Stone, Nick 1966-

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Stone, Nick 1966-

PERSONAL:

Born October 31, 1966, in Cambridge, England; son of Norman Stone (a historian); married. Education: Attended Cambridge University.

ADDRESSES:

Home—London, England. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Author. During early career was a boxer in the National Amateur League in England; has also worked as a paralegal.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Steel Dagger, Crime Writers Association, 2006, Macavity Award, 2007, and International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel, all for Mr. Clarinet.

WRITINGS:

Mr. Clarinet (novel), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2007.

King of Swords (novel; prequel to Mr. Clarinet), Michael Joseph/Penguin (London, England), 2007.

Also author of the Nick Stone Blog at http://nickstone.blogspot.com.

SIDELIGHTS:

The son of British historian Norman Stone, Nick Stone spent most of his life estranged from his father after his parents divorced. His mother, a Haitian, took her young son with her to live on her native island. Returning to England in 1971, he eventually took up boxing as a teenager and fought in the National Amateur League. It seemed that Stone's life would take a very different course from his father's, but then he gave up boxing and was admitted to Cambridge University, where he studied history. After university, Stone worked as a paralegal and then began writing his first novel, the crime thriller Mr. Clarinet. Set in Haiti during the 1990s, the noir tale earned its author the Steel Dagger award from the Crime Writers Association, but it has also been criticized by some reviewers for its extensive graphic violence and disturbing subject matter.

The title of Mr. Clarinet refers to a voodoo spirit in Haitian tradition who is the ghost of a dead boy who causes the disappearance of children. The main character, Max Mingus, is a former police officer from Miami who was imprisoned for killing three men he felt deserved to die. He is released from prison and becomes a private investigator at the behest of the wealthy Allain Carver. Carver's son Charlie has been kidnapped, and he believes that Mingus is just the kind of tough justice-seeker who can find the boy. Carver offers the ex-cop five million dollars to find Charlie, and a five million dollar bonus should he also be able to capture the kidnappers, dead or alive.

At first, Mingus is not sure he really wants to pursue the case. Then, one night, he has a dream about his wife, who has recently died in a car accident. She urges him to find the child, whose photo has been haunting him even as he struggled with his decision. Mingus travels to Haiti, a land of poverty, political oppression, crime, and voodoo. It is a grim journey, and Stone does not fail to detail every bit of gruesome violence and despair in his novel. Some reviewers pointed this out, with one Publishers Weekly writer asserting that Stone "veers too often into the explicitly graphic." Michael Allen, writing on the Grumpy Old Bookman Web site, similarly stated that the author "is in danger of overpowering the reader" with his "sordid" descriptions. Allen went on to write that the author tends to include more details in general than are needed, but added that "one has to say that for a first novel he writes very well." The Publishers Weekly critic also admitted that Stone is a "fresh voice" in the genre. David Wright, in Booklist, added to this consensus by faulting the debut for "excessive backstory, overwritten exposition, and speechy dialogue," while adding that the author has a "strong suit [for] … description."

Following Mr. Clarinet with King of Swords, Stone decided to write a prequel to his first book, rather than a sequel. Here, Mingus is still in the police force, and Stone relates how he came to quit his job and how he met his ill-fated wife. Bookseller contributor Benedicte Page described the novel as "a complex, multi-stranded narrative with a full-blooded plot that features murder, drug-running, corrupt policing, black magic, and Solomon, a deeply sinister Haitian criminal." A critic for the Sons of Spade Web site called it "well written, original, haunting and interesting." When asked in an interview, reprinted on the author's Web site, why he wrote a prequel instead of a sequel, Stone replied: "I'm not writing a Max Mingus series. He's not that kind of character. You could have a beer or two with Max but you wouldn't want to stick around with him for more. He's got too many demons and he's got blood on his hands. Were I to spin him out into a franchise, I'd have to dilute his darkness into a kind of curmudgeonly amiability, and he'd wind up like Roger Moore in those post-Spy Who Loved Me flicks—sucking in his gut before the fight sequences and huffing and puffing as he's running up stairs. It simply wouldn't work."

Stone told CA: "I'm no longer estranged from my beloved Dad. We were reconciled a long time ago and we're now very, very close. I've dedicated my book, King of Swords, to him."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, May 1, 2007, David Wright, review of Mr. Clarinet, p. 40.

Bookseller, May 4, 2007, Benedicte Page, "From Haiti with Love: Crime Writer Nick Stone Talks to Benedicte Page," p. 24.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2007, review of Mr. Clarinet.

Publishers Weekly, April 23, 2007, review of Mr. Clarinet, p. 30.

ONLINE

Grumpy Old Bookman,http://grumpyoldbookman.blogspot.com/ (August 9, 2006), Michael Allen, review of Mr. Clarinet..

Guardian Online,http://books.guardian.co.uk/ (January 21, 2006), Tibor Fischer, "The Haiti Mob," review of Mr. Clarinet.

Nick Stone Home Page,http://www.nickstone.co.uk (January 10, 2008).

Penguin Books Web site,http://www.penguin.co.uk/ (January 10, 2008), biography of and interview with Nick Stone.

Sons of Spade,http://sonsofspade.blogspot.com/ (August 1, 2007), review of King of Swords.