Keith Nixon has written a gritty hard core novel in The Fix. The author’s debut moves like burning oil and is packed with realistic and funny dialogue. Set in 2007, it deals with the events surrounding investment banker Josh Dedman who is fired when millions go missing from the bank. Keith met me at The Slaughterhouse where we talked about money laundering and crime fiction.
Tell us about The Fix.
It is set just prior to the financial collapse of 2007. The protagonist, Josh Dedman is fired when £20m goes missing from the bank he works for. Josh has no friends to speak of, other than a Russian tramp who claims to be ex-KGB and an irritating careerist he meets on the train one morning. Unknown to Josh he’s being followed by the mysterious Mr Lamb. His cheating girlfriend dumps him, then Josh’s sociopathic boss, Hershey Valentine, winds up dead and he’s the prime suspect and his life really goes off the rails…
How pervasive do you think money laundering is in the UK?
Interesting question as ironically I touch on money laundering briefly in my second, as yet untitled, book and follow-up to The Fix. Money laundering is at its simplest is the legitimising of cash generated from criminal means. It is probably more pervasive than any of us realise as witnessed recently as in the press about well known comedians and their illegal tax avoidance scams. I’ve seen one piece of data saying that the US loses $100 billion a year to money laundering activities, an incredible amount.
The UK’s involvement is two-fold, first there’s the front for the money laundering process. This is typically a business where the vast majority of the financial transactions are in cash – strip clubs, casino’s and… beauty salons. However the UK is also involved in the movement of the cash. Although small island locations like the Caymans are often cited, understandably criminals like to go through the very large financial centres where millions of transactions occur daily. This includes the UK, New York, Tokyo and Switzerland. The financial institutions are supposed to tip-off law enforcement agencies if they see any suspicious movements of cash and anything over the value of $10,000 (although this thresholdvaries from country to country) which leads to my favourite phrase – smurfing. This is where multiple cash transfers occur at just below the threshold and proves someone at least has a sense of humour.
Is there a particular incident that has changed your life and influenced your writing?
Absolutely yes – I was made redundant just over four years ago. The lead up to the execution wasn’t pleasant, it was a very difficult period of my life. However, there’s always a silver lining to every thunderhead and what I ended up with was three-fold. First lots of inspiration and material for The Fix. Second was a change in writing style. Previously I’d written historical fiction novels and comedy / drama screenplays, but when pulling The Fix together my prose was immediately sharper, shorter, more focused. Third was settling in the crime genre where overall I feel a lot more at home.
What do you make of the E Book revolution?
I’m a big fan of the e-book revolution primarily because it provides choice to the writer and the reader (ironically my day job is to convert print customers from analogue to digital) by largely eliminating barriers to entry. On the upside, writers that were previously blocked from readers by agents & publishers now have free market access. Therefore readers get wider choice and, often, new writing styles. On the downside a lot of dross reaches the market and it is difficult for the reader to select authors amidst all the noise. All in all a significant change that was overdue.
Graham Greene wrote ‘There is a splinter of ice in the heart of a writer.’ What do you make of his observation?
Greene, to me, is saying writers need to be coldly focussed on writing as an activity. I would also interpret it in three ways:
1) Being clinical in the treatment of your characters – if someone needs killing, do so, favourite or not
2) Be hard on the storyline – if something needs cutting, do so
3) Be committed to writing as a craft, even if this impacts on leisure time
I see truth in all three perspectives, to do anything well takes dedication and commitment – writing is no exception.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on the follow up to The Fix. In it Lamb and Konstantin return. It’s another murky tale of murder and betrayal – crime mixed with humour. I hope this will be out in the early summer.
I also have a historical fiction book being edited, I wrote this several years ago. It’s utterly different to the crime novels…
What makes you angry?
It takes a lot to make me angry, annoyed regularly, but angry rarely. Generally it’s abuse of position or power that gets up my nose, people who think the rules of life don’t apply to them, regardless of the consequences to others. It’s a constant element in the news – the banking sector scandal, Syria, MP’s expenses, the Jimmy Saville affair, etc. Unfortunately the list goes on and on. This is a central theme in The Fix and it’s as yet unnamed follow-up.
Do you think much crime fiction sanitises crime?
I suspect in the vast majority of cases, yes. Reading, and therefore writing, about a crime is very different to actually experiencing it and / or living with the consequences thereafter.
What advice would you give to yourself as a young man?
I’d give myself several pieces of advice – worry less because everything works out in the end, family and friends are more important than work, get writing you idiot.
What else is on the cards for you this year?
A couple of projects – I’m in the process of re-drafting the follow up to The Fix (as usual the title is the last element to be defined). Lamb and Konstantin return. I also have a historical fiction book in edit that I’ll release. I also intend to write a novella on some of the history on Lamb and Konstantin’s history, but I’ve been struck by a silly idea for another crime humour novel… ah, decisions, decisions…
Thank you Keith for an eloquent and insightful interview.