5 Questions with Jim Nisbet

price of the ticketWe are proud to have Jim Nisbet back at City Lights this Thursday. It will be a celebration of the paperback release of Nisbet’s latest book of masterful, hard-boiled fiction, The Price of the Ticket (from Overlook Press). Jim’s answers to our five questions are below.

Event: Thursday, May 7th at 7:00PM. Jim Nisbet returns to City Lights Bookstore, reading from The Price of the Ticket. Cocktails served at 6:30PM. Reading starts at 7:00PM.

About the Book: Pauley’s done a few bad things in his life. He’s been around the block quite a few times, spending most of his life inside the block. But now, age 52, he’s got an honest job making high-class torture racks and other exquisite playthings for an S&M outfit in downtown San Francisco. His only real problem is he needs a new set of wheels and he’s going to pick one up today, a beat up Ford from one Martin Seam. Sometimes a ticket to Hell only costs $600 . . . nonrefundable, of course.

About the Author: Jim Nisbet is the author of twelve novels and five books of poetry. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times, shortlisted for the Hammett Prize, and published in ten languages. Visit his website at: http://noirconeville.com

Praise for Jim Nisbet:

“Nobody has Nisbet’s distinctive style, humor, and sheer craft . . . One of the finest masters of noir.”—Ken Bruen, author of The Guards

“Jim Nisbet has a voice so original . . . it might remind you of a younger Kurt Vonnegut.” —Chicago Tribune

“In the tradition of Jim Thompson and Damon Runyon, Nisbet is too good to miss. —San Francisco Chronicle

City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit?

Jim Nisbet: I can’t remember the first time I visited City Lights but, I assure you, it was a long time ago, probably in 1966.  But perhaps more to the point about how I feel about the place, let me tell you about a night in 1977 or ’78.

A friend and I were drinking in North Beach. It was about one in the morning, and we were hustling up Columbus to get to Gino and Carlo before closing. My friend had never been in San Francisco before, and even though he was a musician, he was a big reader (just kidding!), so I pointed out City Lights as we passed, with the promise that we’d visit during business hours. At the corner of Broadway, however, he was no longer with me. He’d stopped to browse the titles in the front-middle window. “Come on, man, we got time for one more!” But something had caught his eye, and he insisted I come back to see it. When I got there he pointed out my own book, Poems for A Lady, face-out and surrounded by the literature of the world.

There’s nobody reading this who doesn’t recognize what the likes of such a serendipity would mean to a fledgling author. And I’d like to suggest that there’s nobody working at City Lights who doesn’t take such a responsibility seriously. Was I surprised? It was my first book, I’d published it myself, it was in the store on consignment, and other than the friendly reception I got from the staff, none of whom I knew, I had no juice with City Lights. You bet I was surprised. I know the place well enough by now to surmise that somebody had simply liked the book well enough to display it, and that was it. (And yes, it had a great cover!) No yaya: the work speaks. It’s the best kind of acceptance. I’ve always proceeded along those lines. And altogether to the point, the people who work in City Lights know what’s in their store, and they love books.

And now?  Well, not to state the obvious, but it’s later, baby! By now I’ve published twenty books and I’ve lost track of the number of events I’ve done with City Lights. (And hey, boys and girls, while I’ve had many a publisher in the intervening years, I put a book in there on consignment just last month!) The relationship continues. For me, as a writer, City Lights has always been in my corner, period. It’s not about sales, and it’s not about who I know, it’s about the facts that I’m out here giving it a try, literature-wise, and City Lights is paying attention–simply the best.

CL: If your book had a soundtrack, what would it be?

JN: If my books had a soundtrack, I’d be a musician.

CL: What’s the first book you actually finished reading?

JN: Can’t remember. But I do recall a big, fat Sherlock Holmes omnibus my mother gave me–or perhaps it was just around the house, for it was a house full of books–all of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories in one volume, which I’d read at least once in its entirety by the time I was 10.

CL: If you weren’t a writer, what might you do?

JN: As a matter of fact, I’ve done almost everything in the construction business there is to do–mainly carpentry, but also pan-poured hi-rise construction, crane work, theater construction, recording and post-production studios for film, audio and video, specialty cabinetry/furniture design and fabrication, drawn-path robotics, welding, drafting, survey engineering, highway and bridge and commercial and residential construction, remodeling, and management from crew boss to entire projects. Self-employed pretty much since I was a kid, I have run my own business in one form or another since about 1970. I much enjoy both writing and building, and in that regard I’m a lucky guy.

NisbetI tried a lot of other stuff, too, recording engineering, for example, running (and owning) a combination gas station, grocery, and book store, for another, and not to omit hitchhiking all over North America and a little bit of Mexico, too. But I’d like to point out that my other interests in life have often afforded me a way to make a living without putting that particular kind of heat on writing. Sure, I’ve made some dough writing novels, but it’s never been the point. As it regards writing, I’ve almost always done pretty much what I want to do, with zero consideration for any commercial aspects or potential. And all I’ve got to say is–what difference!

CL: Name a few things you’d require if stranded on a desert island for an undefined period of time (and, yes, no Wi-Fi).

JN: I would think that one of the main advantages of being on a desert island would be the absence of WiFi. Other than that, give me my wife and a good dog, along with a roll of canvas, a stack of lumber and tools adequate to build a boat from scratch, and I’d be very happy. And hey, you know what?  We might take our sweet time about building that boat.

A certain bookstore on a nearby island would be good, too …


Join Jim Nisbet at City Lights this Thursday, May 7th for cocktails and some hard-boiled fiction just like God intended. Find Jim’s book, The Price of the Ticket at your local independent bookshop or online at City Lights.com. For more about Jim, head to his official site and peruse his many publications in fiction and in poetry. His new poetry collection, Sonnets, is out now from Provendor.

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