Nick's journey from Lancashire cop to prolific crime writer
Nick Oldham has lived a life in crime.
The only difference now is that he writes about it rather than investigates it.
The former police officer, who put in 30 years with Lancashire Constabulary, has built a second career since retirement in 2005 - as a prolific writer of crime mystery thriller novels.
The genre appeals because first and foremost those were he kind of books he loved as a younger reader. Secondly, he has a wealth of experience in dealing with the aftermath of crimes, witnessing colleague’s work in seeking to solve those crimes and working to solve them himself.
As the author of 25 Henry Cristie crime novels and of the Steve Flynn series he now hopes to see his work travel from page to screen.
He said: “I never wanted to write a police procedural novel. I just wanted to write thrillers because I read them - Jack Higgins, Frederick Forsyth, Wilbur Smith. I always wanted to write things for me - I still write for me and hopefully other people like them as well!”
Nick, now 62, lives in Fulwood and says he has drawn extensively on his Lancashire roots for his novels.
Born in Belthorn, locations in east Lancashire, north and central Lancashire, and on the county’s coast appear in his novels, as well as the fictional village of Kendleton.He saw his first novel published in 1996 while still a serving police officer and had penned seven more in the series before retiring from the force and concentrating on writing full time. He was first posted to Blackburn, then Rossendale and Lancaster and Morecambe, finally working in training at the Constabulary’s Hutton HQ.
Blackpool has been a particular inspiration and the resort was the location for his first book in 1996 “A Time For Justice” published by Headline Book Publishing. Nick said: “I’d worked all over the county. I was never posted to Blackpool but I worked in Blackpool quite a lot, certainly when they had political conferences on there.
”I always thought what a brilliant place to set a crime novel. The first books were really very much Blackpool based, about the underworld in Blackpool... drug dealing and that kind of thing. I’m not saying I’m the only person who has written about Blackpool.”
But he says he can claim to have a police perspective on the resort’s crime scenes. Describing the resort’s promenade, he said: “It’s 200 – 300 yards wide - there’s literally all human life in that strip. I would be on the streets as a copper at 2 am in the morning suddenly surrounded by 2,000 people who have surged out of the clubs..I’m not saying everybody was violent, It was just a phenomenal event. The earth moved in the wrong way.
“As the books have progressed I’ve spread out across Lancashire to take in lots of places. I tend to use real locations and real buildings although I don’t let the location spoil a story.
“I never started off with a great plan and I’ve ended up writing 25 books about the same character chronologically. They started when he was 40 years old or thereabouts but I have told stories of when he was younger as well.”
It was a two book deal which started his writing career proper, but he admits to having had many rejections of his work.“I had lots of things rejected. It hurts like hell and I still get stuff rejected. But I think now I realise it’s just part of the game. I just pick myself up the day after and think what might be wrong with it and get it out again.”
“I had lots of years not being published. In the 1980s I wrote a few books that never got anywhere. But I never gave up really...I had one or two short stories published at that time. In those days publishing was very different. Today if you want to publish a book you can do it yourself on Kindle or Amazon.
He took one message to heart from the rejections: “nobody has said you must give up. In the late 1980s and 90s I looked at all the books I had written and I thought why are these not being published? I tried to be very objective about it, I picked out what I thought were the best bits and reimagined it.”
He then secured an agent and the two books deal. After that he moved to second publisher Severn House and has stayed with them, with the exception of the opportunity to write film novelisations, including his most recent entitled 'Vendetta' .
He stayed with the same agent until the agent died in 2008 and has only recently sought a new agent to progress his ambition to see films made of his books: "If you want to make a step up in writing you need an agent.”
His original launch pad was success in a writing competition in the Police Review. Volunteering for a job to keep watch overnight at a scene of a potential break in he took his notepad and pen along.The prize was not just Â£150 but the chance to meet authors Dick Francis and Peter Walker.
Nick writes two books a year on average, writing in longhand and making revisions at the computer stage: “It’s all pretty violent, blood thirsty stuff. I’ve come across a lot of violence and a lot of stuff in my time, but that’s just the nature of being a cop .”
After leaving Accrington Grammar School and a local college he joined a bank in Clitheroe for a year before becoming a policeman: “I just saw coppers knocking about and I thought that looks pretty interesting so I joined when I was 19.”
He said: “I’ve got to write every day. I’m not really one of those who believes in writer’s block. I’ve just got to do it, particularly if you are writing to deadlines and contracts you don’t have a choice.”
He has a second ambition for the new year: "I have a hankering to write a western and I have a few ideas in mind for that."