When reviewers and writers refer to their works as ‘hard-boiled’. They mean soft-boiled.
In comparison to books by this guy; Mark Timlin.
I came across Mark and his anti-hero Nick Sharman thanks to The Face magazine in the late 80’s. I then bought every book of his until around 2000. It’s a long time since I’ve heard anything from or about Mark Timlin, but because I’ve recently picked up a couple of books by authors promoting their books as being tough, hard-boiled crime thrillers, that I naturally glanced across at the bookshelf and my Mark Timlin and Nick Sharman collection.
And they said, “What you lookin’ at, eh?!”
Here then, are all the books by Mark Timlin that I have. The cover pictures are scanned in from my copies. Where I can find a link to Amazon, clicking on the book or the book title will take you to the relevant page where, if you don’t order a copy immediately, you will receive a ‘visit’, to find out why…
1988 A Good Year For The Roses
Nick Sharman is nobody’s favourite person. Ex-cop, ex-doper, invalided out of the Met after a stray bullet in the foot saved him from an investigation into missing evidence from a drugs haul.
The cops don’t like him. The villains don’t like him. Sharman is unemployable. So he’s hired himself an office and set up shop as a private investigator in his south London patch.
Divorces and debt-collection were what he expected. What he gets is Patsy Bright, young, pretty and missing. Her father wants her back. She’s a good girl, a model, and only a little bit into drugs. With Sharman’s connections it should be a piece of cake. Only when he comes to with a split head, a pocketful of planted heroin, a dead girl and two policemen acting on a tip-off, does Sharman realise that this case is different. And serious. And personal.
1990 Romeo’s Tune
The Mob take on rock ‘n’ roll’s godfathers – and south London explodes into violence.
When you’re an ex-cop and an ex-doper scratching a living as a private investigator in the unromantic streets of south London, you take what work you can get. Even a dreary little debt collection job for some toerag of a used-car dealer.
But when Nick Sharman collects the money due on a classic Bentley he finds himself stepping into another world. A world where a reclusive rock musician in a secluded mansion complete with its own recording studio – and firing range – broods on the royalties stolen from him by a crooked management – and decides Sharman is just the guy to get them back.
Taking the job could be the worst mistake of Sharman’s disaster-ridden life. And when rock ‘n’ roll’s godfathers take on the Mafia, south London explodes in a maelstrom of violence.
An uncompromising thriller from London’s answer to Elmore Leonard.
1990 Gun Street Girl
It starts when Nick Sharman’s eye is caught by a woman in a fashionable West End store. She is young, beautiful and classy. And she is shoplifting.
In a moment of gallantry, Sharman saves her from the indignity of being caught. The next thing he knows Elizabeth Pike is his client. One evening a few weeks before, her father, multimillionaire Sir Robert Pike, took his old service revolver and blew a hole in his head. Now the battle is on for control of his massive media empire. And someone is out to get his illegitimate daughter Catherine, a lovely young Australian with a chequered past. So Sharman has two women to protect. But from whom?
As Sharman swaps the grimy streets of south London for the glamour and glitz of Mayfair, it soon becomes apparent that what lurks beneath the surface is as slimy and sleazy as anything as anything he’s encountered in Brixton. And twice as dangerous…
1991 Take The A-Train
Nick Sharman is in traction. His only pick-me-up in four months in hospital is a visit from Fiona, topless model for the tabloids, who bullies him into convalescing in her flat in Camberwell.
After his last disaster-ridden case, Sharman has promised himself a quiet life. What he gets the minute the last shred of plaster is removed from his leg is more trouble – for old times’ sake.
Emerald Watkins, king of a black south London ‘firm’ has been tipped off that he’s about to be arrested after a large stash of cocain is found in one of his lock-ups. He wants Sharman to help his nephew Teddy find out who’s stitched him up.
As Sharman roams the urban mayhem of south London in search of his mystery man, he is in turn bribed, shot at and set up for a particularly gruesome murder…All in a night’s work.
The vlolent new thriller set in the sleazy underbelly of South London.
1991 The Turnaround
Disliked by Old Bill and villains alike, South London private eye Nick Sharman attracts trouble like the proverbial magnet.
When businessman James Webb asks Sharman to find out who murdered his sister, her husband and two young children, the trails been cold for over a year, the original police investigators had found nothing – no clues, no witnesses, no motive. There isn’t much to go n. Besides, Sharman has other things to occupy him – his relationship with topless model Fiona is rapidly souring, his best friend Wanda is dying and his ex-wife leaves him to babysit their eleven-year-old daughter, Judith.
While Sharman’s back is turned things start to hot up – he is followed, attacked and threatened with a shorgun on a busy road in broad daylight and the murder victims start to multiply. Then Judith is kidnapped by a gang of very nasty thugs. And Sharman loses his temper.
Mark’s website says (of course) nice things about it and actor Clive Owen, but personally, I was a little disappointed with it. Too clean. Clean cut. Not down and dirty enough. And a book per episode was not enough. I’d have had them as mini-series. Maybe taking four episodes to tell the story (as told in the book).
The ‘Pilot’ was based on The Turnaround, with subsequent episodes covering the books; (Episode 1) Take The A-Train, (Episode 2) Hearts of Stone, (Episode 3) A Good Year for the Roses and the final episode (4) was a new story by Mark, done especially for the series. So, the DVD of the series is well worth buying just for that last episode.
1992 Hearts Of Stone
Nick Sharman has decided to pack in the private detective business. So when a chance run-in with a couple of young toughs secures him a job as a part-time barman, it looks as though he’s found a likely new occupation.
Unfortunately, the drug squad has other plans. With two cppers slaughtered in just one fortnight, they find ways to coerce Sharman into helping track down the killers.
Reluctantly, Sharman finds himself working alongside a pony-tailed Detective Sergeant with unexpected secual tastes, and consorting even more closely with a beautiful, high-class whore who likes to be spanked…never mind some dangerously unpredictable big-spending villains.
The perils of playing pig in the middle certainly add excitement to life – not least the suicidal car chases across London. But Sharman is now mixing with some very bad company, and even he cannot predict the scale of the bloodbath that will follow.
1992 Zip Gun Boogie
For south London private detective Nick Sharman too many things have gone wrong lately. So when he’s offered a job up west, with all the luxury of a posh Knightsbridge hotel chucked in, he doesn’t refuse.
Multi-million LA band Pandora’s Box are in town to finish their latest album. A lot is riding on it being finished on time – their reputation and several million quid at least. But there’ve been a few strange accidents, some tapes got wiped, sending a whole lot of work down the drain, equipment’s gone wrong or missing. And now one of the band is in hospital – spiked with something very deadly indeed. What Pandora’s Box don’t want is a bunch of London cops tramping around upsetting their creative flow, so they’re relying on Sharman to stop the madman responsible, who’s proving more dangerous and imaginative with each attack. With the money he’s offered and room service providing anything he orders, not to mention the allure of the mad, bad and beautiful lead singer, Ninotchka, Sharman would be stupid to refuse the job – wouldn’t he?
The violent new thriller of music and murder set in the hard streets of London.
1993 Ashes By Now
Just be glad he’s on your side – Mike Ripley.
Mean streets, sleazy bars, brutal bent coppers…as British as a used condom in a fogbound London taxi, and graced with a pair of delightful floozies worth the fair to Wandsworth to meet. The Observer.
As excitingly tough as any British writer now working. Morning Star.
Timlin’s blood-spattered tale of a policeman-gone-bad is a reminder that South London has badlands to rival any in the US. Mail on Sunday.
Blistering, belligerent…Timlin’s depiction of seedy South London streets is scary because it rings true…Tightly plotted, tautly written and thoroughly recommended. Tribune.
Vintage Timlin, full of lovely-jubbly London language. Time Out.
1993. Falls The Shadow
Working in a bar has proved too dangerous for Nick Sharman, so he’s back in the private investigation game.
His first job, looking for a lost Highland terrier called Prince, shouldn’t be too demanding; a quick visit to the owner’s ex-husband and a mention in the local newspaper ought to trace it. But Sharman has reckoned without a skinhead nutter by the name of Eddie Cochran.
Then there’s the call from Sunset Radio. Late-night phone-in DJ Peter Day has managed to upset an unpleasant splinter group, not to mention a paranoid caller, John from Stockwell, and now his post contains rather more than the usual fanmail; nothing explosive, however…so far. Sunset wants Sharman to mind Day – though he’d rather concentrate on Sophia, the secretary with the habit of wearing dresses that cling to every curve of her body. But even Sharman couldn’t ignore the grisly contents of the next package delivered to the station – or let the threat of further bloody killings go unanswered…
1994 Pretend We’re Dead
Sharman’s getting married, and down at the nick they’re taking bets on how long it’s going to last. But Dawn (the ex-stripper) isn’t going to settle for llittle woman status. And Sharman’s going to need all the help he can get with a little matter of a rock star twenty years dead who’s back and wanting his royalties…
Britain’s most exciting contemporary crime novelist. Derek Raymond.
Dishes out his usual sleazy fast-read fun with tons of profane wit. Maxim Jakubowski, Time Out.
He’s a writer who loves to boogie. Stephen Walsh, Oxford Times.
Plenty of the kind of bad taste fun and games which Timlin does so irresistibly well. Mat Coward, Morning Star.
An intriguing plot, fast action, gritty detail and a consumption of alcohol that is excessive even by Mickey Spillane standards. TJ Binyon, Evening Standard.
1995 Paint It Black
Sharman’s settled down. The booze and the guns and the drugs are just a happy memory and the bad boy’s living in wedded bliss with Dawn the ex-stripper, now Nick’s new partner.
But the old skills – and instincts – are still there. When Sharman’s fourteen-year-old daughter goes missing, he finds himself catapulted back into the world he should have left behind. And when he starts righting wrongs in his own way, Sharman, once again, finds himself playing for keeps…
You will need a calculator for the body count. Pulp fiction taken to the limit. Mike Ripley, Daily Telegraph.
Immoral, wildly enjoyable. The Times.
Sleazy, fast-read fun with tons of profane wit. Time Out.
1996 Find My Way Home
‘They found Harry Stonehouse’s head on a barge carrying garbage to some Godforsaken part od Essex. They found his torso in Stamford Bridge. They found his right hand in a skip at Waterloo, and his left leg under a bush in Regent’s Parl. Harry was always a geezer who liked to get around.’
Harry Stonehouse’s wife wants Nick Sharman to find her husband’s killer. Right now Nick can’t see beyond the next Jack Daniel’s. But Harry was a friend. Besides, Nick always feels sorry for women he’s been to bed with. Big mistake…
1996 Sharman And Other Filth (Short Stories)
At the end they had so much on him he couldn’t move without their say-so. Not just what he’d done on his own account – there was the stuff he’d done for them as well. His name was shit on both sides of the fence. So they came up with one more job, the big one. But they snared him with a honey trap and when he found out, he was mad and armed and ready to kill…
The nastiest story you’ll read this year, rubbing cheeks with a kaleidoscope of sin and substances and truckers’ favourites from the casebook of Tulse Hill’s own Nick Sharman..
1997 A Street That Rhymed At 3AM
Sharman’s Christmas with his daughter Judith starts with the worst of gifts, news that his ex-wife, Laura, and her family have been killed in a bomb explosion on an aeroplane.
Sharman and Judith seek consolation from each other, but Sharman needs to take his mind off things. Pushed by Judith, he accepts a seemingly straight-forward, if unlovely, job babysitting a big-time American dealer who’s in custody but doing one last deal – only this time on the right side of the law.
But when Sharman’s around, babysittings one step away from carnage and disaster, wanted by the police, he turns for help from the most unlikely of sources – the Yardie gangs that infest the estates of Brixton in south London. And what began as work turns to vengeance for his ex-wife’s murder and ends up a fully automatic and casualty-strewn battle to save the innocence – and the life – of his daughter.
Vicious. Crime Time.
Amoral. Sunday Telegraph.
Not for the squeamish. Irish Times.
A welcome (and long overdue) shock to the system. Glasgow Herald.
1998 Dead Flowers
Nick Sharman’s daughter Judith has returned to Scotland and nothing will tempt him back into the business again…unless it’s Ray Miller. Miller, a Lottery roll-over double jackpot winner, wants to find the wife who left him. This should be a simple task for Sharman, giving him easy money and evidence for Judith that he’s trying to get his life togther.
When Miller’s eife, Sharon, turns out to be a whore addicted to heroin supplied by her pimp, Sharman’s fate appears to be sealed. The news of Miller’s new-found wealth has brought out south London’s worst villains, the most unpleasant of whom – Adult Baby Albert and Mr Freeze – decide the best way to get what they want ins to use Sharman to prize it from Miller. And Sharman, the patsy, is primed to take the fall.
1999 Quick Before They Catch Us
Family trouble! Growing old quietly was never really an option for Nick Sharman. When he takes on a job for a prosperous Manchester businessman looking for his runaway teenage daughter, Meena, he should perhaps have known better. He finds himself in a race against time to save the girl from the kind of trouble that gives families a bad name. Trying to do the right thing, Nick swaps sides and ends up starring in his own version of a Straw Dogs shoot out with family and friends, where nobody comes out the winner.
It is possible that South London contains some law abiding citizens in conventional relationships but they make no appearance in Timlin’s immoral, wildly enjoyable books. The Times.
Full of cars, girls, guns, strung out along the high sierras of Brixton and Battersea, the Elephant and the North Peckham Estate, all those jewels in the crown they call Sarf London. Arena.
If Timlin had been born American and earlier, he would have eclipsed Mickey Spillane. A natural. Time Out.
Grips like a pair of regulation handcuffs. The Guardian.
2000 All The Empty Places
It’s the oldest story in the world. Boy meets Girl. Boy loses Girl. Boy gets Girl. But when the boy is Nick Sharman, and the girls has a violent ex-jailbird as an old boyfriend, it’s never going to be that simple – and both Sharman and the girl are looking at a lot of trouble. What with a bent brief planning an audacious multi-million pound robbery, a beautiful sister who’s a fast rrack CID officer, and enough ordnance to stock the Woolwich Arsenal, the scene is set for a bloody confrontation under the streets of London, which ends explosively – literally – with only one man standing. And guess who that is. The latest Sharman shows there is life in the old dog yet, if only just.
That’s where I lost touch. I can’t really remember exactly why. I think there was something about Mark trying his hand at other types of story, perhaps even other styles than Sharman novels, I’m not sure. Anyway, I kind of stopped looking every so often, I guess.
Until I read Luke Preston’s Dark City Blue. And that – excellent – novel set me off down the Mark Timlin/Nick Sharman trail again.
There is a very good Mark Timlin website. It seems about as official as it gets, thought I can’t see if it’s written by the great man himself or not. If it is, he writes about himself in the third person! There are links galore to all the Sharman novels, along with details of other books by Mark Timlin and plenty of other information. Including some of the foreign editions of Sharman novels. As I’m a sucker for posts about different book covers, just great!
And then…there has been a new Nick Sharman book, since All The Empty Places.
Stay Another Day seems to have come out in 2010. Given that Mark seems pretty busy elsewhere, and with the lead-time on hardbacks and then paperback versions, perhaps it isn’t now too much to hope that there might just possibly be further Nick Sharman stories in the pipe-line.
Here’s the blurb on Stay Another Day: Could it be the end for Sharman?
For seven years, ex-cop Nick Sharman has lived in ‘exile’ on a Caribbean island with no UK extradition treaty – his life of luxury funded by the proceeds of a bank robbery where he was the last man standing. Then a phone call out of the blue from London changes everything. The voice from the past belongs to the only woman that he loves, his daughter Judith. Like father, like daughter, she’s a police officer, but the family resemblance doesn’t stop there – Judith is in big trouble with the law, and has no one to turn to except her father.
Returning under an assumed name to a bleak mid-winter England, Nick finds things have changed, and so has he. He´s grown older, but perhaps no wiser and finds his once beloved London moving too fast for him. Vowing to clear his daughter’s name by any means necessary, Sharman finds himself enmeshed with blackmailers, murderers, the security services, and Russian gangsters all baying for his blood – until he, Judith, and his old sparring partner Jack Robber, take on all-comers in a dramatic finale on the mean streets of the capital.
Sounds the business. And hopefully, Mark is back in the Sharman business. And someone, get a better film version (or two) done. Clive Owen would still be great for the role, just needs more oomph! Than ITV were willing to give it back in the day.
Go check some of the above out, you won’t regret it. And just for you, they’ve republished A Good Year For The Roses and Romeo’s Tune.