When she’s offered a job on the Isle of Bute as an assistant scriptwriter with Pelias Productions on the film A Man Alone, Alison Cameron seizes the opportunity for a change of career. It isn’t long before she has cause to regret her decision as a suspicious death and then an on-set accident throw the production into disarray. Someone wants to make sure the film isn’t successful. And what is the domineering Director,Sol,trying to hide?
Commissioned to write a new history of the about-to-be refurbished Rothesay Pavilion, Alison Cameron returns to the Isle of Bute. When an accident turns out to be murder and then a skeleton is uncovered during the renovations,past events cast a long shadow over the present. Who wants what happened long ago to remain hidden? And can Alison find out in time to prevent another murder?
This is the third book in the Isle of Bute cosy mystery series featuring Alison Cameron.
Something strange is going on at the Hereuse Nursing home on the Isle of Bute. One of the residents, Jessie McAdam, thinks her life is in danger. Alison Cameron, who is reluctantly arranging a college reunion on the island, agrees to find out what is causing her mother’s old friend, Jessie, such concern. Before long Alison finds herself involved in a series of mysterious deaths. Meanwhile Alison’s daughter, Deborah, has started a new job at the Regius Gallery, owned by an antiques dealer whose activities are suspicious. Can Alison find out what is happening before it’s too late?
When Alison Cameron’s friend Susie inherits a house on the island of Bute, Alison and her husband Simon agree to help while Susie is in America. But after several unexplained ‘accidents’ Alison realises someone is not happy Susie is the new owner of Ettrick House.
An archaeological dig near the house leads to an unexpected discovery and it appears Susie is not the only claimant to the property.
When the next ‘accident’ turns out to be murder, Alison knows she and Susie are in danger. Other people on the island have an interest in Ettrick House – and one of them is prepared to kill.
Other Books By Myra Duffy
From Mars to Earth
When Old Ghosts Meet – Alison Cameron Novel Not Set On The Isle of Bute
1. How did you get started writing
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I still have a copy of a ‘novel’ written when I was about nine years old called ‘Jewels in the Snow’. Even then I was drawn to mystery and crime. I wrote all through my teen years – short stories, poetry, plays – and was published invarious journals. When I was thirteen I won a writing competition organised by the ‘Sunday Mail’ and the prize was a dog – something that wouldn’t be allowed today!
2. What drew you to crime fiction
For me the main interest of crime fiction is the puzzle:who did it/ why did they do it? Much of my early reading was Enid Blyton, but I also read a lot of science fiction, especially Arthur C. Clarke,a genre that does have lots of ‘mystery’ elements. I prefer crime where there is not too much ‘blood and guts’ and especially like stories with a humorous undertone. Though it may seem strange to suggest these two elements can go together, real life is a mix of the serious and the not-so-serious and those who work in some of the most difficult professions often have a greatsense of humour.
3. Which crime writers past or present have influenced your style of writing
I like writers where the mystery is at the heart of the novel. In my teens I read my way through Agatha Christie but I read widely in all genres, not only crime and my favourite crime writers include Ruth Rendell, Margaret Yorke, Morag Joss, Sue Grafton, Linwood Barclay and in particular Simon Brett. I love his character Charles Paris and from time to time re-read this series for the pleasure of meeting the character again. In addition I find the writing style of someone who doesn’t write crime – Maeve Binchey – an inspiration in the way she connects so easily with the reader. I enjoy finding writers I haven’t read before – which is one of the reasons I like to follow blogs such as this one.
4. What was the inspiration behind the Isle of Bute Mystery Series
One evening we were walking along the sands at Ettrick Bay, one of the favourite beaches on the island, when I suddenly wondered what would happen if there was a large Victorian house on the hill above the bay. The Prologue ‘wrote’ itself in my head and the character of Alison Cameron, who had featured in my very first (non-Bute) novel, seemed the right person to deal with the mystery of the house. ‘The House at Ettrick Bay’ was very well received and it seemed natural to continue from there to write ‘Last Ferry to Bute’. Readers asked for more so I continued with the series – I’m not short of plot lines, thank goodness.
5. When you first starting writing did you find it hard to get a publisher interested
Although I wrote for many years, much of my writing was non-fiction. I had two series of non-fiction management books published before returning to fiction. I was very fortunate and found a publisher for these fairly easily. The discipline of working with an editor for both series was enormously helpful when I came to write ‘The House at Ettrick Bay.’ I still write both fiction and non-fiction: as a Gemini I enjoy the challenge of both.
6. Did you find the experience of writing your first novel an easy task or a quite daunting one
My first novel and my second are in the ‘sock drawer’ and I doubt if either will ever see the light of day. Writing is a great pleasure, editing is hard work! I try to write at least a thousand words a day. Until you have the words down there’s nothing to work with. But then I edit and re-edit and then edit some more before I send it out. I find it hard to let go and am always thinking of ways to improve the story. With all fiction you have to watch out for plot glitches, time or name confusion. But with crime you also have to establish motive, put in enough clues to make the ending believable and yet have a sufficient number of red herrings to keep the reader guessing. As I don’t write police procedurals I don’t have the problems of keeping up to date with the latest developments in forensics and the Rothesay police have been very helpful and very patient with my general questions. I’m always careful tosay any ‘errors’ are my own!
7. What drew you to set your books on the Isle of Bute
The Isle of Bute has been a favourite holiday destination for generations, particularly favoured by those who livein the West of Scotland. Some years ago we bought a tiny bolthole there and spend a lot of time on the island. The island is an ideal place to set a crime novel. It has a population of no more than 6000 people, except in the summer months when the holiday makers descend. This provides the benefit of a location that has strong associations for many people, not only in Scotland but for those of Scottish descent throughout the world. You won’t travel far before meeting someone who remembers going there on holiday as a child or whose granny or other relative lived there! The setting allows me to focus in on the characters and in a small place there are lots of opportunities for local gossip and intrigue to move the plot along. I must add that Bute isn’t the hotbed of crime my novels suggest. In fact there is very little crime and it is a beautiful place with lots of unspoiled beaches and excellent walking, including the West Island Way. A lot of money is being spent on upgrading facilities, including the Art Deco Rothesay Pavilion which featuresin ‘Last Dance at the Rothesay Pavilion’. 8. You also you Glasgow as a backdrop setting for your books, why did you decide on this
I know Glasgow well, having lived there for many yearsand like to use the city as a complete contrast to Bute. In addition, it was important to have a place where Alison could live but which was within easy reach of Bute.
9. What kind of research do you have to undertake for your books
I try to mix real and imaginary elements in the novels. Most of the places I use are real, but I add or subtract details and include additional settings for purposes of the plot. I do a lot of background reading for each novel and I do have help! For ‘The House at Ettrick Bay’ I sought advice from my son who is a forensic archaeologist and lives on Bute. I researched the world of antiques for ‘Last Ferry to Bute’ and the history of the Pavilion, especially during World War 2, for ‘Last Dance at the Rothesay Pavilion’. My current book due for publication this autumn -‘Endgame at Port Bannatyne’ – is about a film being made on the island and I had a lot of fun doing the research for that. As a writer you have to be careful to have sufficient detail to make the story realistic, but not to let your interest in the subject take over the novel. Nothing is worse in the kind of crime novel I write than pages of detail. Dickens could get away with it or Walter Scott, but these are different times! I do know a number of people living on the mainland, having read the books, decided to take a trip to the island so I have to make clear the scope of the ‘real’ Bute.
10. Are the characters in your books based on any real life people
Definitely not! I’m sure over the years I’ve ‘absorbed’ certain quirks of various people I’ve met, but I try to make it clear any resemblance is co-incidental.
11. Since you have started writing crime novels have any known authors given you any advice
I’m very fortunate to be a member of Erskine Writers and members there are both supportive and helpful. The well-known crime writer Alex Gray, who writes thevery popular Lorimer series, has given me some excellent advice based on her own extensive experience. And Chris Longmuir (winner of the Dundee prize), who writes crime novels set in Dundee, has been particularly helpful with my many queries. The genre encompasses so many different kinds of ‘crime’ it’s very useful to have a perspective different from my own.
12. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa
I hope I’m not quite as nosey as Alison is! And I think I’d stop at the first sign of trouble. She is, however, a very ordinary woman who finds herself involved in extraordinary events. Having said that, every writer draws on personal experience to some extent and one of the difficulties of using the first person narrative is that readers might confuse the writer with the character. But I like the immediacy of first person as a format.
13. What do you see for the future of Alison Cameron in your books
‘Endgame at Port Bannatyne’ is due for publication this autumn and I’ll be involved with that for a little while, but characters for the next Bute novel are already knocking at the door and I know this one will have a slightly spooky element. I may try to keep the charactersat bay for a little longer, but Alison will certainly feature. I have other, non-Bute novels in various stages of development and I would like to complete at least one of these soon and see how it’s received. However I’m delighted by the reader response to the Bute novels and I’m constantly being asked when the ‘next one’ will be available.
14. Out of all the books you have written featuring Alison Cameron and her family do you have a favourite one so far
Not really. I try to give each one a different focus and I’ve enjoyed writing all of them.
15. As a blossoming crime writer do you have words of advice you can share
I was advised early on to join a writers’ group and I have found being a member of Erskine Writers invaluable, not only for the advice and support I’ve received but also for the social aspect. Writing can be a lonely business and a difficult one and to have input from others who understand what it takes to write a full length novel is invaluable. I try to write a certain number of words each day. No matter how good your ideas, till they actually have shape and form there is little you can do with them. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, to discard anything which doesn’t work. For ‘Endgame at Port Banntayne I just shortened the original first three chapters and substituted a much shorter one. It’s painful to discard your work, but sometimes it has to be done. Most writers don’t have a choice – writing is something they have to do!
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