Ich Bin Kentishtowner: Oliver Harris, author

‘What did I do today? Led a seminar on creative writing, then went home and wondered if I really knew anything about it’

Eamonn McCabe
‘Aim high, then compromise, then move on quickly before anyone notices.’ Photo: Eamonn McCabe

Oliver Harris, 35, was born in north London, and took his A-levels at Camden School for Girls, before studying English Literature at UCL. His first novel, The Hollow Man (2011), introduced corrupt Hampstead detective Nick Belsey; its sequel, Deep Shelter (published March 20, Jonathan Cape) sees Belsey lured into a network of secret cold war tunnels under London. He currently teaches creative writing at London Met.

When were you happiest?
I was very happy after moving here – a corner of London I thought I knew, but which turned out to have a lot more to discover.

Where would you like to live?
Couldn’t beat where I am: top of Royal College Street, with an authentic pie & mash shop, and the best local in London, the Old Eagle.

What is your favourite sound or smell?
Smell is espresso at Fields Beneath. Sound? The old steam locomotives that occasionally chug over Camden Road bridge; an astonishing sound to hear.

What is your greatest life achievement?
Staying sane.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Always back up files.

What is your earliest memory round these parts?
Gigging at the Bull & Bush. We were supporting a yet-to-be-discovered Toploader, which gives you some idea of the glamour involved.

What makes you unhappy?
Bad writing.

Guilty pleasure: Shebeen
What simple thing would improve your quality of life?
A zip-wire down Royal College Street into the British Library.

What is your most unappealing habit?
Flossing in public.

What is your guilty pleasure?
Cocktails at Shebeen. Who could turn down a Leprechaun Zombie?

Where do you hang out?
Ladbrokes, Rio’s, Cash Converters. On quieter days: Doppio, Costa and the library.

Who or what do you hate and why?
People peddling the idea that the most vulnerable in society are responsible for its problems. An excellent political distraction.

What’s been your best experience in the area? Worst?
So many good Heath experiences: running, walking, lying down. Worst was probably not being able to silence the burglar alarm at 5am on the way to catch a flight to Cuba.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Increasingly errant hair growth.

What’s the worst thing anyone’s said to you?
Tell us a secret.

Tell us a secret.
I’m an open book.

What has your career taught you?
Aim high, then compromise, then move on quickly before anyone notices.

What is your favourite dish and why?
Anything eaten by the sea.

What did you do today?
Led a seminar on creative writing, then went home and wondered if I really knew anything about it.

Describe yourself as an animal.
Baby koala.

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