Nisbet, Jim 1947–

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Nisbet, Jim 1947–

PERSONAL: Born 1947.

ADDRESSES: Home and office—571 Ivy St., San Francisco, CA 94102. Agent—Matthew Bialer, Sanford Greenburger Associates, 55th 5th Ave., New York, NY 10003.

CAREER: Writer, novelist, and poet. Owner of Electronics Furniture.

AWARDS, HONORS: Won Pangolin Papers Annual Fiction Award twice; nominated three times for Pushcart Prize.



Poems for a Lady, Poltroon Press (Berkeley, CA), 1979.

Gnachos for Bishop Berkeley, Transitional Face (Berkeley, CA), 1980.

(With Alastair Johnston) Morpho, Transitional Face (Berkeley, CA), 1982.

(With Simone Ellis and Alastair Johnson) Circus Anonymous: Libretto, Transitional Face (San Francisco, CA), 1982.

Small Apt, 1989.

Across the Tasman Sea, 1997.

Also author of poetry collections Small Apt and Across the Tasman Sea.


The Gourmet, Pinnacle Books, 1981, published as The Damned Don't Die, Black Lizard Books (Berkeley, CA), 1985.

Lethal Injection, Black Lizard Books (Berkeley, CA), 1987.

Le chien d'Ulysse (title means "Ulysses's Dog"), 1988.

Death Puppet, Black Lizard Books (Berkeley, CA), 1989.

Prelude to a Scream, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 1997.

The Price of the Ticket, Dennis McMillan Publications (Tucson, AZ), 2003.

The Syracuse Codex, Dennis McMillan Publications (Tucson, AZ), 2005.

Sombre complice (title means "Dark Companion"), Editions Payot et Rivages (Paris, France), 2005.


Laminating the Conic Frustum (nonfiction), 1991.

Alas, Poor Yorick (one-act play), produced in Chicago, IL, 1992.

Author of other plays and monologues, including Valentine, Note from Earth, WonderEndz, and SmackVision. Contributor to periodicals, including Bay Area Reporter, Big Bridge, Blind Date, Cain, Carbuncle, City Lights Journal, Exquisite Corpse, North Carolina Anvil, Pangolin Papers, Panta, Poetry Flash, Polar, San Francisco Noir, Sumus, Crow, Turkey Buzzard Review, and Raven.

Nisbet's works have been published in French, German, Japanese, and Italian.

ADAPTATIONS: Nisbet's essay "Next to Torture, Art Persuades Fastest" was adapted, directed, and performed by Candace Natvig and her choir and chorus Music in the Blood at Theater Artaud, San Francisco, CA; "Note from Earth" was produced as a rock musical in Thesalonika, Greece, 1992.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Windward Passage, a novel; Skylark, a collection of essays and short fiction; Laminating the Right-angled Conic Frustrum, a supplement to Laminating the Conic Frustum; How I Got Work, a novel to be published in France.

SIDELIGHTS: Jim Nisbet is a novelist, poet, and playwright who is active in the performance arts. He has been a reader and performer of his own work for more than forty years, noted a biographer on the author's home page. Several of his one-act plays have been produced, and his works, such as the essay "Next to Torture, Art Persuades Fastest," have been adapted and performed by other creative artists. From the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, Nisbet was coproducer of six "Actualist" conventions, performance art events that specialize in presenting a different poet, theater group, performance artist, musical ensemble, film, or dance troupe every thirty minutes for a twelve-to forty-eight-hour span. Today he continues to arrange weekly readings performances for himself and other poets, playwrights, novelists, and essayists.

Nisbet's novels, a number of which have been published in French, dwell firmly within the mystery and noir genres. Prelude to a Scream, for instance, combines a well-known urban legend about kidney thieves with a high-tech storyline about medical hackers tracking organ donors through unprotected computerized hospital files. When cynical forty-seven-year-old Stanley Ahearn wakes up after a night's fling with a gorgeous but mysterious woman, he has a sharp and agonizing pain in his back. The bloody sleeping bag he wakes up in contributes to his desire to find medical attention immediately. When he is examined, the doctors inform him that he has had a kidney surgically removed, but that his remaining kidney is diseased and will soon fail him. Unhinged by this news, Stanley undertakes a desperate mission to find the people who deceived him and force them to return his kidney. Nisbet "has written a genuinely horrifying novel—equal parts Kafka and Jim Thompson," commented Booklist reviewer Wes Lukowsky. Library Journal contributor Ahmad Wright called the book "macabre masquerading as chic" and "not for the faint of heart."

Mark "Pauley" Paulos, the middle-aged protagonist of The Price of the Ticket, is a survivor of horrendous childhood abuse. After years of dissipation, jail time, and ill-advised behavior, he has reached a tenuously balanced stasis in which he is at an unaccustomed peace with himself. His unusual occupation is creating S&M devices and torture implements for the moneyed, but sexually kinky, set. Pauley's twenty-four-year-old girlfriend, Celeste, is an explosion of tattoos, piercings, and body modifications, while friend Horseknocker is an unrepentant connoisseur of violence. Pauley and his friends are destined to meet Martin Seam, a completely amoral thief, scam artist, and vagabond whose motivations are often vague and personal needs unfulfilled. Martin is far from attaining any sort of peace with himself, and he disrupts Pauley's carefully maintained balance in unpleasant and comedic ways. When Martin sells Pauley his car for six hundred dollars, their twisted interaction gets underway and the fated conflict begins. Reviewer Terry D'Auray, writing on the Agony Column Web site, called The Price of the Ticket a "quirky, kinky, crazy, chaotic mess of a book. A lot of it just doesn't make any sense. But it's also a cynical, street-smart, barbed, clever, and oftentimes very funny neo-noir farce—which saves it." Nisbet "presents with wrenching effectiveness the fragile accommodations his characters have to make in order to survive in a hostile world they can never overcome" and which they can stave off for only a short time, noted a Publishers Weekly contributor.

Nisbet's The Syracuse Codex is "an over-the-top piece of bravura storytelling that grabs you in its helter-skelter narrative frenzy and won't let go," commented Booklist reviewer Bill Ott. Danny Kestrel is a frame maker in San Francisco. He has a one-night stand with sex-crazed art patron Renée Knowles, but moments after he leaves her, she is killed by a single gunshot. Now the prime suspect, Danny's desire to clear his name leads him to investigate Renee's dealings with the art underworld. To his dismay, he finds that a group of crooks and murderous characters think that Renée handed off a secret treasure to him shortly before she died. Events lead Danny to an ancient Roman text, the titular Syracuse Codex, that provides evidence of a sixth-century crime and is inexplicably connected to Renee and her questionable dealings. Against his will, Danny finds himself embroiled in the search for the codex, bumping shoulders with treasure hunters, biblioarchaeologists, adventurers, and murderous thieves, all of whom want the document for themselves. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the novel "a caper mixing scholarly skullduggery and hard-boiled mayhem" in a "roller-coaster ride of a thriller."



Booklist, August, 1997, Wes Lukowsky, review of Prelude to a Scream, p. 1885; October 1, 2005, Bill Ott, review of The Syracuse Codex, p. 38.

Library Journal, July, 1997, Ahmad Wright, review of Prelude to a Scream, p. 127.

Publishers Weekly, July 7, 1997, review of Prelude to a Scream, p. 51; April 21, 2003, review of The Price of the Ticket, p. 42; September 5, 2005, review of The Syracuse Codex, p. 38.


Agony Column, (May 28, 2003), Terry D'Auray, review of The Price of the Ticket.

Jim Nisbet Home Page, (November 28, 2005).