Sid Smith (writer)
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Life and career
Smith was born in Preston, Lancashire, the son of a lorry driver. For seven years he worked in labouring jobs, including dustman, gravedigger and construction worker. Since then he has hitch-hiked 9,000 miles around the US, lived in Italy and Greece, acquired a pilot's licence for paragliders, and been married with full Shinto rites at a shrine in Southern Japan.
Smith came late to literary prominence. He had been a journalist for 17 years, including two years as a sub-editor on The Times, and was already in his 50s when his debut novel Something Like A House was published in 2001. The tale of a British deserter in China at the time of the Cultural Revolution, Something Like a House won critical praise and went on to win both the James Tait Black Award and the Whitbread First Novel Award. What was remarkable about the book was its meticulous evocation of time and place, especially since Smith had never been to China and had written the book entirely from his own research, conducted among other places in the British Library. Smith says that his only previous contact with China had been a "one-hour stopover at Hong Kong airport". He claims that "the only ticket you need is a library ticket". However, his novels portray the gritty details of manual labour, about which he may claim to be knowledgeable.
Smith's second novel, A House by the River (2003), was another adventure story set in China. His third, China Dreams (2007), has the theme of a Londoner who is obsessed with China but has never been there.
- Something Like a House, 2001
- A House by the River, 2003
- China Dreams, 2007
- Sid Smith's website: the complete free text of 'China Dreams', unpublished poetry and fiction, extracts from the novels
- Sid Smith - profile at Pan MacMillan
- Interview on BBC Radio: On writing novels about a place you haven’t been (from about 8mins in)
- BBC Radio interview: Why writing novels is boring (from 16mins 40sec in)