I was born in London in 1938 and educated at St. Aloysius’ College in north London, then a grammar school and now a comprehensive. After studying at Goldsmiths’ College, University of London, and at Hatfield Polytechnic – now the University of Hertfordshire – I took a Masters Degree in American Studies at the University of Nottingham, where I briefly taught Film and American Literature. In 2009, I was awarded an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Letters, by the University of Nottingham, and in 2013, an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Letters, by the University of Hertfordshire. More recently, I followed a History of Art certificate course at Birkbeck College, University of London, which I completed with distinction in 2012. In 2020, I was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of Goldsmiths’ College, University of London, for my “significant achievements and contributions to literature.”
For 12 years I taught English and Drama in secondary schools; firstly in Heanor, a small mining town close to Nottingham, then in Andover, Hampshire, and Stevenage, Herts. Since 1975, I’ve been a professional writer with something in excess of 100 published books to my (sometimes dubious) credit. After a number of years spent learning my craft writing paperback fiction for both adults and teenagers, I’m now principally known as a writer of crime fiction, with the first of the Charlie Resnick novels, Lonely Hearts, being named by The Times as one of the 100 most notable crime novels of the last century.
In addition to twelve Resnick novels – the final book in the series, Darkness, Darkness, being published in 2014 – there are four books featuring retired police detective Frank Elder, the first of which, Flesh and Blood, was awarded both the British Crime Writers’ Association Silver Dagger and the US Barry Award in 2004. I’ve been fortunate to have my books translated into more than 20 different languages, and they have won two major prizes in France, the Grand Prix du Roman Noir Etranger for Cold Light in 2000 and, in 2007, the Prix du Polar Europeen for the second Elder novel, Ash & Bone. In 2007, I was the proud recipient of the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for Sustained Excellence in Crime Writing, and my story, Fedora, won the CWA Short Story Dagger in 2014.
In 2009, I presented Who is Kurt Wallander?, a one hour documentary for BBC4 about the Swedish writer Henning Mankel, his fiction and his best known character.
Somewhere between the pulp fiction and the Resnick books, I stepped sideways into television, adapting Arnold Bennett’s Anna of the Five Towns and The Old Wives’ Tale for the BBC, as well as devising and writing Hard Cases, the Central Television series about the Nottingham Probation Service. Dramatisations of the first two Resnick books, Lonely Hearts and Rough Treatment, featuring Tom Wilkinson as Charlie Resnick, were shown by the BBC in 1992. For radio, my work includes a number of original plays and the dramatisations of several Resnick stories, in addition to adaptations of two Graham Green novels, The Heart of the Matter and The End of the Affair, The Frederica Quartet by A. S. Byatt and [with Shelley Silas] Paul Scott’s The Raj Quartet. In 2016, my dramatisation of Darkness, Darkness, directed by Jack McNamara and featuring David Fleeshman as Resnick, was staged at Nottingham Playhouse in conjunction with New Perspectives.
Between 1977 and 1999, I edited Slow Dancer magazine and ran Slow Dancer Press, publishing mainly poetry and short fiction, including work by such writers as Simon Armitage, Lucille Clifton, Jill Dawson, Kirsty Gunn, Lee Harwood, Libby Houston, Barry MacSweeney and Sharon Olds. A late flurry of fiction publishing, before the economics shot us down, saw us publishing books by US crime writers Bill Moody and Julie Smith, as well as Brian Thompson’s remarkable Ladder of Angels, and a reissue of Neville Smith’s Gumshoe.
My own poetry has appeared in numerous small magazines on both sides of the Atlantic and in two collections, Ghosts of a Chance (1992) and Bluer Than This (1998), as well as a New & Selected Poems, Out of Silence, published in 2014. Aslant, which combines my poetry with photographs by my daughter, Molly Ernestine Boiling, was published by Shoestring Press in 2019.
Having yo-yoed between Nottingham and London for most of my adult life – with an all-too-brief sojourn in Cornwall – I have now settled back into north London, where I live with my partner and – when she’s not off at University or gallivanting around the world – our daughter, Molly. Two children from a previous relationship, Leanne and Tom – long grown-up – live in Norwich and Nottingham respectively.