British Author (1975-)
Nick Laird was born at Dungannon in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland in 1975 but
was brought up in Cookstown where he attended the local comprehensive, Cookstown High
School. Both his parents were keen travellers who dragged him and his sister around the
globe, and Laird claims to have spent most of his childhood "sitting in a beanbag looking
through Dad's huge collection of National Geographics". When they were not travelling, his
parents both worked in insurance.
From Cookstown he made it to the University of Cambridge where he read English,
graduated with a first and won the Quiller-Couch Prize for creative writing (a £60 book
token). It was at university that he first met his future wife Zadie Smith when, as the
editor of the May Anthology of new writing, was the first person to publish her
work. Despite being "part of that whole Cambridge writing crowd" he then joined the City
law firm of Allen & Overy and spent the next six years working as a corporate lawyerin
while writing literary journalism and poetry on the side. Eventually tiring of his
"awful occupation" he arranged a seven-month sabbatical as a visiting fellow at Harvard
University in 2003 in order to give himself time to write.
In 2004 he became Mr Zadie Smith, won an Eric Gregory Trust Fund Award and quit his
job before Christmas. In January 2005 his first collection of poetry To A Fault
was published by Faber and having signed a book deal reported to have been worth
£100,000, and his first novel Utterly Monkey followed soon afterwards in May
under the imprint of Fourth Estate. To A Fault won the 2005 Jerwood Aldeburgh
First Collection Prize, the 2005 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, and the 2005
Ireland Chair for Poetry Award; while Utterly Monkey won the Betty Trask
Prize despite the Daily Telegraph's opinion that it was a "none-too-convincing crime
caper which spirals into silliness".
He and Zadie Smith are currently working together on a musical about Franz Kafka.