Nick Sharman

Created by Mark Timlin
Pseudonyms include Jim Ballantyne, Tony Williams, Brian Ritterspak

Hard-boiled South London private eye NICK SHARMAN became something of a sensation in England. He and his creator, Mark Timlin, a little sand in the Vaseline of the cozy-loving tea and crumpet mysteries of the late 1980s, both on paper and in real life, injecting a little Stonesy swagger into mystery game.

Like, you can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need.

Not that the streets of London Town hadn’t turned mean before, mind you. Timlin himself has admitted how much of an influence P.B. Yuill’s series of novels (and subsequent TV series) featuring London private eye James Hazell (and Robert B. Parker’s Spenser, out of Boston) inspired him. But Timlin’s Sharman was a whole new thing.

Sure, when we first meet him, in A Good Year for the Roses (1988), Sharman seemed like yet another down-and-out ex-cop. Refreshingly, though, he was no fallen angel. He was a bad boy, bent as a corkscrew, with a moral compass in desperate need of frequent tune-ups, and the bastard didn’t just have a standard-issue booze problem— he doubled down with booze AND dope. Not surprisingly, it all finally caught up with him. He was an ex-cop—and an ex-husband–for a reason.

Not that his personal life had ever been a bed of roses, either. Poor Nick seemed addicted to troublesome women, including his ex Laura, his eleven-year old daughter Judith, his topless model girlfriend Fiona, and his best pal Wanda, who’s dying.

The books are unrepentantly and unapologetically hard-boiled, and Sharman, horror of horrors, tended to speak his mind. He was stubborn and abrasive, keen on cutting corners and not always reliable. Nor did he have many friends left on the police force. Big surprise there.

But he got the job done. And he was tenacious and loyal to his clients and friends, even if his version of getting the job done often involved a lot of hands-on work.

A rather bleak and sometimes violent series, more Spillane than Chandler at times, but it seemed—at least to me—like Sharman was a signal that there was more than tea-slurping DIs and plucky spinsters coming out of the UK crime scene, and that he was some kind of poster child for a new, tougher  wave of British hard-boiled writing.

And the books kept coming. Neither Timlin or Sharman would go away. Soon enough, there was even a series of made-for-TV movies, starring up-and-coming actor Clive Owens, as nice a piece of casting as you can imagine. Naturally things were toned down for television, but it remains eminently watchable and enjoyably crunchy.

Of course, not everyone was in love with Nick. Timlin bounced from publisher to publisher, and the TV films, although popular enough, were deemed “a national disgrace” by The Daily Mail in the wake of the Dunblain mass shooting, and yanked for being too violent.

They thought the TV show was too violent? They oughtta have read the books.

Mind you, Timlin shrugged it off. “As long as the cheque clears,” he remarked. And the books kept coming.

I dunno. At the time, I felt like it was just the right stuff—exactly what I was looking for—I loved those books. And even after the TV show, Timlin continued the series, eventually ringing in at seventeen novels and a couple of short story collections, following Sharman through one hell of a life, through thick and thin (marriage, divorce, bank robbery, assorted girlfriends, hookers, strippers, one-night stands, drugs, shoot outs, bar fights, gangsters, car crashes, hospitalizations, health scares, beatings, an exile on a Caribbean island, etc.), and little Judith eventually growing up to become a police officer herself.

Virtually unknown on this side of the pond, but definately worth investigating.



Besides American pulp fiction, author Timlin seems to have a thing for rock’n’roll and pop music, naming various novels and short stories after the songs of such diverse artists as Tom Waits, Steve Forbert, George Jones, Duke Ellington, The Stones and Bob Seger. But he comes across it naturally—in a former life, he was a roadie for rock groups such as T-Rex and The Who. He’s also the author of 101 Best TV Crime Series: Bad Guys, Spies & Private Eyes (2011), a great non-fiction that romps and stomps through some of his favourite TV shows. Not “the best,” but his favourites. Got it?


  • “The king of the Britis
    — The London Times
  • The Mysterious Mark Timlin
    Our pal Ali Karim drops in on the “Hard Man of Crime-fiction,” for coffee and cake. (2014, Shots)



  • “Too Late Blues” (1991, New Crimes 3)
  • “Ai Ni Corrida” (1992, Constable New Crimes 1)
    Not a Sharman story, but became part of the first novel)
  • “Night Moves” (1993, The Time Out Book of London Short Stories)
  • “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” (1993, Constable New Crimes 2)
  • “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” (1994, London Noir)
  • “Victoria” (1994, Royal Crimes)
  • “Midnight at the Lost and Found” (1994, Crime Yellow: Gollancz New Crimes 1)
  • “Don’t Fear the Reaper” (November 1995, Arena)
  • “By Hendon Central Station I Sat Down and Wept” (1995, No Alibi)
  • “Reap the Whirlwind” (2019, Reap the Whirlwind and Other Stories)
  • “Because the Night” (2019, Reap the Whirlwind and Other Stories)
  • “Murder at the Vicarage” (2019, Reap the Whirlwind and Other Stories)
  • “Bag’s Groove” (2019, Reap the Whirlwind and Other Stories)
  • “Uptown Top Rankin'” (2019, Reap the Whirlwind and Other Stories)
  • “On a Ragga Tip” (2019, Reap the Whirlwind and Other Stories)



    (April 5, 1995)
    90 minutes
    Premiere: April 5, 1995
    Based on the novel by Mark Timlin
    Adapted by Tony Hoare
    Director: Suri Krishnamma
    Starring Clive Owen as NICK SHARMAN
    Also starring Bill Paterson, Rowena King, John Salthouse, Matthew Marsh, Roberta Taylor, Miranda Foster, Isabella Marsh, Sarah Carpenter, Ranjit Krishnamma, G. Brennan Fox
    (1996, ITV)
    Four 90-minute episodes
    Series debut: November 4, 1996
    Writers: Tony Hoare, Guy Jenkin, Paul Abbott, Dusty Hughes
    Directors: Suri Krishnamma, Robert Bierman, Matthew Evans
    Starring Clive Owen as NICK SHARMAN
    Guest stars: Bill Paterson, Rowena King, Roberta Taylor, John Salthouse, Samantha Janus, Gina Bellman, Keith Allen, Julie Graham, Ray Winstone, Aide Allen, Colette Brown, Hugo Spere

    • “Take the A-Train” (November 4, 1996)
    • “Hearts of Stone” (1996)
    • “A Good Year For the Roses” (1996)
    • “Untitled” (1996)


  • Sharman
    Nicholas David’s Sharman website. Still going…


  • June 22, 2023
    The Bottom Line: South London ex-copper turned P.I. isn’t rough around the edges—he’s rough all the way through. Even inspired some top notch TV flicks, starring some young nipper called Clive Owens. Let it bleed.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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