1. How did you get started writing
By starting work as a fresh-faced trainee in a newspaper office, leading to a later career as a crime reporter. “Learning about life and words, as well as deadlines, as a news reporter on a daily paper is a great preparation if you ever want to tackle a book”
2. What drew you to write a crime novel
My first book, The Law Killers, was commissioned by publishers Black and White and was a true crime account of some of Scotland’s most notorious murders, all of which occurred in Dundee.
3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing
I admire a number of journalists and authors, all of whom probably influence how I write. I’m currently enjoying another Lee Child book.
4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest
I was in the extremely happy position of knowing The Law Killers would be published since it had been commissioned and with an advance paid. That is a luxury most first-time authors never enjoy and I am deeply grateful to have found myself in that position.
5. The first crime novel you wrote was based on real life, do you prefer writing this kind of book to writing fiction books
Non-fiction and fiction are totally different writing experiences and both have their attractions. I found the former easier in some respects since it is really a form of journalism. But like in-depth newspaper articles, piecing together the facts contained in a true crime book involves considerable research and emphasis on accuracy. There is also a need to write fairly tightly. A crime novel is just the opposite. You make it up and stretch it out!
6. There are many interesting characters in your Novel, do you have a particular favourite one
Campbell McBride, the main character in Lawless, is obviously a bit of favourite because he is a news reporter with a Dundee background.
7. Why did you choose to set your novel in Dundee
Dundee was a natural setting because of how well I know the city. But it also seemed the right choice because of how enthusiastically its citizens responded to The Law Killers. It has also been home to some of the country’s most high-profile killings over the years and is currently the murder capital of Scotland on a per capita basis. In addition, it was a narrowly beaten finalist in the most recent UK City of Culture competition!
8. What was your first inspiration for Lawless
Lawless was inspired by a baffling discovery made while researching one of the murders featured in The Law Killers. While examining the newspaper report of the trial of the killer in Dundee’s Central Library, I found that someone had used a razor blade to very carefully remove the photograph of the female victim, plus a single sentence from the report detailing how only one high-heel shoe had been found beside her buried body. It made no sense and still doesn’t. But this chilling and disturbing find seemed to call out for its use in a crime novel. Black & White, who were keen for a follow-up to The Law Killers, agreed, a deal was signed and advance paid.Using the cut library file as the linchpin for the book, I developed the idea that the unknown person wasn’t so much removing something from the file as leaving something behind—a message. Lawless was the result.
9. What kind of research did you have to undertake for your Novel
The fictional Lawless did not require the kind of minute research of the factual Law Killers. The main ground work was a visit to Perth Prison and tour of a leading DNA laboratory, as well as some long chats with serving and retired detectives.
10. Are the characters in your book based on any real life
A couple of the characters are actually real people who kindly agreed to me featuring them in the book. Many of the locations, pubs and so on, are also the real thing. The thinking behind that was to try to carry the true crime readers of my first book with me into fiction. Some of the other characters lean heavily on folk I know. But most are a bit of a mix of assorted people I’ve come across. A few, thank God, bear no resemblance to anyone I know.
11. Since you have started writing have any well known authors given you any advice
No. I wish they had.
12. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa
I borrowed a bit of myself to create Campbell McBride, the main character in Lawless. Since he was a journalist who had written a true crime book, it would have been impossible not to have had some connections. I think my wife is still trying to work out where McBride begins and I end!
13. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you have planned
Wouldn’t want to commit myself on that…….situations pop up fairly frequently where you can see the basis for a novel……..
14. How did it feel when you found out that your novels were getting republished this year for new readers to enjoy
I was delighted at the interest in both books. The most recent edition of The Law Killers contains a significant number of new chapters compared to the original, as well as an updating of some of the earlier ones. I decided to water down some of the bad language in the hardback of Lawless when I knew the paperback was coming out. Not entirely sure why. Maybe because I was never entirely comfortable seeing some of it leap off the page at me.
15. As a known crime writer do you have words of advice you can share
The best advice to anyone contemplating a crime novel is to write about a serial killer. That way, if you’re running out of ideas you can just throw in another corpse! That’s especially true if you’ve been commissioned to write a certain number of words and taken the advance on that basis!
Journalist Campbell McBride’s first crime book, “The Law Town Killers”, is a success but now it’s attracting some unwanted attention. McBride’s going to have to return to what, when he wrote about it, seemed like a straightforward murder case – a woman strangled by her boyfriend. Otherwise, somebody he cares about might be at risk. Soon nothing is straightforward – not for McBride. Somebody is cutting up newspaper archives before he can examine them. Are they trying to stop his investigation or are they trying to tell him something? Whether he’s being led or obstructed, McBride starts to think that an innocent man is in jail for murder and that there might be something significant about the black tie that was used to throttle the victim. Does it somehow link the crime to the police force? Does it show that the murder was just one in a grisly series of young girls strangled? If McBride can’t figure out what exactly has prompted these seemingly senseless, malicious crimes, then another person is due to fall victim to the killer. And this time it might be McBride’s turn to suffer at the killer’s hands.
The Law Killers, True Crime From Dundee
Amazon Author Page