Over the last couple of years, Nick Quantrill has made an enviable reputation for himself as a highly accomplished true-to-the-gospels (of St. Elmore Leonard and St. Raymond Chandler) crime fiction writer who reliably delivers precisely crafted plots, authentic hardboiled dialogue and classic PI fisticuffs action in tales suffused with an atmosphere of compounding tension which slices through the shifting dynamics and corkscrew effects of the narrative and where the characters will inevitably find themselves hanging upside down in their own story.
After many successful and celebrated shorter tales, Nick wrote the full-length e-book ‘Black & White’ which started out in leisurely fashion but soon got into its stride as a police procedural investigation of the dark fate of a body found in a dockside container. I particularly enjoyed the accompanying side-story of the relentless stress of the anti-heroic DS Coleman’s working life being exacerbated considerably by his wife’s undermining resentment of her husband’s all-hours, underpaid job (not a new theme, but tenderly done).
In his first paperback novel, published by the recently-established Caffeine Nights imprint, we get to catch DS Coleman from another angle, as an incidental character, while two new characters step to the fore - the private detective Joe Geraghty whose wife died during an arson attack two years previously, and the City of Hull itself.
Nick has a tremendous knack of making his prose sound like it is pounding the streets as he types but this time he has raised it to a pitch which is almost CCTV, where you can follow Joe Geraghty in telescopic close-up as his footsteps echo against the tarmac amid the faded after-life of the Hessle Road distributaries, in the sleazy town centre of casinos and massage parlours offset by the glistening St. Stephen’s Centre, and in the aspiring trendiness of the Newland Avenue bistro and bar zone. This book looks Hull, smells Hull, sounds Hull, and maybe even tastes Hull, meticulously rendered as it is in reams of flat, blunt, staccato, wry dialogue which dominate the text.
Whereas ‘Black & White’ tarried awhile to establish its premises, its successor ‘Broken Dreams’ fizzes and crackles from the first page as it outlines the puzzle to be solved – a murdered wife, a mysterious embezzlement and a missing daughter, soon to be supplemented by loads of other seedy and tragic goings-on. The side-story is much more lusty too this time as it tracks the increasingly affectionate relationship emerging between Joe, still seeking closure for the death of his wife, and his partner Don’s more than attractive daughter, Sarah, whom Joe will be required to invite to join him in a swingers’ club to assist him in his enquiries - something for Joe to get worked up about!
Between scenes of continual action and painstaking investigation Nick interweaves the thick atmospheric thread of the history of Hull itself and especially that of the shattered fishing industry once the raison d’être for the vibrant, tough and close-knit Hessle Road trawling community. To readers brought up with Hull folklore in each nipple, the stark realities of a trade classified as casual labour carrying with it no fringe benefits, no accident or redundancy compensation and sometimes not even any pay, and yet in its day representing the most dangerous and brutal industry in Britain, will come as no surprise. To foreigners from beyond the borders of the East Riding of Yorkshire these details will add an enthralling documentary underpinning to the story, enhancing its already earthy credibility.
As someone who also has a book – ‘Missio’
- which has just come out and which uses the Hull fishing industry as its back-plot, I was delighted to find that our facts and takes matched impeccably almost to the point of repetition, as did our respective side-swipes at the dissipated state of the Hull Royal Infirmary. I have noticed that in his last couple of outings Nick has been increasingly willing to have his characters snarl provocatively at unsatisfactory features of the city, adding pleasingly to the spicing of his literary concoctions while no doubt discomforting its targets accordingly – no Hull Tourist Board (sic) sponsorship there.
Apparently Nick’s next book is already progressing even more smoothly than this one, to which I can only comment that if it turns out to be better still, it will be beyond brilliant.
To leanr more about 'Broken Dreams', click here