I'm delighted to welcome Douglas Skelton to my blog today. Douglas' latest book Open Wounds, the final Davie McCall thriller, is published by Luath Press.
From non-fiction to fiction
by Douglas Skelton
Before I became a best-selling crime fiction author, beloved by millions and an object of desire for women across the globe – not to mention an inveterate liar – I had another life.
I wrote non-fiction.
Specifically, I wrote true crime.
So, I hear you ask, how and why did you make the leap to fiction? At least, I hope you’re asking that. Otherwise I’m prattling to myself here.
I was, at one time, a journalist. I’m not ashamed of it. The closest I ever came to hacking was being subjected to a young woman’s Facetime conversation on a train. That was fascinating. She said she needed a break because she’s been working ‘so hard for so long’. She was about 12.
That led me to writing 11 true crime and criminal history books between 1992 and 2009. The first was ‘Blood on the Thistle’, which was later dramatized for the talking theatre, don’t you know. That was a curious experience.
The final one was ‘Glasgow’s Black Heart’, a history of the city’s underworld. That’s not been dramatized by anyone.
Once that mighty tome was complete, I realised I’d done almost everything in the genre I wanted. It was time for me to seek out new challenges.
Fiction beckoned like a wicked witch offering a rosy, red apple.
It took me four years to have my first novel accepted. That was ‘Blood City’, the first in the Davie McCall quartet. ‘Crow Bait’ and ‘Devil’s Knock’ swiftly followed.
The fourth and final one in the series, OPEN WOUNDS, is out now. I hope you buy it. So does my dog. She needs a new ball.
So, I hear you ask (humour me), did the true crime help inform the fiction?
Well, yes, to an extent. It gave me a grounding in certain procedures and crime in general. But for the Davie McCall books, another job came in darned handy.
I investigated crime for some Glasgow solicitors. I wasn’t exactly a private eye, the job description being precognition agent (precognition being a statement given to the defence ahead of a court case, but it is not admissible).
However, there wasn’t a mean street down which I didn’t walk, my coat collar turned up, my hat pulled low, my mind set on justice and a shot of bourbon. OK, it was bourbon creams, maybe a Jaffa Cake, but you get the gist.
I met a lot of people on both sides of the legal divide in the course of that work. I learned a few things. All of it came in handy when creating the twilight world of Davie McCall. It told me that often crime isn’t black and white, no matter how much you like James Cagney films. It taught me that humour was important. It taught me that criminals can be family-minded, love their mothers, their dogs. It taught me that violence can be swift and unforgiving.
Davie’s not a cop or a private eye or a reporter. He’s a criminal, a hard man, with his own set of values which he follows to the letter. Life has been tough for him. He’s lost people. He’s lost A LOT of people.
Now, in the final book of the series, he may well lose everything.
But as I said, my true crime/mean street walking past life only informs the books. My life as a reporter taught me never to let the facts get in the ay of a good story, so I’m going more for believability than factual accuracy. These are not documentary accounts of the underworld but thrillers designed to make you turn the page, to (hopefully, fingers and toes crossed) make you care about a man with a tragic past, battling his inner demons, a good man walking in a bad man’s skin.
If you’ve not read any of the books, I hope you will be drawn to them.
My dog also need a new collar.
About Douglas Skelton
Douglas Skelton is a Scottish crime writer who specialises in non-fiction and fiction from the darker side of our world. His non-fiction charts the true life exploits of murderers, criminals and cause celebres. His fiction focuses on the underbelly of Glasgow – Scotland’s biggest, industrial and working-class city; with a history of tobacco barons, Victorian elegance, manufacturing, gangs, culture and the Commonwealth Games.
Readers can find out more about Douglas on his website. Follow Douglas on Twitter - @DouglasSkelton1
By Douglas Skelton
Published by Luath Press (31 March 2016)
Davie McCall is tired. Tired of violence, tired of the Life. He's always managed to stay detached from the brutal nature of his line of work, but recently he has caught himself enjoying it. In the final instalment in the Davie McCall series old friends clash and long buried secrets are unearthed as McCall investigates a brutal five-year-old crime. Davie wants out, but the underbelly of Glasgow is all he has ever known. Will what he learns about his old ally Big Rab McClymont be enough to get him out of the Life? And could the mysterious woman who just moved in upstairs be just what he needs?