Interview with Alex Gray on Pitch Black
BooksfromScotland.com caught up with writer Alex Gray to discuss her latest crime novel, Pitch Black. Set in the world of 1st division Scottish football, there's murder and intrigue on the terraces and the board room...
Yes, I'm a football fan. Even feel weepy when Scotland fails to qualify for the world cup. (And don't talk to me about THAT game against Italy.) I'm Glasgow born and bred so having decided to show as many facets of my city as I could, ignoring footie would have been a bit daft, I think. Or is this only an excuse? (Ha ha!!)
It's easy to believe in Kelvin FC as a 1st division football team struggling to regain its Premier League status. How did you go about creating the team?
Well... remember fantasy football where you choose top flight players and put them all together? This was miles better as I got to make them all up. I used some match day programmes to remind myself of who was what behind the scenes as well as having my very own squad of players. (Leo Giannitrapanni was a dishy Sicilian who chatted me up on a plane journey so I used his name for one of my players since I don't know any other real Sicilian names.) Listening to the radio post match on a Saturday always helped to underline how folk felt about their teams struggling to regain an SPL place.
You portrayed HMI Cornton Vale, an often-criticised prison, in a very sympathetic light. How did you research Cornton Vale and the work of the staff there?
I asked the then governor of HMI Cornton Vale, Sue Brooks, for permission to visit & research the prison and she let me have a lot of time with the education officers (who do a brilliant job, incidentally) and the prison officers and inmates themselves so I could understand the whole process of an inmate arriving at Cornton Vale. I then gave creative writing classes to the girls and I've been back several times to give talks & readings, most recently on Good Friday when they heard the bits from the book about being in prison. They told me I'd got it spot on. Whew!
Why did you become a writer, and specifically a crime writer?
Someone put a pencil in my tiny hand and I started writing stories at a very tender age. Always had a "morbid curiosity" as my dear Ma put it and wanted to know the answers to difficult questions about why people do lousy things to one another. Dostoevsky's Crime & Punishment was amongst my early teenage reading and I became fond of crime fiction post University, enjoying the paciness of it and finding some brilliant writers among the genre like PD James. I have a vivid, over active imagination and coupled with the curiosity about people's behaviour, I think I was probably genetically destined to be a writer. (My primary 4 teacher thought so anyway.)
Is Glasgow really such a violent city? Do you think that crime writers help perpetuate the idea that "there's been a murder" is a regular occurrence?
Mm. I wish I could say that Glasgow is a lovely wee place where none of these dreadful things really happen, but I'd be lying. I took a course in forensic medical science at Glasgow Uni and the statistics do show a lot of knife crime in the city. We do have this dreadful drink/violence link that results in quite a few of our citizens ending up in the city mortuary. I'm not sure that crime writers are guilty of unfairly perpetuating this idea that "there's been a murder" - you just need to read the papers every day to see that this is a common occurrence. We make stuff up but real life is a heck of a lot more gruesome.
What other Scottish writers and books do you enjoy?
Ah, other Scottish writers I enjoy...first of all our wonderful poets: Henryson, Dunbar, Burns, Mackay Brown, MacCaig, John Burnside... then novelists like Niall Gunn, RLS... crime writers including Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, Alanna Knight, Denise Mina, Chris Brookmyre, Alexander McCall Smith, Lin Anderson... to mention only a few of my favourites.
What's next for DCI Lorimer - and for Alex Gray?
Glasgow Kiss is just finished and approved by my fab editor and will be out in 2009. I am about to write a different sort of DCI Lorimer thriller next and I'm very excited about it. This novel's been in my head for ages. It will have lots of psychological stuff and some pretty horrible murders, but is really an examination into the nature of evil.
- Add to BasketPitch Black - - Hardback
When Chief Inspector Lorimer returns from his holiday on the island of Mull, he feels a welcome sense of calm. But it doesn't last long. Kelvin FC's new midfielder is found brutally stabbed to death in his own home and, with his wife apprehended trying to leave the country, a seemingly straightforward new case begins.