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Gross purposes

NEIL CROSS's debut novel is a disturbing and powerful blend of gangster violence, love and longing. Nothing to do with playground beatings and a Mormon upbringing, honest. Words: Kathleen Morgan

The write stuff

When Nick Nairn isn’t working in his Glasgow restaurant, or making TV programmes, he's writing books.

NAME: Nick Cameron Abell Nairn.

AGE: 39. I’m looking forward to a big fucking party.

PREVIOUS JOBS: I only had one other job, as a navigating officer in the Merchant Navy after I left school in 1976.

ROUTE TO BECOMING A WRITER: The first time I had a curry was in Madras. I’d never tasted ‘foreign muck' and I thought, this is jolly good. There was a whole new world out there. It wasn't till I was 25 I started cooking at home and decided I was going to open up a restaurant because all my friends who I was cooking for were more interested in getting pished than they were in appreciating a whole day’s effort to make a dinner party. The way it is these days is that TV and book are symbiotic, so I got kind of forced into writing a book. I was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed doing it.

DAILY ROUTINE: There’s no such thing, really. However, it starts early, finishes late and there’s a lot of scrabbling about in between.

INFLUENCES: Scotland the country is a huge influence, partly because of the produce, and the landscape is where I do a lot of my thinking about food, usually when I’m out mountain-biking. Basically, I try to do my own thing and not copy people.

:5 AMBITIONS: I would like to be in a position wheer it’s not necessary for " me to work quite so hard, if at all. If I carry on this way I’ll kill myself, so

.. 2- .. ... . . I’ve ottoslowdown. from his hero s he says the tnost he a FEARS: My health, because I am such has in common with Nettles is that neither can dance. Mormon. When I was about six I used to repeat a one-man band. My main fear is ifl

Neil Cross is explaining that the violence in his first novel Mr In- chwn is nothing personal. He has no secret urges to hurt anyone. let alone assassinate them unlike the book‘s hero. who is first glimpsed propping up the corpse of one of his victims in an armchair. ‘The violence doesn‘t stem from things I‘d like to do to people. but things I‘m scared of.” says Cross reassurineg.

Mr Iii-BcIii'cv/i is a powerful. disturbing tale of assassin Jon Nettles. who works for a mysterious character The Tattoo Man. killing and maiming people to order. The violence is mindless. carried out on autopilot. until Nettles runs into an old school friend and his new wife. Love and friendship come face to face with a perverse sense of loyalty to the Tattoo Man as' Nettles struggles to find what he calls normality.

‘I‘m not at all confrontational. I'm not \‘lOlClll or VCI‘hLIlllIl certain things he told me in class . . . like breaka leg or get someincurable destructive.‘ But the 29-year-old has a past that could Hitler was a genius. lie was my new father and I disease.

easily be the stuff of novels. lie was brought tip by wanted to impress him.’ Income; it's enough, It varies wildly. his mother and a succession of step—fathers in (‘ross‘s upbringing and playground beatings My accountant has slapped my

Edinburgh and Bristol. bullied as a child and expelled appear to have done him little harm. He works at knuckles for talking about how much from school at the age of sixteen. ‘l‘m bad with Picador publishers in London. helping choose and learn. My income comes from six or authority.‘ admits (‘ross ‘School was boring and l market their titles. He insists his insider knowledge seven difierentSOUfCBS 50 YOU never

made ll l‘llllN did “()[hing [0 help him gc[ . really know until the end Of the year. Working by night in a .V‘ . ,. . . his first noyel accepted _ ; It’s no' bad. (Brian Donaldson) . .. ' . x stflct .~s\}-.g\ \s‘:.\5§\é:g$ _\;-e:w .; {Seniétsgg I I r‘illyyvvl J‘ l/)("_’. ’4'.“ P(

3.93}: §.D¥‘.. .\ ~-o ~ ‘...\‘ kc . - ~»‘}.>. $0- l)'(lvi.l fztlr.( ). I'y til. R I¥(,‘/rr )/

' . . . .. .E_ .v\\ . .. .\ ,..) :2” .\ ' o 'V“‘II‘ :fllihlpl ‘Q/i".()()f{]’r‘ himself through night school With}, Writes} L3t).()()() lor the book. It “WV” " LSC " ‘~ ~

- T and then lIIIIVL‘rSll)‘. He began fierka M,.\,.M.... ; looks a bit dubious. but the .. 5*: , (1..) ts Lst “shit. 's‘h‘it'xg‘ii é s.»\<:_';“‘.~ . . writing Mr llI-B(’Ilt‘(’(’ll as an truth is ll didn t help get the


5 attempt to stifle the boredom {iii-“5M3? 3“ manuscript seen.’ he says. ‘I

l weeks before his final exams t;{3§‘§}g}§§§"§“§ was a graduate trainee and

i in English 11nd theology. m“ m {hm ' t basically cleaned up the cat

i ‘l'ye not bad a particularly "3" Tim“ \ litter.‘ i i had upbringing. just fi_§€3¥‘iitt§. s’émé (‘ross has been unable to ' ! complicated.‘ says Cross. who resist stamping his identity on

remembers his time in an Iidinburgh primary school the book jacket -- be designed the cruel“. which shows

with mixed feelings. ‘l‘ye been beaten up a a dissection of a head and neck. Suitably grisly for a

t disproportionate amount of times. It started in Dalry novel that will stick in your mind like an assassin‘s Primary School. where people jumped up and down pick axe.

on my head.‘

Without a hint of sarcasm. he adds: ‘.\ly stepfather The In-Between Man by Neil Cross is published by

was a right-wing. white supremacist. South African Jonathan Cape at £9.99. l

102 'I'llE LIST 6 19 Feb 1098