I first met Ian via the online writing community a decade or so ago. I was writing a fair number of short stories for e-zines, but Ian was an absolute machine, producing new ones seemingly every single day. I think most of thought we were clinging to his coattails, but getting into print together, via the incredible Radgepacket series from Andy Rivers and the much-missed Byker Books was a real thrill. I got there first with my debut Joe Geraghty novel, so it really meant something when Ian said some incredibly kind things about it, a genuine boost that someone whose work I admired reciprocated so keenly.
Writing has given me many unexpected things, but the best one has to be new friendships. I live in Hull, Ian’s down in Romford and we both love football, but the connection is deeper. Our writing is very different, but ultimately I believe we’re writing about the same things; working class stories about people we know. I can’t claim any of the credit for Ian getting his a publishing deal for his debut novel, ‘Abide With Me’, though I do remember pressing his work on Caffeine Nights, a publisher with its roots firmly in the East End of London, to take a look.
There was something about Ian’s work, written in the local vernacular, which refuses to let you go. As time passed, we shared a publication date. ‘Abide With Me’ appeared on the same day as my second novel, a fitting way to celebrate how far we’d come together.
It’s been an interesting ride since for us both with plenty of ups and downs. It’s genuinely been a thrill to watch Ian develop the ‘Pen to Print’ programme down in his local area, helping several new writers on their way. Not many people know this, but we co-penned a short story for ‘Woman’s Weekly’. It’s possibly the kind of project that could break any friendship, ludicrously off-genre for both us as writers, though we probably learned more about ourselves from the process than from anything else we’ve done. I always suspected I was drawn to being a planner, the kind of writer who’ll examine things from several angles before putting pen to paper. Ian’s work explodes onto the page, something that helps set him apart, a writer much more comfortable with simply diving in. But somehow it got done.
Things changed for both of us when Caffeine Nights reverted most of the rights on their crime list a couple of years ago. I was fortunate to be scooped up quickly by Fahrenheit, but Ian’s situation was complicated by the fact he was working on the third book in his John Sissons trilogy and wasn’t quite free to move on. I knew that if anyone would get it, though, and love his work, it would be Fahrenheit. It took a bit of prodding and poking, but I wasn’t wrong. Ian and Fahrenheit is the perfect match.
All three John Sissons novels are thankfully available and look immaculate in their new jackets. Even better, you can now get them all together in one volume.
The novels, ‘Abide With Me’, ‘April Skies’ and ‘Everybody Hurts’, cover the mid-1970s through to the 1990s, a snapshot of a man’s life as he moves from child to adult. If you like the working class voices of writers such as Roddy Doyle and Irvine Welsh, you’ll love Ian’s work. It’s as gritty and dark as anything you’ll find on a bookshelf.
John Sissons a man for our times. He’s not perfect and he struggles and strives to provide a better life for his family, but he’s packed with heart and hope, a sense of darkness and light which makes Ian’s novels so compelling.
SHINING LIKE RAINBOWS - THE COMPLETE JOHN SISSONS TRILOGY WILL BE PUBLISHED ON FEBRUARY 28TH 2020 - YOU CAN PRE-ORDER IT AT A SPECIAL PRE-PUBLICATION PRICE NOW