As his debut crime novel is published, Sarah Freeman speaks to Nick Triplow, a writer billed as the successor to Ted ‘Get Carter’ Lewis.
Tom Waits’ distinct sound has influenced scores of musicians. Now the American singer/songwriter can add an East Yorkshire crime writer to the list of those he has inspired.
Having struggled to find a publisher for his first novel, Nick Triplow decided to start again with a brand new book. He had a few vague ideas for the setting and the central characters, but it was when he caught a snatch of a Tom Waits song that everything fell into place.
“I grew up in a part of South London which has undergone massive changes over recent years and not all for the better,” says Triplow, who now lives in Barton on Humber. “A few years ago, the BBC did a documentary called The Tower. It was filmed right near where I grew up and showed what had happened to this once ordinary working class corner of London.
“At its heart was a pub called the John Evelyn. I remember my dad drinking there, but it had lost most of its customers and it stood as a symbol of an era long gone. The image of that pub stuck in my mind, then a few months later I was listening to the radio and they played Tom Waits’ track Tom Traubert’s Blues.
“The lyrics and the whole tone of that song was exactly the same atmosphere I wanted to conjure in my book. That night back in 2008 I sat down to write.”
By the next morning, Triplow had completed the first chapter.
“It was absolutely incredible,” he says. “The writing just flowed and I did wonder what the hell had happened.”
It took slightly longer to complete the rest of Frank’s Wild Years, a dark crime thriller of the criminal underworld which begins in that Deptford pub. There, Frank Neaves is about to drink away the last of his money when he hears Carl Price, the son of a long-dead local villain has disappeared leaving the barmaid just a one-line note.
Scarred slightly by the experience of trying to get his first novel, The Paradise Man, into print, when Frank’s Wild Years was complete Triplow took a different tack.
“I wrote The Paradise Man while on the Creative Writing MA at Sheffield Hallam University,” says Triplow. “It got a distinction and maybe a little naively I thought once I left I’d have no problem getting a publisher.
“It was such a frustrating experience. I thought I was close to a deal with one publisher. I went away to do the rewrites they had suggested, but when I was ready to resubmit I found the person I had been dealing with had left. I eventually tracked her down, but after all that I was then told the concept wasn’t right.
“With this book, I was determined to just write it how I wanted it to be. I sent it off to publishers and basically said, ‘Here’s my novel, if you like how it is and want to publish it, then great, if you don’t no hard feelings.’”
The direct approach resulted in a deal with independent crime publishers Caffeine Nights and the book has already won the praise of Mike Hodges, the man who directed Get Carter for the big screen. The original book was written by fellow Barton on Humber native Ted Lewis and with Triplow working on a biography of the crime novelist, Hodges’ seal of approval was an unexpected, but welcome surprise.
“It sounds big-headed to talk about it, but when someone like Mike Hodges describes you as a ‘genuine successor’ to someone like Lewis, it’s more than flattering,” he says. “Get Carter was a classic revenge thriller which effortlessly combined British social realism with American hard-boiled fiction. My instinct has always been to write in that same vein and I hope that with Frank’s Wild Years I’ve at least got somewhere close.”
Frank’s Wild Years, by Nick Triplow is published by Caffeine Nights, priced £8.99. The book is due out on March 19.
Ted Lewis – A life in crime
Ted Lewis was born in Manchester in 1940, but after the Second World War his family moved to Barton-on-Humber.
After studying at Hull Art School, Lewis specialised in animation, working on The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine.
His first novel, All the Way Home and All the Night Through was published in 1965, followed by Jack’s Return Home, which was later retitled Get Carter after the success of the film starring Michael Caine.
After publishing seven more crime novels and writing several episodes of the television series Z Cars, Lewis died in 1982, aged just 42.