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Crime author of the month interview with Gordon Johnston 



1. How did you get started writing?

I’ve always written really, starting at an early age. From short stories and essays at school, through articles and music reviews for magazines and the web, then my own blog and finally novels. I’ve never been able to draw, pant or make music so words have given me an outlet for my creative side.

 2. What drew you to write a crime novel?

I read a lot of crime fiction of various types and began to think about what I liked and what I didn’t. The characters that appealed to me and those that I couldn’t relate to. The lead detectives that seemed realistic and those that were harder to believe in.

Eventually I realised that there were two main archetypes: the Sherlock Homes, cold logical thinker and the tough maverick cop who breaks all the rules but always gets his man in the end.

I wanted to create a very different type of hero. DI Adam Ralston is a normal guy who tries to do a difficult job as well as he possibly can. He sort of fell into becoming a police officer and was surprised to find that he was good at it. He struggles to balance his work and his family life. He doesn’t always get it right. But he is empathetic, intelligent and wants to make his city a better place.

I was also drawn to the idea of examining how ordinary people react when placed in extraordinary situations. All of my novels have strong characters other than Ralston and their stories are key parts of each book. I hope these characters are easy to relate to and that they add a lot to the novels.

 3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?

I get something from pretty much every book I read – good or bad! I would say my most direct influences are Mark Billinhgam whose character development is superb, Linda Fairstein whose novels showcase New York City with a wonderful sense of place and Jeffrey Deaver who writes the most complex and twisted plots of them all.

There are so many others whom I love to read including Lee Child, Sara Paretsky, Karin Slaughter, Alex Kava and some great Scottish authors like Caro Ramsay, Denise Mina and Stuart McBride.

 4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest?

Yes, it took me several years to get published. I went through the usual process of sending sample chapters to agents and publishers and accumulated a lot of rejection letters. Self doubt eventually creeps in and you begin to wonder whether it will ever happen. But I kept going and finally secured a deal with Ringwood Publishing. I’m glad that my Glasgow novels are published by a local company, and they’ve been very good to me.

 5. There are many interesting characters in your Novels, do you have a particular favourite one?

Creating characters is probably my favourite part of writing. I try to write realistic and complex characters with good and bad sides (like we all have!), and not fall into the trap of having the heroes in the white hats and the villains in the black ones

As well as the obvious (DI Ralston) Frank Gallen from my first novel, Calling Cards, is a real favourite. He finds himself in the middle of a multiple murder investigation and plays a big role in working out the puzzle. He copes with a lot and he has his flaws, it’s fair to say, and he struggles to get through a very difficult time. Interestingly he’s the character that many readers seem to take to and I plan to bring him back in a future novel.

 6. What kind of research have you have to undertake for your Novels?

Pretty much all of the locations I use in my books are real, but they’re set in Glasgow so that makes the research fairly easy. I try to visit all of the key places and get a good feel for the area, although I do know a lot of them pretty well anyway.

There are many technical issues that come up around forensics when you write crime fiction, and I’ve had to do a lot of reading around things like DNA, stab wounds and blood spatter patterns. Anyone looking at a list of my Google searches would probably get very worried!

Cold Roses involves several police interviews with suspects and I got a lot of advice from a friend who is a criminal defence solicitor to make sure that everything is conducted as close to the way it would be in real life as possible.

 7. Are the characters in your books based on any real life?

No, they are all fictional. But it’s difficult not to have elements or character traits of people you’ve known influence their development. Some characters have bits and pieces from several different people as well as a lot that’s totally invented.

 8. What do you think makes your novels stand out from all the other Scottish Crime Fiction Novels out there?

I like to think that I blend together a fast pace, believable characters and intriguing plots, mix in a sense of the wonderful city that Glasgow is and garnish it all with a dash of psychological horror! I hope my books are both entertaining and make readers think.

 9. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa?

Can I plead the fifth here?? There are probably some elements of me in the mix, to be honest. Frank Gallen is a music loving writer who has alcohol issues in his past, his brother Thomas is a political activist and Neil McCulloch (from the next in the series) lives in Shawlands and is a middle manager in a large UK wide organisation. Some or all of those may relate to me too!

 10. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you have planned?

I’ve finished writing The Lion’s Den, which sees DI Ralston drawn into a series of murders arising from a brutal drugs war in the North of Glasgow. It also sees an IT manager trying to work out how his boss could be linked to the current drug gang ringleader, who is being challenged by an Eastern European gang. I’m now working on the fourth, as yet untitled, novel. This time Ralston hunts a serial killer preying on young women and operating in the East End of Glasgow. I’ve got a few nice plot twists running round my head at the moment …

 11. Out of all the Novels you have written do you have a favourite one that stands out to you?

Calling Cards was the first to be published, so will always be a favourite. But when I am immersed in the writing process the current one is always the one I like best.

 12. As an up and coming crime writer do you have words of advice you can share?

Keep writing. Keep practicing and trying new things out. Writing is a craft and so it requires practice and honing of the skills.

I would also recommend Writers’ Groups if you’re lucky enough to have one nearby. Writing can be a pretty lonely pursuit and it’s often difficult to get honest feedback on your work. Groups can offer support and encouragement as well as constructive criticism and sometimes new ideas or directions too. And the social element can be a lot of fun.


DI Adam Ralston is no stranger to the dark side of human nature, but when a young art gallery worker is discovered in her South Side flat, brutally raped, her throat slit, and a single red rose laid upon her corpse, he is thrown into a bloody maelstrom of violence and suspicion unlike anything he has known before. 

Haunted by the death of a prison officer on a previous case, Ralston must also battle his own personal demons and hold his family together as tries to track down the killer – a killer who leaves no clues, who grows bolder with each killing, and who seems to be able to strike at will. 

Time is running out. And the body count is rising.


An anonymous email leads West End Journalist Frank Gallen on a quest to unravel the links between a campaign against a housing development proposal in Kelvingrove Park; personal and political corruption at the highest level in Glasgow City Council; and the increasingly frenzied activities of a Glasgow serial killer. 
Gallen and DI Adam Ralston engage in a desperate chase to identify the serial killer from the clues he is sending them, in time to stop him from implementing the climax of his campaign of killing.”

Web sites:

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 Amazon Author Page

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