Monday, 1 January 2018

One Man's Opinion: DIG TWO GRAVES by KEITH NIXON



Happy New Year, folks.

Some reflections. 

When you focus so much upon writing, it can be difficult to separate the personal world from those woven as internal fictions. Or maybe that's just madness. I can't be sure. I’m going to try and sum up 2017 without straying too far into the personal, but feel the need to say that the year for my family and friends was a wonderful one in so many ways and I hope that 2018 comes close to matching that.

As a writer, the terrain was a little more uneven.

The folding of Blasted Heath was a big hit. In a world where exciting fiction needs small publishers, it’s sad to see one of the best crime outlets biting the dust. It had been a long time coming and the sinking of the final nail came as no surprise, but the waves grew larger than I should have let them and I’ve only just managed to bail out the last remnants of the water from the bilges. On the plus side, I’ve been able to put the books out myself and give them a new lease of life. The first three are now live and the fourth and final instalment, Closing Time, is currently available for pre-order.  

I wrote another novel in 2017. It’s the first in what I hope will be another short series. For a while, I thought the book had found a very exciting home. Sadly, after managing to navigate the corridors, the final door remained locked. I’ve become hardened to rejection over the years. If anything, I’ve learned to celebrate it. Unfortunately, I’d made the mistake of allowing my hopes to grow and that meant the fall was bigger than it might have been. Another lesson learned. As it’s a Christmas-set story, I’ll have to be patient and wait until the leaves drop again before I release it. I’m looking forward to finding out what readers think when the time comes. In the meantime, I plan to write the next in the series. It will be great to be reunited with the central characters when the time is right.  

Among the treats of the year, I’d highlight the event I hosted at Coastword with Christopher Brookmyre. He was pleasant and good company off stage and, more importantly, he was hugely entertaining in front of the audience.

It was also great to catch up with Anthony Neil Smith again (check him out if you haven’t) on another of his trips to Scotland.
I was particularly thrilled to finally meet Chris Rhatigan and his family in Edinburgh. We worked together on the Pulp Ink collections and on some short fiction and I’ve always liked his way of being. He might be an interesting and solid guy online, but he’s even more warm and wonderful in person. His writing is rather special. There’s no compromise in his work and you should definitely be reading his books and short stories. Following on from our meeting, I was invited to do some work in the role as editorial consultant for All Due Respect books and that’s been a rewarding experience to date. I hope that somewhere in this process I’ll discover ways to improve as a writer along the way. All Due Respect will have some cracking fiction for you coming soon, so keep those eyes peeled.

I’ve also read some terrific books in 2017 (there were some mediocre and poor ones in there, too, but I haven’t shared my opinions on those). Ed McBain has kept me busy in the best possible way, as have Georges Simenon and W.R. Burnett. I think I’ll be reading more old fiction in the months ahead, but I’ll mix it up with exciting new work at the same time.

One of the new books I’ve enjoyed was my most recent pleasure, Keith Nixon’s Dig Two Graves (US). It’s the first in a series following Detective Solomon Gray. Billed as ‘a gripping crime thriller’, I can confirm that it lives up to that promise.

When a teenage boy is found splattered into the concrete outside a block of flats in Margate, it stirs the muddy pool Solomon Gray’s past. Things become complicated when murder is suspected and a direct link is found between Gray and the case.  

The detective begins to unravel. While he follows the threads in his personal and professional lives, further deaths close in on Gray in ever-decreasing circles until even he struggles to understand why everything he touches crumbles to dust.

Gray is anything but. While he may have a sullen exterior and is haunted by unrelenting ghosts, he also wears a beating heart on his sleeve. His past is bleak. His career is on the ropes. His future offers no hope and if he doesn’t seek medical help he’ll lose his job. He drinks to remember and to forget and rage forever lurks just beneath the surface.  As he wanders from case to case and the world around him paints him into ever-tighter corners, the exploration of his personality drills deeper than many reads in the procedural genre. When married together with the details of the murders he’s investigating, you have a multi-faceted novel that will satisfy much more than just the curiosity as to the identity and motivations of the killers.

There’s a lot of promise here and if you’re looking for a new police series to take you through your reading in 2018, this may well be exactly what you want.      
Dig Two Graves is published by Bastei Entertainment. 

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