Today I’m handing over the controls of the CTG blog to crime writer Douglas Skelton. To mark the publication of DEVIL’S KNOCK – the third book in his Glasgow-based crime series – I asked Douglas to tell us about what attracted him to writing crime fiction …
The memories come in fragments…
I’m maybe 7 or 8, sitting on the floor of our flat in Springburn in Glasgow, writing. It’s a story called ‘Who Killed Cock Robin?’ – hey, I was a kid, cut me some slack – and it dealt with the murder of a TV personality. And no, I can’t remember whodunit…
I’m about 10 or 11, living in what was then the new town of Cumbernauld, when I pick up ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ and read it. I don’t understood it all – it was a simpler age – but I finish it…
Two or three years later, I’m in another former new town, East Kilbride, and being sent to the library by my mother with the instruction, “Get me a murder story.” Naturally, I read a few…
Is that why I write crime?
Or, given my age when writing ‘Cock Robin, which I thought at the time was a book but was really a short story, was there something buried in the genes?
As a whippersnapper I also read westerns and a smattering of science fiction but soon I was sucked into the world of horror and the supernatural.
Now, though, apart from the occasional John Connolly or James Oswald, it’s straight-up crime all the way.
Although it was fiction I had my eye on, my introduction to publication was true crime. It seemed a natural progression from newspaper reporting although my approach was always as a storyteller rather than a journalist. That had its limits, of course, and I was always very much aware that I was dealing with real people with real feelings.
That was why, about halfway through my true crime period – which stretched to 11 books – I became more interested in historical cases.
Around this time I was also involved in investigation work for a couple of Glasgow solicitors. They were very thorough in their approach so this saw me not just taking statements from prosecution witnesses – what we call in Scotland a precognition – but also finding fresh witnesses and evidence.
I was, to all intents and purposes, a private eye, a gumshoe, a shamus. I even had a trench coat.
This introduced me to real crime and criminals in a way that my limited journalistic experience never had.
So when it came time to make the leap from crime fact to crime fiction, I suppose it was only natural that I’d put what I’d learned into my writing – and approach the genre from the point of view of the criminals.
My anti-hero, Davie McCall, is a tough guy. He’s a crook and he’s hard and he can look after himself. But he has a code – he doesn’t hurt women, children or animals. He tries to keep civilians – straight arrows – out of it.
In short, he’s an idealised version of the classic Glasgow hard man.
I gave him a tragic past and a vulnerability that only the reader can see because it was important to me that he be sympathetic.
And I surround him with a cast of characters who are good and bad and downright evil. Hopefully, though, even the worst of them has a touch of humanity.
I’m going for believability rather than absolute realism for these are thrillers. I’m telling tales not exposing the reality of Glasgow’s underworld. I want the reader to be thrilled, to laugh now and then, even cry, for I have a melancholy turn to my own nature and that comes out in the writing.
There are three in the series so far. The final one is due out next year.
Davie’s already been through hell.
I hope you’ll join his journey, see how it turns out.
Douglas Skelton is the author of BLOOD CITY, CROW BAIT, and DEVIL’S KNOCK, all published by Luath Press.
DEVIL’S KNOCK is out now. Here’s the blurb: “The brutal Jarvis clan clawed their way out of their council house by way of the veins and noses of the city’s drug users’ and gained notoriety throughout Glasgow for their violence and fierce family loyalty. Their power is uncontested but when “Scrapper” Jarvis stabs Dickie Himes to death outside a nightclub, all hell breaks loose and Davie is pulled back into the fray.”
To find out more about Douglas Skelton and his books hop on over to his website at www.douglasskelton.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter @DouglasSkelton1
To check out DEVIL’S KNOCK on Amazon click on the book cover below: