About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

“N” is for Stuart Neville

For this week’s entry at “N” in the Alphabet in Crime Fiction meme hosted by Kerrie Smith at her blog, Mysteries in Paradise, I have chosen Stuart Neville.

On his website Stuart succinctly described his background:

I have been a musician, a composer, a teacher, a salesman, a film extra, a baker and a hand double for a well known Irish comedian, but I'm currently a partner in a successful multimedia design business in the wilds of Northern Ireland.

What I found most interesting about Stuart’s life in online research was the role of a literary agent in his life.

Early in 2008 he submitted a short story to ThugLit. On his website he discusses what happened next:

To my delight, I received an email on my birthday, 25th of January, telling me the story had been accepted and would appear in the February edition.

On March 10th I was working late at my office when I received an email from literary agent Nat Sobel. He had read THE LAST DANCE in February's ThugLit, and he asked if he could take a look at the novel mentioned in my bio. He casually rattled off a few of his clients, including James Ellroy, Joseph Wambaugh and Richard Russo. After I picked myself up off the floor, I sent the novel off, fully expecting a "Thanks, but no thanks."

To my ongoing shock and delight, Nat offered to take me on just a few days later. Some months on, I have publishing deals in the USA, UK and Japan.

On his Blog Adventures in Novel Writing at conduitnovel.blogspot.com, no longer active, he explained with regard to Sobel:

Turns out his favourite way of finding new writers is through short story publications. He found Richard Russo and FX Toole that way. Hmm, thinks I. So much for query letters and slush piles.

In an interview at The Electric Spec website he discussed the signifcant impact Sobel had on his writing with Betsy Dornbusch:

What is working with him like and how did it affect your approach to your book?

Nat is a very hands-on agent, and he loves to nurture new talent. At the same time, he's tough, and very hard to please. If he doesn't think you're giving your best work, he isn't shy about saying so. I often advise hopefuls to get critique for exactly this reason; if you're lucky enough to get the chance to work with a great agent, you can't be precious about your writing. I worked on revisions for another three months or so before Nat felt the novel was ready to go out on submission.

Further on his blog he offers advice to authors on the adverse consequences of behaving badly with publishing professionals such as literary agents:

And it's not just because they offended some well-liked and respected publishing professionals. It's also because all publishing professionals choose the authors they want to work with based not just on the quality of writing, but on how that author behaves. If an author is rude, arrogant, stupid, and/or showing signs of mental instability on a public blog, it's a pretty safe bet they're going exhibit those traits in their working relationships too. And who wants to work with somebody like that?

I have read and reviewed and enjoyed his first book, The Ghosts of Belfast also published as The Twelve.

I summed up the book:

The story is a powerful exploration of the psychological costs of killing upon the killers.

While thought provoking it is also a compelling page turning read.

I plan to read the next in the series, Collusion, later this year.


  1. Bill - A fine choice for N and someone about whom I didn't know very much. I really like his point about authors and professionalism too. It's a wise lesson to learn before it's too late so to speak. And it sounds as though Neville has a very interesting background.

  2. Margot: Thanks for the comment. If you want to be treated as a professional you need to act like a professional.

  3. A very interesting overview. I have his book The Ghosts of Belfast but have not read it yet. I need to fit it into my reading soon, based on your review of the book, which I also enjoyed.

  4. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. When you get to the book give yourself some time as you will want to keep reading once you start.