The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Gerald Wixey
Wednesday 24th March 2021
Sue's been gorging on Gerald Wixey's Small Town books. After she'd read Salt of Their Blood and 4 Bones Sleeping she had quite a few questions for the author when he popped into Bookbag Towers.
Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?
Gerald Wixey: Adult definitely, probably women in the main, certainly night owls.
BB: What was the inspiration behind the Small Town books?
GW: I've always lived in a lovely South Oxfordshire market town, on the edge of the Berkshire downs. My small town trilogy was heavily influenced by characters locally, the wide lawns and narrow minds morality that often dominate market towns. My father had a pub in town for the first twenty years of my life and it always seemed to me that pleasure was everywhere and common sense nowhere to be seen. It also explains a lot about my socialising habits. The pub was a typical small town boozer, rough at times and I watched these, mainly men gather every evening after work and listen to their arguments and their prejudices, of which there were many. This is where I became so intrigued by the politics of relationships. Anything from the dynamics of children running wild in the playground, to the more perfidious aspects of adult liaisons. Especially the darkly illicit world of lovers, crooks, hypocrites and gossips. The pecking orders, who was top of the pile and often, more interestingly, who was at the bottom.
BB: For a man who has always lived in a peaceful market town you bring the seedier parts of London off the page extremely well. How did you manage that?
GW: Talking to my uncle who ran an illegal drinking club in London just after the war. The rewards could be huge, but they always came with the caveat that this was a time of black market, extortion and high murder rates. I've heavily researched that period as well, especially post-war London. The imagery comes from the film noir of that period, smoky clubs, dangerous women and paranoid men.
BB: I sensed that there was a great deal of your father in Harry, the pub-owning ex-boxer. Are any of the other characters a nod to other people you know, or have known?
GW: My dear old uncle, a lounge lizard and a cad. I watched him in action and he had a supernatural ability to appear alongside a woman as if it was an act of chance. Which of course, it wasn't. Men wanted to be like him, women just wanted him. Jack, who was based on a dear old friend who was in military intelligence during the war. A pedant, fount of all knowledge, a drinker and good company. Finally my mother who played the piano in the pub and unlike her offspring, had the voice of an angel.
BB: What's next for Jack, Harry, Wyn and Stuart? I've grown rather attached to them!
GW: Two more novels involving the above, Small Town Nocturne sees Stuart and Jack involved in the middle of a huge conspiracy involving council officials, illegal property deals and a youth club run by a man with a taste for youngsters at the lower end of the teenage scale. A Boneless Kiss involves a local Police Inspector and the fractured relationship he has with his daughter. This is less of a thriller and more of a psychological drama.
BB: Where and how do you write? Are you a disciplined writer?
GW: Am I disciplined? I write because I'm neurotically obsessed about my craft. It moves me, in that same extreme way that you get excited as a young man. It heightens my emotions, keeps me awake at night and when I do eventually sleep, it bursts into my dreams and wakes me up. So yes, I'm disciplined, I start writing when my wife leaves for work at 6.15 and do four hours on the bounce. I try for 1500 words which would be a good day, mostly I probably average 1000. I play around with what I've produced for another hour, then walk my dogs and discuss my next days work with them.
BB: I know that you're studying for an MA in Creative Writing - but does reading matter to you? What are you reading at the moment?
GW: I read avidly, at the moment I'm reading Alan Furst, who is the master of the low-key suspense/espionage novel. As to my studies, I've been in such a rich vein over these last few months that I've put them on hold for a year. I have to write at the moment, it means everything to me!
BB: Tell us what turned you into a whistle blower - we're intrigued!
GW: I was employed by the Atomic Energy Research Establishment, purely on energy production. There was a bad accident at a weapons producing plant nearby and they moved production to my workshop. This was the time of the cruise missiles which were housed just a few miles from my home After a long talk with my wife, young family + mortgage to consider, I told my employers that I refused to use my many skills manufacturing warheads. Within hours, I was moved out and consigned to a backwater. Because the switch in production was both illegal and morally wrong, I contacted the Observer. The risk was obvious, if caught breaching the official secrets act, a prison sentence loomed large. After a few meetings with their journalists they ran the story. I was immensely proud of my stance and as everyone knows, the land based cruise missiles have long gone. (not because of me I hasten to add!)
BB: That's a brave and principled stance to have taken. You've got one wish. What's it to be?
GW: Critical acclaim.
BB: What's next for Gerlad Wixey?
GW: I have much more and almost ready to go. Two of which are not thrillers. Both are very modern love stories, dark, intense and the opposite of Mills and Boon. I hesitate to class them as erotica. The modern conception of erotica is badly written filth. Mine are both well written filth! The submission process begins soon and I'm ever hopeful.
BB: We wish you well with all that, Gerald and thanks for chatting to us.