…the marvel of the Guest Blog phenomenon rolls on apace… another Scots lad, no less, today adorns my blog with yet another demonstration of how richly talented and deep is the quill-scraper society… my good pal, Author, Frank Muir is here to make the hairs stand on the back of yer neck… as with most of we Heathens-From-North-Of-Hadrian’s-Wall, he is well able to speak for himself… here he is:
FRANK MUIR (Author, T.F.Muir)
I am often asked why, having been born and raised and now living once again in Glasgow, Scotland, I chose St. Andrews as the setting for my crime series, and I always give some version of the same answer – my wife, Anne, and I had driven up from Glasgow for a long weekend in St. Andrews, a place we visit more than any other, and on a cold winter’s night, with not a cloud in the sky, while walking back to our hotel after an evening in the pub, we turned into a side-street and I just stopped. Maybe I’d had too much to drink, or my mind was filled with thoughts of romance, but I was simply struck by the setting.
Behind us lay the castle ruins; to the left, the cathedral ruins; and ahead, this ancient street as narrow as a lane, with old stone buildings either side, eerily shadowed by moonlight. Call it a moment of epiphany if you like, but as I stood there, it hit me with a clarity that stunned me that this place – the auld grey toon of St. Andrews – would make a perfect setting for a crime series.
We entered the street, and I have to say that with thoughts of murder and mayhem churning through my mind, I clung closer to my wife, the pair of us keeping to the middle of the road. As we walked back, and my thoughts fermented, I came to see that St. Andrews had national recognition from Prince William attending the University, and also international recognition from the town being renowned as the home of golf. And with its sheer seaside cliffs, its stone harbour pier, black roiling seas and golden beaches, and of course that cold, wet, miserable Scottish weather blasting the town senseless most of the year, it seemed to me that here was a place just waiting to be written about.
Mind made up, and eager to begin writing, all I needed was the name of my detective, which came to me in the space of a couple of heartbeats – Andy Gilchrist. Where the name Gilchrist sprang from I had no idea, and the ease with which it popped up had me worried that I must know someone by that name. But I wracked my brain, probed my memory banks, talked to my wife about it, and came up with a blank. No, I knew no one by the name of Gilchrist, so Andy Gilchrist it was.
Now, all of this happened over thirteen years ago, when Prince William attended St. Andrews University (at one time I feared he might be King by the time my books were ever published), but it was only last year that I finally came to understand where the name Gilchrist had come from.
I visited my cousin, Tom, whom I had not seen since the death of my mother seventeen years ago, and as long-lost cousins tend to do we talked mostly about family. We both shared the same grandparents, and I mentioned that I planned to carry out a genealogical search on our family one day, although I knew I could never go back any further than our Grandpa John Rae on my mother’s side, because my mother told me her father had been adopted at birth. Tom, who had read my crime series, looked at his wife, Jane, for a long moment, then back at me, and said, ‘We thought you knew.’ I must have given him a blank look, for he then told me that John Rae had been Grandpa’s adopted name, but that he had been christened John Gilchrist. Well, I tell you. Hairs really do rise on the back of the neck, and electricity really does zap up and down spines. I was a perfect example of horripilation full bore – I still shiver when I recall that moment.
However, the realisation that somewhere deep in the darkest canyons of my subconscious had lain some genetic memory passed down to me through my Grandpa John, now raised another more perplexing, perhaps even worrying, thought.
Another question I am often asked is – where do you get the ideas for your gruesome scenes in your crime novels? I always give an answer along the lines of: I read a lot, and I read a lot of crime, so I write what I like to read, and ideas just come to me. And the psychology of the criminal mind fascinates me. What drives someone to kill? How do they feel in the act of murder? How can they then live with it? And in the end, I say that I just make it up, that it is all a figment of my imagination.
Up until that meeting with my cousin, I had always thought the answer was simply that. Now I wonder if my gift for writing believable scenes of violence and all things gruesome is not just imagination, but the faintest recollections of genetic memory passed down to me from long dead relatives.
If so, I must be descended from a frightening, murderous lot. So now I worry that my murder scenes are not just figments of my imagination, but are based on fact. I guess I will never know.
But it does make you wonder.
…thanks for coming aboard, that man…
Frank publishes under the author name T.F Muir, and his next novel – THE MEATING ROOM – number five in his DCI Andy Gilchrist series, is scheduled for publication on 18th September 2014 (something else is happening that day, but he can’t remember what). For more information on Frank and his books visit his website at www.frankmuir.com
Frank’s excellent ‘back list’ is here
Eye for an Eye
Hand for a Hand
Tooth for a Tooth
Life for a Life
…go on, enjoy a superb Scots writer’s WURKS…
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