Complementing my interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the three hundred and sixty-eighth, is of novelist, non-fiction author and book reviewer Paul Gadsby. If you would like to take part in an author spotlight, take a look at author-spotlights.
Paul Gadsby has been an avid reader of fiction most of his life, and took up crime writing about eight years ago. Although he has enjoyed many a police procedural and private eye novel, it is books written from the viewpoint of the criminals, victims or even bystanders of crimes that really capture his interest and imagination.
A keen writer from an early age as he grew up in Northamptonshire, Paul took up journalism after leaving school, completing his National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) qualification in Sheffield in 1999 following a degree in media studies. Starting out as a news reporter at the Uxbridge Gazette in London, he left chasing ambulances (literally) behind to specialise in sports journalism, firstly working for national weekly newspaper Football Gazette before going on to join the website Onefootball.com and then ITV Teletext.
Following redundancy from that last position he moved into trade journalism, editing journals and magazines for a dental publishing company in Hertfordshire. In September 2013 he took up a writer’s position at a specialist marketing company back in his native Northants, where he works today.
Paul released his first book in 2005, a critically-acclaimed work about snooker called Masters of the Baize, published by leading non-fiction publishing house Mainstream. The book, co-written with fellow sports journalist Luke Williams, featured many exclusive, in-depth interviews with world snooker champions and was named book of the week by The Sunday Times and The Independent. Its final chapter, where the authors dissected the history of the game across several categories to compile their top 10 players of all time, made several headlines in the media at the time including this one.
After enjoying that publishing process, Paul decided to spend more of his spare time outside of his day job writing fiction, and naturally enough chose to focus on the genre he read the most; crime.
He wrote three full-length novels but, despite receiving positive feedback from various literary agents and professional manuscript assessment services (such as The Literary Consultancy), he couldn’t break through via the traditional route. He decided to self-publish his fourth book, Chasing the Game, a gritty fast-paced thriller depicting the real-life theft of the football World Cup trophy in London in 1966. The book came out in April 2014, published by Matador, the only publisher of independent authors to be recommended in several editions of the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook.
Paul has since written another crime novel, When the Roar Fades, and plans to publish that in the near future.
And now from the author himself:
Like many of you reading this, I’ve always found the technical process of writing both fascinating and enjoyable. Whether it’s been composing a hard-hitting news story, a colourful feature, a short story or a full-length novel, my years of journalism and fiction work have been defined by a passion to learn and harness the writing craft.
The fact that it’s a hugely difficult discipline to execute – with all its complex, wonderful and infuriating intricacies – makes writing an even more rewarding experience to carry out, or endure, as is the case on the more difficult days.
I decided to self-publish my latest novel, Chasing the Game, for various reasons, not least because I couldn’t find a traditional publisher willing to ‘take a punt’ on it. I’d tried the route, familiar to many of you I’m sure, of sending out submissions to literary agents both on this occasion and with three previous novels. But despite receiving some very encouraging and invaluable personal feedback from some of them, the majority reacted to my approaches with a wall of silence. Having attended many writing events throughout the UK, it seemed I was not alone. I found many publishers in the industry very reluctant to invest in new writers, especially in a challenging economy, when the better bet was to play safe and stick with their already established authors. Makes perfect sense of course – why take a chance on losing money when you can roll out another James Patterson or, with the market for celebrity hardbacks particularly buoyant, another Jamie Oliver cookbook?
I’ve also sensed that book retailers, and consequently publishers and agents, are in a prolonged state of indecision over what is still an uncertain transition to digital. No one appears to be confident of where to invest their money, with reading habits yet to reveal a definitive long-term pattern in which businesses can firmly base their plans on.
Many self-published writers love the independence that comes with shunning the traditional route, but for me my first choice would have been to go with a traditional publisher. I could understand their hesitancy in taking on unproven writers and the financial comfort of sticking with their established authors, but the impact this defensive approach has had on the industry has, without doubt, led to an extremely front-list heavy climate, which can’t be healthy. Readers scanning the bookshelves aren’t being given much choice to embrace new blood, and publishers are looking at the sales stats and seeing the same big names dominate, and so order the same again. A vicious circle.
I love many crime fiction serials (Ian Rankin’s Rebus volumes and Mark Billingham’s Thorne books are a delight), but the industry’s over-reliance on recurring sales has led to them showing huge favouritism towards detective novels that have plenty of sequels in the pipeline. Reading a story where you know with 100% certainty that the main protagonist will leave the escalating plot relatively unscathed in order to return a year later (or even in 6-9 months) doesn’t necessarily spoil the reading experience, but it does deny the work that unrelenting volatility that comes with a classic standalone tale.
It’s for this reason that I’ve always preferred to write standalones; narratives that dare to throw any of their characters down any dark alley where the reader (or even sometimes the writer) doesn’t know who’s going to come back out alive.
I’m also committed to crime fiction not just because of my reading tastes, but also because of the unfair scorn it sometimes receives from the ‘literary elite’. Isabel Allende, an author best known for her magical realism books, recently wrote Ripper, her first foray into crime, but subsequently labelled it a ‘joke’ and ridiculed the thriller / mystery genre in the process. It’s incredibly frustrating to read such comments from professional writers about a genre that has – heaven forbid – provided its readers with a wealth of enjoyment and enriched people’s lives for generations. I’m also a firm believer that the crime fiction genre goes way beyond treating its readers to a bit of suspense, a cheap thrill or a whodunit puzzle. The wonderfully skilled prose that laces crime books such as Libra by Don DeLillo, Drive by James Sallis, Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men and Jake Arnott’s The Long Firm to name just a few goes such a long way to dispelling this ridiculous snotty elitism that cloaks some authors’ views of a genre that I love to read and am proud to write.
I plan to write more novels for many years to come, reaching an audience via the self-publishing route if necessary but I will continue to submit to traditional publishers as well. Persistence is without doubt the most important quality in any writer hoping to ‘break through’, and the most satisfying thing about all of this is that the objective requires a lot of writing. It’s a long journey, but I’ll continue to enjoy the ride.
Oh yes, do, Paul. I certainly am.
You can find more about Paul and his writing via…
Paul’s website is http://www.paulgadsbyauthor.co.uk.
Chasing the Game is available from http://www.troubador.co.uk/book_info.asp?bookid=2780.
The bookis the first fictional portrayal of one of Britain’s most enduring true-crime mysteries that remains unsolved to this day; the theft of the Jules Rimet Trophy (the football World Cup) in London in March 1966.
The solid gold trophy was stolen three months before the tournament and famously discovered by a dog named Pickles in a London street a week later. One man was convicted for demanding a ransom but was never tied to the actual theft, while other possible culprits and the full circumstances behind the crime never came to light.
Chasing the Game presents a thrilling depiction of the crime, charting a desperate chase for the ransom led by a west-London racketeering firm with high ambitions and even bigger internal conflicts, played against the backdrop of a gritty 1960s London that’s sinning rather than swinging.
Paul’s first book, Masters of the Baize, a non-fiction work about snooker,is available fromhttp://www.amazon.co.uk/Masters-Baize-Forgotten-Snookers-Ultimate/dp/1840188723
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