Thomas Ford is the only survivor of the car crash which killed his wife. He is also the only witness who would be willing to identify the young, reckless driver who caused the crash. But the driver has no intention of ever letting himself be identified, not to mention what his father’s intentions are…or those of his girlfriend, Lorna, the hospital cleaner. The young driver’s father is Jack McCallum, the powerful entrepreneur who has built a housing empire, McCallum Homes, on the high hills surrounding the city. Jack has his own dark secret to protect, as well as his business edifice to hold onto. There is no way in the world that Jack McCallum will ever let anything threaten the future of McCallum Homes. Robert Ferguson, the passenger who was with the young driver on the day of the crash, curses himself for ever getting into the car. He watches carefully to see what the universe will do about it all, and he thinks he can hear the gears and chambers of the universe’s engine, rolling terribly towards them, out of the future, and he knows he can’t cope with that, not even if he takes his medication. In the end, destiny will pull them all far out of the city, some of them to the moonlit hillside, where white butterflies and mysterious gas fill the air, and wild cats wrap themselves around cold trees. Jack McCallum’s trusted Polish foreman, Lanski, will recognise the place from the folklore-wilderness of his own childhood, a place where death can come stalking in the form of a white wolf, but perhaps also redemption can appear, for those like Thomas Ford who seek it. In any case, the young driver has it in mind to take his destiny into his own hands now, which will soon lead to the life of a second young woman hanging in the balance, awaiting salvation or destruction, perhaps only the Fates, or the wind that blows through the trees, know which.
A lost, wandering and damaged man finds himself drafted back into the world he thought he had escaped, when the local branch of a powerful, international Agency needs a mysterious job done in the remote Highlands of Scotland.
The new companion who leads him out of disaffected early retirement is a seductive, young, novice female agent, but could there really be far more to her than there at first seems? They find themselves in a world of natural beauty, mountain and beach, which they will only contaminate with extraordinary rendition, abduction, bloodshed and torture.
The modern bureaucratic world of paperwork and subcontracting will mean that no-one actually knows which government or country is behind the operation, but one man will soon remember why he left Agency work like this and why he hates it so much, even though it may really be love that has dragged him back into it all. A dark, Scottish tale of conspiracy, espionage, murder and terrorism, with an existential edge, and the spirit of an ancient mountain looming at its centre.
ROCKS IN THE HEAD
1. How did you get started writing
I met someone in 1988 who had written a book on films. It had taken him three years to complete the book, while he was unemployed. I was present when he typed the last page of the book on an old manual typewriter. I think this gave me the idea that perhaps I could write something, too. Then, the next year, when I was trapped indoors for two weeks, contagious with chicken-pox, and had run out of things to do, it occurred to me to begin writing, starting with a journal.
2. What drew you to write a crime/ thriller novels
I didn’t know The Survival of Thomas Ford was a crime/thriller novel until after I’d completed it! I don’t think this is that abnormal. I heard Ian Rankin say in an interview that he was most influenced by Muriel Spark’s literary fiction, and that when he had his first crime novel published he did not think it was a crime novel. He said he kept going into the bookshop and moving his book out of the crime section and into the “literary” section, until finally he gave up and took on the crime mantle happily. Kurt Vonnegut wrote about a similar thing happening to him when he wrote his first novel and it was categorised as science fiction.
3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing
Knut Hamsun, Mikhail Bulgakov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Milan Kundera, Robert Pirsig, Franz Kafka, Kurt Vonnegut, Herman Hesse…
I’m also very influenced by film directors – Stanley Kubrick, Ingmar Bergman, Louis Malle, Werner Herzog…
4. What was the inspiration behind your novel The Survival of Thomas Ford
One day I was writing something else and, out of nowhere, the first sentences of The Survival of Thomas Ford came into my mind. I just kept writing until the first chapter was finished. I usually start a book like that, nothing planned, one day it just erupts out of the subconscious. In retrospect, I can see that the influences included some people I had known, and a remote hill location where I had lived once.
5. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest
I started writing in 1989, but I didn’t try to get a publisher until I’d been writing for nearly ten years. I did sell short stories to literary magazines, though, until around 2000. Then John Fowles and A L Kennedy chose a novel extract of mine for a paperback anthology published by the London publisher, Vintage. I had my first literary agent in 2000, too. I describe some of this in a blog here on Authors Electric:
In 2005, another well-known publisher, Picador, published a short story of mine in a paperback anthology that was sold all around the world, and included work by well-known authors like Fay Weldon, Muriel Spark, David Mitchell…
Then, in 2010, I signed a contract with my second literary agent, who approached the UK publishers with my novel, The Survival of Thomas Ford. I describe what happened with that here:
The short version is that my second literary agent could not find a publisher for The Survival of Thomas Ford (even though editors at publishing houses sent him emails saying how much they loved the book, and the film consultant who had discovered Slumdog Millionaire as an unpublished manuscript told my agent The Survival of Thomas Ford was the best book she had read in the last 4 years…)
So, in 2012, after all that, I decided to epublish my work on Amazon, which has resulted in 125000 downloads of my ebooks so far…and hundreds of reviews from readers on Amazon and Goodreads.
6. There are many interesting characters in your novels, do you have a particular favourite one
Well, Jimmy in The Survival of Thomas Ford has been described as a “brilliant creation”, but I wouldn’t want to meet him! He’s a favourite, though, in that he has always had a powerful effect on readers.
7. If you were given the chance to turn any of your characters into a series of Novels, who would you choose
I may do this at some point, with Jim Balkergan, and Lucy, from my new novel, Agency Woman.
8. Do you have a favourite place where you like to set you novels in
The Scottish Highlands. The Survival of Thomas Ford is set in Inverness/Drumnadrochit. Agency Woman is set in Inverness and north Sutherland – Achriesgill, Kinlochbervie, Oldshoremore.
9. What kind of research did you have to undertake for your books
In one way, none. In another way, a lifetime of listening, and observing the people and places around me. I suppose I’m trusting the subconscious to do the research.
10. Are the characters in your books based on any real life
No…but inevitably, physical and psychological traits of people we have met and known, get distilled, and blended, appearing later as “characters” in stories, some more recognisable than others.
11. Since you have started writing have any well known authors given you any advice
The Scottish novelist, Alan Warner, once passed on to me a response he himself had received, when he wrote to the novelist, J G Ballard – “Never trust another writer’s judgement of your work”
12. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa
Yes, sometimes, here and there. I don’t want to admit which characters though!
13. If you can, could you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you have planned
The next novel I release will be Starnegin’s Camp. It isn’t a crime thriller, though. It’s more of a historical fantasy novel, set about 2000 years ago in a new colony on the far side of the world. Then again, there is crime in there, and a mystery/thriller plot!
Eighteen young women are sent on a ship to the colony, all of them have been impregnated by a mad Emperor who wishes to spread his Divine Seed across the world. But by the time the ship reaches its destination, the colony’s leader, Starnegin, has other things on his mind, and is much more interested in his own plans than the Emperor’s plans…not that this helps the situation of any of the young, pregnant women on the ship…
And one man on the ship, dressed in black, his face always covered, stays apart from the rest. Who is he and what has he come for? (And that’s where the mystery/crime element comes in!)
14. You have been compared in your writing to some of the big names in Scottish Crime Fiction already, how does that make you feel
15. As a blossoming crime writer do you have words of advice you can share
Yes, write from the heart, the book you want to write.
Amazon Author Page