San Francisco writer Jim Nisbet has published eleven novels, including the acclaimed Lethal Injection. He has also published five volumes of poetry. His novel, Dark Companion, was shorted-listed for the 2006 Hammett Prize. Various of his works have been translated into French, German, Japanese, Italian, Polish, Hungarian, Greek, Russian and Romanian. 2010 could be named “The Year of Jim Nisbet” as, in addition to the PM/Green Arcade publication of A Moment of Doubt, Jim has a new hardcover, Windward Passage (winner of the San Francisco Book Festival 2010 Award for Best Science Fiction) from Overlook Press, along with two reprints, kicking off Overlook's reissue of Jim's entire backlist, beginning with the long out of print Lethal Injection, and, to finish off an amazing four-novel year, The Damned Don't Die.
Aside from reading and performing his own work for some forty-five years, Nisbet has written and seen produced a modest handful of one-act plays and monologues, including Valentine, Note from Earth, WonderEndz™ SmackVision™ and Alas, Poor Yorick, and himself directed the original productions of most of these works.
Nisbet also owns and operates his own business, specializing in but not limited to the design and construction of its eponymous Electronics Furniture. To review some examples of this and other such work, please visit the Carpentry Department on his personal website here.
A Moment of Doubt has just been nominated for the 30th Annual Northern California Book Awards. Awards will be held April 10th, 2011 in San Francisco.
Photo (c) Philippe Matsas
“The Miata jumped the curb and sheared off a light pole. The impact deployed the airbags, but Chainbang was ready. He knifed Klinger’s before it was fully inflated and his own before it could crush the glass pipe in his breast pocket. The six-inch blade went through the nylon like a pit bull through a kindergarten.”
Snitch World takes place in a San Francisco of menacing technology, where the old cons come up short and the crimes of the gritty night have morphed into slick capers pulled off by the glow of a smartphone.
Klinger hangs out at the Hawse Hole, a sordid dive even by Tenderloin standards. All he really wants is enough cash to buy a cup of coffee, some cigarettes, a bug-free hotel room. The simple act of picking a carefully targeted mark’s pocket initiates a series of events that get stranger and more dangerous by the moment. Jim Nisbet, with his characteristic humor and brilliant prose, creates a world where trust, and even cash, are the avatars of a loser’s game.
This is Snitch World, where a nine-dollar app can be as deadly as a dirty needle.
Also included is a recent interview with Jim Nisbet, in conversation with Patrick Marks, owner and publisher of San Francisco’s The Green Arcade, talking about writing, books, and technology.
"Missing any book by Nisbet should be considered a crime in all 50 states and maybe against humanity.”
—Bill Ott, Booklist
"Jim Nisbet is a poet…[who] resembles no other crime fiction writer. He mixes the irony of Dantesque situations with lyric narration, and achieves a luxuriant cocktail that truly leaves the reader breathless."
—Drood's Review of Mysteries
"Jim Nisbet is a lot more than just good...powerful, provocative…Nisbet's style has overtones of Walker Percy's smooth southern satin, but his characters—losers, grifters, con men—hark back to the days of James M. Cain's twisted images of morality."
A Moment of Doubt is at turns hilarious, thrilling and obscene. Jim Nisbet’s novella is ripped from the zeitgeist of the 80s, and set in a sex-drenched San Francisco, where the computer becomes the protagonist’s co-conspirator and both writer and machine seem to threaten the written word itself.
The City as whore provides a backdrop oozing with drugs, poets and danger. Nisbet has written a mad-cap meditation on the angst of a writer caught in a world where the rent is due, new technology offers up illicit ways to produce the latest bestseller, and the detective and other characters of the imagination might just sidle up to the bar and buy you a drink in real life. The world of A Moment of Doubt is the world of phone sex, bars and bordellos, AIDS and the lure of hacking. Coming up against the rules of the game--the detective genre itself, has never been such a nasty and gender defying challenge.
Plus: An interview with Jim Nisbet, who is “Still too little read in the United States, it's a joy for us that Nisbet has been recognized here..." Regards: Le Mouvement des Idées
"Missing any book by Nisbet should be considered a crime in all 50 states and maybe against humanity.”
--Bill Ott, Booklist
"Under the circumstances, Nisbet seems remarkably magnanimous. One might almost weep with gratitude for the vigor he puts into even the most quotidian descriptions, the way of mocking writerly indulgence while also delighting with it. He's like a more hetero Burroughs, or a more companionable Mailer, or both at once. His avidity is touching, and rewarding."
--Jonathan Kiefer, SF Weekly
"With Nisbet, you know you can expect anything and you're never disappointed."
"He is as weird as the world. And for some readers, that's a quality to cherish. It's as if Nisbet inhabited and wrote from a world right next to ours, only weirder."
--Rick Kleffel, bookotron.com
"Jim Nisbet is a poet… [who] resembles no other crime fiction writer. He mixes the irony of Dantesque situations with lyric narration, and achieves a luxuriant cocktail that truly leaves the reader breathless."
--Drood's Review of Mysteries
For a calendar of speaking events, please click here
- Snitch World: Mystery People Magazine
- Snitch World: Zoom Street
- Snitch World: Your Call Radio
- Snitch Wolrd: LA Review of Books
- Snitch World: Booklist
- Snitch World: Woody Haut's Blog
- Snitch World: Counterpunch
- Snitch World: 10 Bad Habits
- A Moment of Doubt on Ransom Notes: The B&N Mystery Blog
- A Moment of Doubt in Publishers Weekly
- A Moment of Doubt in Spinetingler Magazine
- A Moment of Doubt in the SF Weekly
- A Moment of Doubt on The Pulp Primer
by Radmila May
Mystery People Magazine
Volume 3, Issue 3 pp. 19
The protagonist Klinger (no first name), an unsuccessful petty crook is, after a failed smash-and -grab raid, down-and-out. But then he picks a pocket and this brngs him into contact with the new San Francisco world of criminal information technology where all that is needed to carry out a heist is a couple of taps on a smartphone. His old mates left behind, his new friends are a computer whiz-kid and the dangerously beautiful Marci. But can they be trusted? In an ending of tragic irony which demonstrates the writer‘s command of formal narrative structure, Klinger realises that the smash-and-grab raid, which he had forgotten about, may well be his undoing.
By Derek Pell
The Miata jumped the curb and sheared off a light pole.
That’s the opening sucker punch and this contemporary noir masterpiece just keeps getting better. Nisbet’s old school con men confront high tech San Francisco. It’s a shadowy, unforgettable ride through Fog City.
By Woody Haut
LA Review of Books
December 22nd, 2013
One of the Ten Favorite Crime Novels of 2013
Considering Nisbet’s recent work, this is a relatively straightforward narrative. Though a throwback to the author’s earlier work, it’s still within the realm of Nisbet’s particular brand of absurdist noir. Filled with surprises, Snitch World revolves around barroom conversations, taxi rides, a case of mistaken identity, a killer app, and a heavy dose of psychogeography. Above all, it’s Nisbet’s homage to blue-collar San Francisco, the memory of which is fading fast. With its survival techniques — drugs, drink, crime, wit, or public disorder — this could be Nisbet’s most painfully humorous book yet.
By Thomas Gaughan
Klinger describes himself as a resident of "San Francisco's asteroid belt of petty crime and criminals," never making the big score but never doing time in the state's prison system. He's bright and affable visiting his San Francisco-chic former lover, who has quit her day job, thanks to a phone app she wrote. But the $100 she gives him sends him right back to the Hawse Hole, a Tenderloin dive, where he drinks himself into oblivion doing mental arithmetic to estimate how long his money will last. A botched mugging tosses him in the path of Marci, another sexy, San Francisco-chic app shark who is obsessed with the big score and happy to make Klinger the fall guy. Nisbet, who has a cult following (Windward Passage, 2010), alludes insightfully to the dualities of America's favorite city. Fortyish, homeless, alcoholic petty criminals colliding with well-educated, well-off, amoral, twentysomething grifters doesn't completely strain credulity. The Hawse Hole and its regulars are fascinating. But occasionally Nisbet's rhetorical flights, which begin thoughtfully and gracefully, go on too long and begin to seem like bafflegab.
By Woody Haut
Woody Haut's Blog
June 24th, 2013
Snitch World by Jim Nisbet (PM Press). Another example of absurdist noir from one its foremost practitioners. This is, in some ways, a throwback to Nisbet's earlier work, with an added dose of San Francisco psychogeography thrown in for good measure. But Snitch World is also an homage to blue collar San Francisco, or at least those on the margins who can still remember it. A kind of last stand against killer apps, with survival techniques, be they drugs, drink, crime, wit or public disorder. With its barroom scenes and taxi cab rides, this is Nisbet at his most painfully humorous. Could there be, as SW's Klinger might wonder, an app for this kind of writing? I doubt it.
by Ben Terrall
Weekend Edition July 5-7, 2013
When you read crime novelist Jim Nisbet, don’t expect plot-driven mysteries involving square jawed detectives or damsels in distress (or the time-tested, and by now tiresome, hookers with hearts of gold). But unless you’re wedded to predictability, don’t complain about the dearth of traditional genre tropes, as that would be like criticizing Flann O’Brien for not following the model laid out by Charles Dickens. Instead prepare yourself for a world of hurt where good guys not only don’t win but often don’t even enter the picture. It’s a universe where, as crime writer James Ellroy described film noir narratives, “You are fucked!”
10 Bad Habits
A small time crook collides with amoral dot-com venture capitalists in modern day San Francisco. What plot there is focuses largely on a top secret under development phone app, but the real entertainment is in Nisbet’s prose and vivid depiction of San Francisco. An enjoyable book, both funny and sad in a “Those days are gone, but the people live on” kind of way. Folks who have lived in San Francisco may also get an extra kick out of it.
by Jedidiah Ayres
Ransom Notes: The B&N Mystery Blog
This hot-shot of nasty riffs on writing, technology and sex focuses on a parallel writer named Nisbet attempting to finish another one of his detective Martin Windrow (The Damned Don't Die) novels, hustle the rent and use a computer program to formulate a best-seller. It’s all over the place, but the Windrow segments are surprisingly tense (for a semi-comic piece), the erotic passages are over the top and it’s all rounded out with an unhealthy chunk of what I could only call retro-tech porn.
A detective novelist on the skids sustains a bored dalliance with his computer in this raunchy early work by Nisbet (Wayward Passage) written in the early 1980s and now being sent out into the world. Nisbet proves to be a sly stylist as he chronicles the unlikely relationship between the writer and his machine, an uneasy collaboration at a time when computers were just becoming common household items. The narrator, author Jas Jameson, is mostly plucking at inspiration for his next detective novel by trolling through fantasy fodder in the form of erotic exchanges real or imagined, such as a phone sex "meeting" between himself and editor Matilde Michelov at Crow Mignon books, who wants to publish his languishing last novel. Gradually, Jameson is consumed by his computer and software that offer to write and publish the novel for him, but mostly the author(s) break for salacious scenes. Against the backdrop of a seedy San Francisco, Nisbet's novel takes a good self-conscious stab at the hard-boiled private dick, the publishing biz, and the culture of writing.
By Russel D McLean
January 5, 2011
A Moment of Doubt by Jim Nisbet is one of the most insane things I’ve read in a long time. But very interesting in its “attack” on detective clichés, even if I think that inherent argument is maybe a little limited in scope. I’m not sure that the genre limitations are as frustrating as Nisbet makes out unless one deliberately makes them that way. Although of course there are times I do understand the points he makes. But besides the contentious stuff about the genre, A Moment of Doubt is still a messed up literary fever-dream of a book & worth a look.
By Jonathan Kiefer
The San Francisco poet and novelist Jim Nisbet's new book is an old book, reportedly conceived in the mid-1980s as he was making a name for himself with crime novels while also feeling disgusted by the marauding prosaicism of detective fiction. From necessity, he came up with a different kind of noir-pulp novella: literarily neurotic, self-deconstructing, hardboiled private-dick lit. Perhaps to cover his tracks, Nisbet also took the trouble of rendering the thing obscenely hilarious.
The Pulp Primer
A re-issue this may be*, but outdated it's not. Nisbet's mystery writing protagonist's paranoia, perversion, and surreal visions all ring as fearfully true today as they did when the book was written in 1985. Strap in and let A MOMENT OF DOUBT take you into the bizarre world of the pulp fiction writer, where reality and fantasy are never far apart.
*A Moment of Doubt is in fact not a re-issue.
A discussion between Graham Hancock and Jim Nisbet. "As I expected, these two writers did have more in common than either one of them might have surmised. But to my surprise, it was their differences that made the whole show so exciting, particularly as each talked of his past and the influence it had on him. Graham came from a newsman background, while Nisbet's experience of the news involved shotguns and televisions." --Rick Kleffel