Out Of The City by Nathan O’Hagan
The new novel by Birkenhead-born Nathan O’Hagan, author of The World is (Not) a Cold Dead Place, turns the temperature down to absolute zero in a thriller that stalks the darkest corners of the male psyche.
On the streets of Liverpool, three lives – a young skateboarder, a steroid-crazed bodybuilder and a family man with a dark, troubled profession – are about to overlap in a dance of frustration, humiliation and murder.
This noir journey through bars, gyms, retirement homes, gay clubs and footballers’ mansions leaves a trail of suffocating guilt and psychosexual violence that seems all too real. In exploring ‘crises of masculinity’, O’Hagan trenches psychological depths with a worldly cynicism worthy of Camus, Jim Thompson or Bret Easton Ellis – and transcends the limits of the crime genre as we know it.
Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?
A) ‘Out Of The City’ is my second novel. My first, ‘The World Is (Not) A Cold Dead Place’ was published in August 2015. ‘Out Of The City’, which was published in February, is very different in tone; ‘TWINACDP’ was a dark comedy told in first person; ‘Out Of The City’ certainly has the dark, but not so much the comedy. It’s a crime thriller about three men, a violent and powerful ‘security consultant’ (essentially a fixer for the local rich and powerful), a young skateboarder and a body-building nightclub bouncer. All three men are deeply damaged in various ways, and their lives intersect at a crucial time for all of them. Although ostensibly a thriller, I really wanted to use that genre to explore certain issues, particularly toxic masculinity and male sexuality, and the effect an abusive father/son relationship can have on a man.
Other than the Merseyside settings and themes of mental health and alienation, the two novels couldn’t really be more different.
Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?
A) Probably much the same as most people; a long run of rejections from or being ignored by publishers, a bit of interest here and there, all the while rewriting, editing, trying to improve the work. Eventually I happened across Armley Press, Leeds-based ‘punk publishers’. They’re run by Mick McCann and John Lake. John commissions the books they put out, and he read ‘TWINACDP’ and loved it straight away. It was published within about five months of him reading it, and it far outsold our expectations.
Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?
A) It was reading James Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet that made me realise I wanted to write fiction, and the likes of Kevin Sampson, Chuck Palahniuk, Brett Easton Ellis and Irvine Welsh have been significant influences. Of my contemporaries, I’ve just reread ‘Heartland’ by Anthony Cartwright. That, as well as his ‘How I Killed Margaret Thatcher’ and ‘Iron Towns’ are amongst my favourite novels of recent years. I’m also a big Russ Litten fan. ‘Swear Down’ and ‘Kingdom’ in particular I highly recommend. He’s a writer that doesn’t restrict himself to any particular genre, which I like.
Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?
A) As a kid I was pretty severely dyslexic and struggled to read or write much at all. It took quite a lot of hard work for me to be able to even begin to overcome it, but the first thing I remember reading for pleasure, other than the programmes I bought at Everton matches, was a collection of abridged Sherlock Holmes stories. I read the same book a few times on a family holiday in France. I then went and read the full unabridged originals, and loved them, as well as the T.V. series with Jeremy Brett. I’ve always felt that Arthur Conan Doyle pretty much taught me to read. Then, when I was about 13, I read Easton Ellis’ ‘American Psycho’. Then I reread it several times immediately after. I imagine social services might have had a thing or two to say about a young teen reading such extreme material, but it absolutely blew me away. It became a huge influence on me (my writing, not my behaviour!) and remains one of the greatest novels ever written as far as I’m concerned.
Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?
A) Probably finishing work a month or two after ‘The World Is (Not) A Cold Dead Place’ had been published, and my phone suddenly almost exploding with twitter notifications. James Brown (editor of loaded and GQ, and author of ‘Above Head Height’) had read it and tweeted about it, and lots of people were retweeting it and saying there were buying it. After that I got a fairly steady stream of people tweeting me to tell me how much they liked it. That’s just an incredible feeling, to connect with strangers who’ve taken the time not only to buy and read your work, but to tell you that they liked it, and I’ll never tire of it
Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?
A) That’d have to be John Lake at Armley Press. If he hadn’t liked ‘TWINACDP’ and wanted to publish it, I might still be plugging away trying to find a publishers, or even have given up by now. He was also very supportive during the writing and editing of ‘Out Of The City’, and gave me some really valuable advice.
*Thank you for taking part in the Q&A on my blog, I wish you every success with your writing career. 🙂