Boro crime writer John Nicholson is coming to Teesside on Saturday for two book signings for his popular crime thrillers, the Nick Guymer series. The books are largely set in Teesside with local characters and settings. In fact the first of the series was set against a backdrop of Boro’s march towards the UEFA Cup final. I wonder whether this tumultuous season could one day find its way weaved into a plot?
John has been a blogger for Football365 for many years and has a massive following for both his football and music writings centring around his former rock outfit the Beer Pigs. He also operated a highly successful t-shirt business DJ Tees for many years, actually printing fmttm’s Tony Mowbray tops. John switched from hitting the long list of sports best sellers with Who Ate All the Pies to a series of crime novels based around a Teesside born and bred writer called Nick Guymer. They sell like hot cakes, or hot pies on Teesside and beyond. This Saturday is a great opportunity to get a signed copy or three.
Many of us knew John as a football writer before being wooed by his crime novels. He is always very forthright in his views on the Boro past and present so I thought I would pose a few questions as we build up to our date with Wembley destiny. Middlesb ”o” rough versus Norwich City on Bank Holiday Monday.
John will be in Waterstones, Middlesbrough 11am and WH Smiths, Stockton 3pm.
Q: Are you looking forward to meeting the good people of Teesside in the present Boro rush – play off fever?
A: It’s always a pleasure and never a chore to meet my readers. Believe it or not, some of them aren’t that interested in football! Actually, it’s interesting how the whole area gets a lift from the Boro being successful. Even people who don’t pay much attention most of the time, wish them well. I don’t think that happens with big clubs in bigger places. So I’m sure there’ll be a buzz about the place.
Q: We are both old enough to remember many promotions but would it be special do you think to achieve it through a Wembley play off final?
A: It will be a real achievement and I’m certain now that we will win. But I’m very torn because I don’t really like the Premier League – the bottom 12 sides are always a bit grim to watch and I much prefer the Boro winning a lot in the second tier. I feel like that’s our natural environment. That being said, if we go up, hoover in a load of cash and then get relegated, that might be the best solution all round. People think I’m weird but I’m not really bothered about success measured by trophies. To me, existence is success. Everything after that is a bonus.
Q: Do you have any stand out memories of promotions from the past?
A: Back in 1988 when we met Chelsea in the old division 2 play-off. That was done in what I think of as classic Boro style. We won 2-0 at home – goals from Slaven and Senior and then in the second leg at Stamford Bridge, we lost 1-0 but went up anyway. Losing but winning, that’s just typical Boro, isn’t it? We said that at the time as we left west London. I hated going to London back then. Their crowds would always chant ‘what’s it like to lose your job?’ and it annoyed me. Smug southern gets. Later, when the recession was on, we tried chanting ‘what’s it like to have a house in negative equity?’ But it never took off.
Q: Do you reckon your character Nick Guymer would go to the final or be too distracted by a murder mystery?
A: He and Julie would go to the final but would have to leave to try and stop some crime happening and would miss the vital action. This would annoy Nick a lot and he’d probably beat seven shades out of the bad guy as a result.
Q: Which would be the most tense a Nick Guymer cliff hanger or a play off final?
A: In my experience fact is ALWAYS stranger than fiction, so the final would definitely be the most tense thing for him and for me. After all, I can control what goes into the books, but what happens to the Boro is in the hands of God.
Q: What have you made of this season and Aitor Karanka’s Boro?
A: It has genuinely gone how I thought it would. I suspected we’d end up in the play-offs right from the start. But as I get older, I expect less and because of that I enjoy everything more. When I was young, I’d get so wound up and tense during big games but these days I let it slide by. If good things happen, great, if they don’t, I don’t sweat over it.
Q: Do you feel inspiration for any future plot lines from the present Boro promotion push?
A: Well we’ll have to go some to better the drama of the 2006 UEFA cup campaign – which as you know, I used as the background to the first Nick Guymer novel, but yeah, I will definitely use this season in future books. They’re all set about 4 years in the past so it’ll be book 16 or so before I get to the 2014/15 season. I’m just finishing number 9 right now and Strachan is still in charge. That was a miserable period.
How the success of the club affects Teessiders means it must inevitably play a part, if only because it affects how we talk to each other. When the Boro are doing well, people tend to chat about it with each other at the bar or the bus stop. One thing I realised while writing these novels is that the region is very small really. When I was growing up, it didn’t seem that way, but now, it feels like you pass through Teesside on the A19 in a few minutes. As a result, I think the place almost has a collective consciousness, especially when it comes to the football.
Q. Your Nick Guymer novels are selling really well and I know lots of people really love them. What’s the best thing about being a popular writer?
A: The glamour and the money and the women. Actually, in reality, the best thing about the huge interest in the books has been the fact that it is putting Teesside on the map as a real, nuanced place and not just an easy bad news story. It’s allowed us all to shout about ourselves a little more and to celebrate the area as a place where people are solid, decent, funny and sexy. I’m a great believer in our people, our culture and our attitude to life, wherever we might live on earth. I think we’re quality. As a writer you couldn’t have better source material, from the way we talk to the way we tend to think, it’s all grist to the writer’s mill. So if the books are successful it is, in great part, because of the qualities of the area.
John will be signing copies of the new Nick Guymer novel, Teesside Meat in Waterstones in Middlesbrough Saturday 23rd May 11am- 2pm and then WH Smiths, Stockton, Wellington Square 3-5pm.
He says, “Come and say hello.”