Monday, 18 April 2011


A weekly author Q&A series that shakes fiction's cage to release some feathers of truth. This week, we question Nicholas Royle, author of Antwerp, the brains behind independent publisher Nightjar Press and now British literary fiction editor for Salt Publishing.

Q. What's your 3rd favourite novel of all time? And why?

That would have to be Echoes of Celandine by Derek Marlowe, reissued by Penguin as The Disappearance after there was a film adaptation.

Marlowe is my favourite author of all time, so one of his, probably Nightshade, would get top spot. With fairness in mind, I would give 2nd place to a novel by my favourite living novelist, Steve Erickson, and it would probably be Days Between Stations, his first.

So then for 3rd place I could go back to Marlowe and I think I would pick Echoes of Celandine/The Disappearance. It has never been reissued since that Penguin edition in 1977; none of Marlowe's novels has, despite various efforts by enthusiasts over the years. I could go on and on and on about Marlowe, but sense I should move on to Q2.

Q. What is the longest conversation you've ever tried to have with an animal, and what was it about?

I often ask Max, our cat, why he's so aggressive, why he bites and scratches all the time, and the only response I get is a bite or a scratch.

Q. If your books could be printed on something other than paper, on what would you print them?

I once tried to get the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to print a story of mine on the side of a house, an end terrace, so that my ex-girlfriend who lived near there would pretty much have to read it.

Q. Let's have a Madchester-style revival but for fiction writers instead. Who gets to be Bez?

It's got to be Anthony Burgess. If we're picking from Manchester writers.

Q. What's the best colour for a book cover? No, really. I like red.

The only problem with red is an unfortunate association with a football team based in Salford or Trafford or somewhere. Not sure where, but I know it's not Manchester. I rather like sky blue for a book cover. Funnily enough, the cover of The Best British Short Stories 2011 is for the most part sky blue.

Q. Plug any current book or project you're working on: please use as many long words as you can.

I just did that. Damn. So let me plug another book. In fact, two books. Is that cheating? Since neither of them is by me I get to plug two. Fair?

Vault is a first novel by David Rose, published by Salt in a couple of weeks' time. It's very short and very good. Experimental fiction but highly readable, unlike, you have to admit, most experimental fiction. I'd like to champion readable experimental fiction.

Secondly, The Thing on the Shore, the second novel by Manchester writer Tom Fletcher, out now from Quercus. You will never regard west Cumbria in quite the same way again. I apologise for not using any words longer than experimental. How about I just finish by saying quotidian and haemaglobinopathy?


  1. Vault's brilliant - well done Nick for backing it.

  2. I saw The Disappearance many years ago, thought it a gem, and immediately forgot its title... but I caught a glimpse of the source title Echoes of Celandine in small print in the credits, and have remembered that one without effort ever since.

    Now it sounds like I'll have to track down a copy of the novel as well. Curse you, Royle.

  3. Why indeed do we bother? We write in the hope that someone, somewhere, will read.

    I'll echo the plug for The Thing On The Shore, although I've always found West Cumbria well creepy.

  4. Thanks for all these great recommendations to follow up on. The Thing on the Shore is already sat (looking disturbing) beside my bed. And I like books with a sky blue cover too.