HIS day job is providing a bright future for hundreds of fresh-faced Tranent youngsters as a teacher at Sanderson's Wynd Primary School.

But away from the classroom, Nigel Bird has had murder, revenge and dog-fighting on his mind for the past year - writing a dark and gritty tale set in the seedy underbelly of Tranent.

His flights of fancy have earned Nigel, 46, a nomination an award from a top publishing magazine and an endorsement by two of Scotland's leading crime writers, Ian Rankin and Allan Guthrie.

Spinetingler Magazine has short-listed Nigel's Tranent-based novella, 'Smoke', published by Trestle Press, as one of 10 nominees for its 'Best Novella 2011' award. The piece is the first novella by Mr Bird, who has written a number of short stories, and has received high praise from Mr Rankin, who described Smoke as "grim but really good".

The tagline for the novella states: "People from Tranent aren't called 'the Belters' for nothing. It didn't take Carlo Salvino long to find that out the first time around and, now he's out of the hospital, he's all set for revenge. The Ramsay brothers, on the other hand, are keen to rise up in the world and get the hell out of town. They gather all their hopes in the one basket, 'The Scottish Open' dog-fighting tournament."

Nigel, a Support for Learning teacher at Sanderson's Wynd for the past seven years, told the Courier: "I'm a teacher in Tranent so I've spent a lot of time walking the streets of the town, getting to know it and the people who live there. It can be a hard place and it's the perfect setting for crime writing.

"Smoke started off as a novel but in the end it was cut back as it wasn't really working in that format. I've a number great mentors, including Allan Guthrie, who has given me a lot of advice and guidance.

"I didn't do any research for the story except to look into the 1797 Massacre of Tranent after being inspired by the statue (of Jackie Crookston, one of the people killed) in Civic Square."

Smoke is a spin-off from a short story by Nigel, also set in Tranent, entitled 'An Arm And A Leg', first published by 'Crimespree Magazine' and later in 'The Mammoth Best British Crime Stories 8' Another recent accomplishment by the married dad-of-three, who lives in Dunbar, is a tale which features in the 'Mammoth Best British Crime Stories 9', due for release on February 2. An online poll, ending on January 31, will decide the winner of the Spinetingler Magazine award.

Said Nigel: "I do hope that people in the county take the opportunity to read Smoke and vote for me if they like it. I'm delighted to be nominated as Spinetingle is an incredibly well-respected publication in crime-writing circles and it is the second time I have been nominated for an award from the magazine."

To vote for Nigel's novella, visit www.spinetinglermag.com/2012/01/16/2012-spinetigler-award-best-novella/ . It is available to buy via Amazon.