‘Whitehawk’ – new fiction from Simon Nolan

Whitehawk is a new novel from highly successful author Simon Nolan that will be available to buy in July, and is available to pre-order from Revenge Ink.

It tracks the tale of Mel Banff, a new kind of social worker. Overseen by the shadowy ‘Rationality Unit’, she will be stationed with one family over three months to ‘bring a greater sense of reasonableness’ into their disorderly lives. The family, though, pre-occupied as they are with ghost dogs, secret weddings and love potions, prove resistant to her methods in ways she had never imagined, and Mel’s certainties begin to crumble as their extraordinary story rises up to engulf her.

Mel Banff is hired by the Rationality Unit created by the Blair government to induce people to make rational decisions in their lives so they won’t waste public money.

She begins to interact with a family in Brighton (Whitehawk estates), made up of strange eccentric pink-kneed Kenneth, his overweight, turkey-necked wife June, a pair of twins one of whom is always wrapped up in a sheet, and a mildly hysterical, precocious teenage girl, Kelly.

There’s also Dane, a young hotshot cousin, and a host of other deranged characters. Mel soon gets caught up in the family’s outrageous madness: she hears dog ghosts, finds wedding dresses with tracksuit trimmings, witnesses sex between Dane and (underage) Kelly who are (also incidentally) related. In the end, although Mel tries her best to impose rationality and prevent an incestuous and pedophiliac wedding, she unwittingly becomes part of an extremely bizarre ritual in a narrative twist that challenges all rational explanation…. Not only Mel but members of the family risk death if she doesn’t figure out what to do.

Excerpt from Whitehawk
‘Whitehawk eh?’ Jamie said, and whistled softly. He knew, dimly, what Whitehawk meant, though like the majority of Brighton’s residents he had never actually set foot in it and had no immediate plans to do so. No tourist ever went to Whitehawk either, and if they did they would obtain no usable pictures and, after dark, might not be entirely safe. There was no Royal Pavilion on the Whitehawk Estate, no B&Bs, no raffish Regency squares. Whitehawk was 1970’s system-built deck-access low-rises; it was rain-swept concrete, petty crime, burned-out cars and random hostage dramas, always drug related. Fierce teenagers throw stones at the buses in Whitehawk. The children were feral and unsupervised (as, indeed, were the adults). Surrounded by a landfill site, a grim Victorian hospital (ex- workhouse) and a vast, sprawling crematorium complex, with the racecourse at the top, Whitehawk was entirely severed from the rest of Brighton, and Brighton seemed content for it to remain so.

‘Lucky you,’ Jamie said. ‘Are you going to go for it?’

‘Oh there’s absolutely no point, they’ll never have me. I haven’t got…’

‘OK. Don’t go for it.’

‘But it’s perfect, look…’

‘So sodding go for it then.’

‘Oh fat lot of help you are,’ she said, and tried to fold the paper up but only succeeded in tearing it. ‘Go for it, don’t go for it. Like it’s that easy.’

‘Sorry,’ Jamie said, and got back to smoking. ‘Sorry. There must be some kind of third way between going for it and not going for it that I’ve overlooked. You see, I haven’t had the training…’

‘In decision-making and that?’

‘Exactly’ Jamie said, nuzzling her knee, whilst attempting to (accidentally) set fire to the paper, ‘exactly sweetheart. Not like you.’


About the author
Simon Nolan is a novelist living and working in Brighton, UK, in a haunted palace by the sea. He writes horror/psychological thrillers as Simon Maginn: Sheep (WHSmith Fresh Talent winner 1994, filmed as The Dark, 2005), Virgins and Martyrs, A Sickness of the Soul, Methods of Confinement (nominated for Novel of the Year, British Fantasy Society, 1997), Rattus. (‘Subtle, original and full of exquisite qualities… he has the potential to become one of the best in the field’ St James Guide). By night, he becomes Simon Nolan, who writes satirical comedies: As Good as it Gets, The Vending Machine of Justice, Whitehawk. (‘Nolan is brilliant…’ Time Out). He plays the piano incessantly, is the drummer in a band with no name, and paints in an uncontrolled and, frankly, disgusting way.

Simon was born in Wallasey, Merseyside in 1961. He studied music at the University of Sussex, specialising in percussion and composition. As Good as it Gets, his first novel, was published to great acclaim in 1999, followed by The Vending Machine of Justice  (2001). He has also published short stories, one broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Sheep was filmed as The Dark (Sean Bean/Maria Bello, Impact Pictures, 2005) and Methods of Confinement was nominated for Novel of the Year by the British Fantasy Society. As Good as it Gets was listed by Julie Burchill as one of her top ten books. Many of his novels have sold in translation and in the USA.

What people have said about Simon’s previous work
‘Brilliant black comedy, with a real satirical bite that hasn’t leapt off the page like this since Evelyn Waugh.’ Independent (The Vending Machine of Justice)

‘An exceptionally funny and realistic comic novel, which is beautifully observed with the kind of dry intelligence that makes you glad someone is out there keeping tabs on the world. The Sunday Times (As Good as it Gets)

‘Nolan’s sharp, satirical gaze makes this a confident and genuinely comic contribution to the Brit Lit druggie genre…’ The Observer (As Good as it Gets)

‘Hilarious.’ Daily Mirror (The Vending Machine of Justice)

‘The best debut novel I have read since The Wasp Factory,’ Peter James (Sheep)

‘Maginn sifts the novel’s truth from its mystery like an expert archeologist, meticulously exposing deeper and darker strata that underlie even the most innocent events… Oscillating between the bleak thoughts of his emotionally tortured characters and the stark, moody Welsh landscape, he creates a thick atmosphere of dread that forces the weight of the past inexorably down on the present, yet never impedes the brisk momentum of the tale. This is the rare example of a novel of subtle horror that should appeal to lovers of the fast-paced modern horror thriller.’ Publisher’s Weekly (Sheep)

‘This is the funniest book I’ve read for aeons…Nolan is brilliant…’ Time Out (As Good as it Gets)

Read more about Simon at simonmaginn.com.


2 total comments, leave your comment or trackback.
  1. Samuel
    Jul 28th 2012

    Clearly the author, and the literary critics from the papers are relying on stereotypes about Whitehawk and have never been there. Only snobs see Whitehawk like this, it has less crime then other middle class areas of Brighton and Hove. Hove particularly.
    A work of great ignorance.

  2. Bill Hunt
    Jul 28th 2012

    Interesting view. You didn’t enjoy the book then? I thought it painted Whitehawk in quite an affectionate light, and saw the criticism more levelled at ‘the system’ personally.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge


The archives run deep. Feel free to search older content using topic keywords.

Browse by Category