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Story last updated: 04 Mar 2004 1554 GMT Printable version of this page
Cold Feet writer turns hot novelist
The book's cover  

The novel, Starter for Ten, is a dark romantic comedy set loosely in our fine city.

It was written by University of Bristol undergraduate David Nicholls, and has just been bought for the movies by Tom Hanks' production company.

A first novel by the TV writer

David Nicholls started life in Bristol as a Drama and English student in the 1980s.

Years on, after a stint as a BBC scripts editor, he created 'I Saw You' a three-piece drama based in Bristol and inspired by an ads column in Venue magazine.

He also wrote for the hit TV show 'Cold Feet', for which he received a BAFTA nomination.

"I tried to be an actor in my 20s, and even went to drama school in New York for 18 months, he told BBC Radio Bristol.

"When I didn't have much success in that, I started writing scripts, mainly for TV.

David Nicholls
Nicholls studied in Bristol

"The ideas in the book fitted the novel format better. It was nerve-wracking writing a first novel, but I enjoyed it"

Arena Magazine named Starter for Ten as "Book of the Year", and it has been nominated for a WH Smith People's Award.

19-year-old Brian Jackson, a working class quiz show fanatic, arrives in the city in 1985 with his Kate Bush albums, CND badge and a dream of being on 'University Challenge' - one of Nicholls' own (unfulfilled) ambitions.

Picked for the team, he sets his sights on teammate, Alice - and the quiz show trophy.

Want to win a free copy of the book? Then read on.

"Brian has amazing general knowledge - which I researched with an encyclopedia and by watching the show, said Nicholls.

"People ask if he is me. He does and says some terrible things, so I'd like to think I was never that bad.

"The novel is about the culture shock of a somewhat geeky, working class kid at a university surrounded by posh people.

"Bristol University has a reputation - rightly or wrongly - for being an upper class, very prestigious institution and I thought it was a good starting point for a comedy.

"But I hope the book has universal appeal."

Passion and integrity

Nicholls is best known for his work on the third series of the hit drama 'Cold Feet': "I had a fantastic time on this. The characters were all in place and there was a great cast: you could hear their voices in your head as you wrote."

He has also worked on 'Simpatico', an adaptation of a Sam Shepherd play starring Sharon Stone and Jeff Bridges.

And he created 'I Saw You', written for Fay Ripley and set in Bristol, which he describes as "... a beautiful, rich and varied city, that has not been fully exploited."

"I Saw You is a Venue column where you can leave messages for people you have seen, but for whom you don't have a telephone number: a good start for a romantic comedy, which was well directed and made Bristol look great."

But his first impressions of the city will always be his university days. Perhaps an inspiration for the novel?

"In that period of life you are so full of passion, integrity and enthusiasm, but without the wisdom of an adult.

"All my best friends now are from that time. Everything is bigger, more dramatic - including friendship and love - and the experience stays with you.

"When I look back, it is with nostalgia and embarrassment."

To enter the competition to win a free copy of Starter for Ten, simply answer this question correctly.

What did Nicholls study at university?

This competition has now closed and the winner will be notified by post. The correct answer is Drama and English.

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