Nick Fisher and his debut novel 'Pot Luck'
PUBLISHED: 10:51 28 June 2016 | UPDATED: 10:51 28 June 2016
Nick Fisher's writing career has taken him from Screaming Reels to Holby City, but his debut novel Pot Luck is a dark thriller set on a crabbing boat in Weymouth. Helen Thorne went to find out more
Pot Luck – you don’t know what you will get, but you hope you get lucky. As well as being the title of Nick Fisher’s first novel, Pot Luck could describe his writing credentials and his whole approach to career development.
Nick the BAFTA-winning writer has a portfolio ranging from Country Life to Smash Hits, The Giblet Boys to Holby City, Eastenders to Living with a Willy, one of several teen self-help guides he has published. Nick created the BBC comedy drama Manchild for Nigel Havers, won a Royal Television Society Award for his episode of Jack Rosenthal’s Moving Story and writing scripts for lots of other high profile shows. Before getting the writing bug, Nick worked in factories and amusement arcades, pubs and restaurants, was a painter and decorator, dustman, sandwich board carrier, courier and market trader. “In my early 20s I bought Art Deco antiques around the south coast and sold them at Portobello Road and Bermondsey markets.” he says. “And I pretty much sucked at it.”
His antique dealing days came to a very dodgy and suspicious end - not unlike a chapter from his debut novel, Pot Luck. “There was a mysterious fire at the storage warehouse where most of my stock was located,” he says. “It went up in flames in some insurance scam, where a lot of other dealers’ antiques were ‘destroyed’. Then some of the same stock turned up on the market months later. Sadly, whoever masterminded the scam didn’t let me in on it.”
As he recalls the rollercoaster ride of his early days from the comfort of his office in a rambling rectory tucked away in rural west Dorset, it’s hard to believe that at that time he was living in a squat in Brixton, signing on the dole, with no stock, no capital and no formal qualifications. He turned to writing out of desperation. “I quite liked writing ‘compositions’ at school, I found it easy. And it was the only thing I could think of doing that didn’t involve having cash, references or qualifications.”
Though he is the author of many non-fiction books, a stage play, a Hollywood funded movie, TV episodes and thousands of magazine features, Nick has not turned his hand to writing a novel. Until now. Pot Luck is Nick’s debut - a dark, twisty, witty, thriller of drugs, death and family betrayal set against the back drop of Weymouth’s commercial fishing industry and partly set on a crabber run by two brothers working out of Weymouth harbour. “It explores the graft of this work as well as giving a wonderfully evocative down-and-dirty explanation of the economics and day-to-day grind of earning a living from the sea,” says Nick.
Pot Luck has been enthusiastically received. Chris Chibnall, the creator of hit TV series Broadchurch, describes it as: “Compelling… a salty slice of Dorset Noir, full of secrets and betrayals that will keep you reading all through the night.” Top chef and fellow fish fanatic Mark Hix loved it too. He says: “A brutal but brilliantly witty tale of life on the sea that illustrates, with painful truthfulness, the reality of how tough life can be for commercial fishermen these days. To the point that these two dysfunctional brothers are driven to do some very desperate stuff to survive.”
Thriller writing is the latest twist in Nick’s writing career and he’s taken it as something of an antidote to having written so much for television over the last few years. “I love writing TV scripts, but it’s a very technical and expensive medium: every scene and storyline has to be meticulously planned and structured before it’s even written. As a writer there’s no real surprise because you’ve planned what you have to write before you’ve written it – and so does all the writing team. But with this novel I got up each morning never knowing where it would go. I just let the characters in my head dictate the action. It really was a thrilling experience.”
The topic of boats and fishing is not one that Nick had to research for Pot Luck. If you have doubts about nominative determinism, just get Nick Fisher talking about fishing. “I’ve spend a lot of time of boats,” he says. “Commercial ones, charter ones, private ones and survey boats. And I spent my teens in Cromer in Norfolk, the epicentre of crab fishing in England. I’ve always held a fascination for the boats, the sea and the people who make a living putting their lives at risk every day.”
While working as Britain’s first Agony Uncle for Just 17 magazine and interviewing platinum-grade celebrities such as Tom Cruise and Kylie Minogue, Nick also developed his private passion for fishing into a bizarre prime time fishing series for Channel 4. “Screaming Reels wasn’t like any other fishing show,” explains Nick, who also presented the show. “Channel 4 wanted it weird. These were the days of The Word and The Big Breakfast. Most fishing shows involved a po-faced beardy ageing presenter and a lot of chat about tackle and techniques. Screaming Reels had animation, cooking, celebrities, shed loads of humour and wall-to-wall fishing weirdoes!”
Not satisfied with putting fishing on the box he then took it to the airwaves presenting Dirty Tackle on the newly created BBC Radio 5 Live, a Sony award-winning series which ran for nine years. It was through a shared fascination for finned things that led to his meeting with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. “Hugh stalked me,” admits Nick. “He was a fan of Screaming Reels and as a passionate angler he wanted to know where I’d caught certain fish.”
Through fishing together Nick and Hugh became firm friends, which led to Nick co-writing a number of River Cottage books including the River Cottage Fish Book, he also helped format the Catch and Cook courses at River Cottage HQ.
Nick admits his addiction to boats may be rather unhealthy. “It’s a sickness,” he laughs. “I’ve owned everything from leaky commercial crabbers to shiny new-smelling mini gin palaces and still they’re never right. They say the two best days of owning a boat are the day you buy it and the day you sell it. And sadly there’s some truth in that.”
Nick moved to West Dorset from East London with his wife and four children 14 years ago, his love of the countryside and the sea made the Bridport area a perfect location for fishing, crab potting, raising pigs, cows and even digging his own trout lake.
“I bought myself a mini digger a few years ago,” he confesses, “and after a morning sat in front of a computer writing, using my digger to dig drains and ditches and ponds on my land is like a beautiful form of mud therapy.”
• Interview with Dorset author Jason Goodwin - As the son of Jocasta Innes, Jason Goodwin had a peripatetic childhood. Now an award-winning author living in Dorset, he has assumed his mother’s nonconformist mantle
• James Bond and his secret Dorset past - The county can claim Ian Fleming’s secret agent as one of its own, according to two new book. The author, Brian Lett, exclusively reveals that the inspiration for Fleming’s famous spy character was Dorset-based World War II hero Major Gus March-Phillips