After racking up nearly 100 pre-orders in just three weeks, a Falmouth writer's debut novel hits the shelves today (Monday November 4).

Nicola K Smith's A Degree of Uncertainty tells the story of a community divided by a rapidly growing university set in the fictional town of Poltowan in West Cornwall, and is available now from Falmouth Bookseller.

"I'm delighted with the response from readers both locally and further afield,” said Nicola. “Orders have come in from all over Cornwall, various places around the UK, and even the US, Germany and New Zealand. I’ve also been asked to speak at several book groups, which is a real privilege.”

The story and its characters are purely fictional, but Nicola has drawn inspiration from living in Falmouth and watching the shift in dynamics as the University has grown. “As with many things in life, there are pros and cons, but its expansion has certainly changed the face of the town and divided opinion. It offers great dramatic potential.”

Nicola, who contributes to titles including The Times, Guardian, BBC, Coast and Cornwall Today, believes it is a book that will appeal to a wide range of people, particularly those who have visited Falmouth and have a passion for Cornwall. “I hope it will entertain and engage readers, and perhaps provoke further debate. But while the story is set against the backdrop of small town politics, it addresses various themes including love, friendship, ambition and betrayal, so I really hope there is something for everyone.”

Central to the plot of A Degree of Uncertainty is Dawn Goldberg, the ruthlessly ambitious Vice Chancellor of Poltowan University who wants to lift the cap on student numbers, increasing intake by a further three thousand students. She goes head-to-head with Harry Manchester, a businessman who vows to protect his beloved community and save the town from being overrun by too many students and mercenary landlords.

The reasons for Dawn Goldberg’s desperate attempts to expand student numbers start to reveal themselves as her back story emerges, while Harry Manchester’s cause is further complicated by his estranged wife, new girlfriend, and mounting pressure on his business.

Nicola says the book’s distinctive cover design has also drawn lots of comment. “I worked with Josie Staveley-Taylor, a Falmouth University illustration student who came second in the Adult Cover Fiction category in the Penguin Random House Student Design Award 2019. She is very talented and one to watch! It was lovely to work with her, particularly given the book’s subject matter.

“I really hope people of all ages, far and wide, will enjoy the book, and perhaps give it as a Christmas gift to friends and family who love Cornwall,” said Nicola. “If it continues to sell well there might even be a sequel — I’ll see what readers think!”

A Degree of Uncertainty can be ordered online at for £6.99 (plus p+p) or bought from the Falmouth Bookseller or Waterstones in Truro.