!

The Corpse Role - over at Liz Loves Books

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Not everything that gets buried stays buried… sometimes things have a nasty habit of resurfacing…

When the body of a security van driver implicated in an unsolved £1.2 million heist turns up in a shallow grave two years later it’s just the beginning for Detective Inspector Charlotte Granger.

She embarks on an investigation that takes her into dangerous territory – a world of dirty cops, dodgy private investigators, local villains and nosy journalists. Meanwhile events from Granger’s own past are threatening to come back and haunt her..

Really terrific crime fiction from Keith Nixon – I basically read it in a day, bit of a page turner, some great characters and an authentic and hard hitting storyline.

Told in two timelines, brilliantly constructed and ever engaging, there is a beautiful flow to the prose that keeps you hooked right in, some twisty turny goodness and a jaw dropping ending.

Some really excellent plotting adds extra depth to both characters and storytelling, the past element being really most addictive – this is a crime thriller with heart, a mix of police procedural and thriller with intelligent storytelling and a sometimes almost noir feel.

You’ll note I havent said too much on the tale itself. For very good reason. Go find out!

I'm Dead Again - Review at Mystery People

A review of I'm Dead Again over at Mystery People:

The newest from Keith Nixon’s darkly comical crime books. This one, again features David Brodie, once a first-class reporter, but now seriously not only on the slides, but right down at the bottom. His wife is gone, and he is broke. Then he receives a phone-call with a difference-from a dead man. Only this could make things worse.

Next the corpse of Emily Hollowman’s ex husband turns up, in very dodgy circumstances, and Emily employs the tramp Konstantin Boryakov to investigate. All roads lead to a business man called Gordon Dredge. Dredge being the man that caused Brodie to lose everything. However, Dredge has big problems too, with The Steroid. The Steroid is a gangland boss called Oakhill, who himself is in a perilous situation, with a Chekhovian called Adam, who is out to take over his empire. The list of colourful and comical characters goes on.

This is hugely enjoyable, tongue in cheek, writing, and highly entertaining. The actual story moves at pace, which is always the sign of a good story-teller. It has its fair share of twists and turns, and Nixon manages to make the baddies somehow likeable. The humour is dark. It is well written with pace and style. I found it great escapism and a fun read. Recommended.

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Reviewer:  Linda Regan

www.lindareganonline.co.uk