Dave Wilson, author of gripping short story collection Villain and the upcoming Criminal, speaks about his work, his background and how this has inspired his writing.
Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards darker fiction?
I work away a lot as I am a merchant seaman and on my off time I wanted a hobby; I used to paint draw pictures with charcoal, some of my work actually won prizes down the Falkland’s. I know this as friends I gave the work to entered my work in art fairs, so my next challenge was that of writing. It really started a couple of years ago I tried my hand at poetry and I tried a book on North Shields, my home town, writing about the way it was incorporating pictures with each page, I looked at it and showed my friends and then the question was put to me: why don’t you write about the criminals? You know every single one of them: why not get the story out? I used to hang about with known hard cases from my area: my father was a criminal, a very successful one. His friends were all criminals and I had dealings with criminals. As a young man I have worked doors and venues as a bouncer when bouncers earned their keep. I have also been a taxi driver during my life, and my father owned pubs. I had dealings with criminals trying to enter his bars and restaurants and most importantly I come from the bottom end of North Shields. Where the bars and clubs that dominated my town once stood as a child, I was surrounded by the criminal element and as a man I had real dealings with them all so I guess writing about crime and dark fiction comes from that experience.
What is your background in writing and how did you get in to writing darker crime fiction?
I never really had a writing background I just wanted to prove to myself I could do it for personal reasons. Being able to write gives me the satisfaction of saying I have achieved something in my life, something my grand children’s children could look at and say ‘I existed’. Like I explained writing about crime and the violence of crime comes from witnessing the mentality at first hand; knowing about organised criminal behaviour comes from my father’s generation and his involvement with the firms of Tyneside. I have witnessed criminal activity from a very early age. I was expected to become a criminal by my father’s friends; it was asked of me in my father’s pub. A well none arch villain asked my brother and I if we where interested in a heist. Believe it or not though my father didn’t want us to go down that path and he intervened in the conversation a week later my fathers other friend came to Jingler as a request from my father he asked us one question: are you wanting to be a good man or a bad man? The choice is yours. I respected Mr Devlin for saying that as he was looking out for our interests, but the lure didn’t entirely prevent events from happening. I was getting notoriety in a different form as a fighter and I became very close friends with certain hard men that controlled doors where I worked some times in Whitley Bay, across the Tynemouth and the Newcastle night scene whilst I was on leave meeting a variety of criminals and drug dealers, basically all walks of life. So now I sit and write dark fiction I do not need to research this genre as I actually to some degree lived it and sharing my memories and thoughts. Knowing how the game is played adds an entirely different twist compared to crime writers out there. I analyse the criminal behaviour from experiencing it through out my life. A good doorman knows the straight players and can single out the shady characters the game trained the eye.
How is your novel Villain based on your real life experiences?
Villain was written with true stories incorporated into it: I have blended true accounts into a fictional story line in order to bury the factual into fiction. The true accounts are set around the North Shields area during the 1970s-80s and 1990s. Some of the story line I incorporated especially in the reminiscent stage where I talk about my childhood. Other stories which I have also placed true stories into fiction I have had to blend in a character; for instance I was with a guy that was shot at his doorway back in 1999. I went home and he was kneecapped I knew who had done it so I had to make up a story to the police that I didn’t know him. It was agreed on both sides now I incorporated this story in Villain and the way I felt about it in a fictional story line another instance my fathers pub I had change names. It actually happened, all of the fighting chapters, however I made up stories in Villain as well the extortion side of things the Aberdeen scenario but I did blend in truth as one scene talks about a stripper asking me for a dance; that actually happened. Villain has many true stories that I have had to place and explain in different context. The drug dealing taxi driver is fictional however the loan shark is real and the party in the west end is real. Like I stated I have some true stories and some fictional my goal was to introduce how it is to act in the world I have written.
Have you done any other work that you are particularly proud of?
I am currently working on a book called Criminal, which is almost finished.
Any new projects on the horizon you’d like to share with me?
I am just about finished a novel called Criminal. Like Villain I have incorporated true stories but this time I have pointed out the true stories are of my father’s generation, which I remember very well. I have created a story line following the careers of a successful breaking crew (career criminals) that basically are that good at covering their tracks they operate right under the police radar, going about the business completely invisible to the authorities. The men portrayed have no criminal record; they hold good jobs on paper, working for their uncles. Their rules are simple: a three strike system within their crew- if you attract the police more than three times you’re gone. Old school criminal logic is involved throughout Criminal: I have written more about the planning of each job from commercial burglary to heists and murder. I have incorporated the grizzly act of dismemberment: no body no crime. I really have put a lot into criminal to keep the reader interested: in Criminal you follow their careers all the way to retirement, sitting on there assets in the sun. Eventually I think once Criminal has been finally tweaked it will become an exemplary piece of dark fiction. Criminal is currently 83, 000 words: it should be longer before it is finished
Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to later in the year?
Stephen Sayers and Stu Armstrong: I know both the authors personally, Steve released a book called Tried and Tested to the Highest Level, I have read his book and I fondly know half the people in there. His next book, By Any Means Possible will shortly be released, and I want to read that one as well. The books I enjoy are true-life mafia Roy Demeo’s The Murder Machine, and For the Sins of my Father by Albert Demeo I can relate to Albert’s story as his father, like mine, were criminals involved within organised crime.
Anything you’d like to add?
I really have started enjoying my hobby. When I do something I do not do it by halves; as a child I was math dyslexic and in the 1970s children with a condition were deemed thick, so basically I was labelled. Shaking off that label took a long time the narrow minded world which would never allow a person to progress. I have had my fare share of this throughout my life and sheer determination and will power has been my biggest weapon in life. Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts.
Many thanks to Dave for taking the time; it’s been really interesting. You can learn more about Dave’s work HERE.