It’s been a long time…
But then, in mitigation, I’ve been busy. I started the year with my first graphic novel. It features John Constantine (of Vertigo Comics’ ‘Hellblazer’ fame… and Keanu Reeves film-version infamy). Tweaking, topping and tailing took longer than expected, but finally I’m happy with it. Currently it looks like the finished artefact will run to just over 200 pages. The artist is hard at work and has shown me roughs of the first 35 pages. So far, it looks great. I still don’t have a publication date though - it won’t be before the spring of next year.
Alongside the graphic novel, I was also working on ‘Doors Open’. This first saw light of day last year as a 15-part weekly serial for the New York Times. When Orion asked me if I could visualise it as a novel (all fifteen episodes ran to around 100 pages in total) I jumped at the chance. I’d enjoyed my time with the characters and felt I’d like to flesh them out, and also focus a little more on the detailed plotting of the heist. Yes, it’s a heist novel, set in Edinburgh. (Rebus gets a mention only in passing.) It was fun to write and I hope will prove fun to read. You may even see one or two of the main players again, somewhere down the line.
I’ve also been busy writing a novella for next spring’s Quick Reads promotion. It’s about a gravedigger who finds himself with an extra corpse to deal with, alongside a holdall full of cash. It’s still at the editing stage, but again has been a lot of fun so far. At the moment it’s called ‘A Cool Head’. I came up with the title after attending a Beach Boys concert in Edinburgh. They sang about keeping ‘a cool head and a warm heart’ and I started to wonder about a character who’s the opposite - hot-headed with a heart as cold as a gravestone. Sometimes that’s all it takes.
It was a memorable gig, by the way. I’ve also been to see Jackie Leven, the Australian Pink Floyd Show, Eric Bib, Bill Wyman, and Tom Waits. Missed Leonard Cohen at Edinburgh Castle (I was on holiday) and Neil Young (tickets were harder to find than a parking warden’s funny bone). Forthcoming gigs include John Renbourn and Bert Jansch (separately, alas).
The second album by St Jude’s Infirmary is finished and mixed, including guest vocals from Jack Vettriano and myself. Jack sounds like a Scottish Tom Waits, and I mean that as a distinct compliment. As far as I know, SJI are still on the hunt for a record deal, which is criminal… Finally (on the music front), I’ve written the press release for Mogwai’s next album, and have also been spending time doing an Open University course on Listening to Music. Dunno yet if I’ve passed or not.
My next writing project is a short story for a charity collection. After that, I’ll be on the road. My first tentative steps back into the touring life will be taken at the Edinburgh Book Festival. I’m doing two shows, plus chairing a session with Rick Wakeman. (Did you know that he played an early version of the Stylophone on David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’?) If my Book Festival shows are sold out, there’s still a chance to catch me at the West Port Festival (in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town). I’m due to talk at the Pooka Hall (if I can find it) at 3pm on August 16th. September will see me tour Denmark (specifically Aarhus on 1 and 2 September) and the UK with ‘Doors Open’ (my heist novel) and the paperback of ‘Exit Music’. Ah yes, there’s (as yet) no escaping the long shadow of DI John Rebus! The UK itinerary includes London, Oxford, Ely, Nottingham, Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow, and runs from the 15th till the 26th. Further details will be announced on the website, as and when.
I’m due to tour the USA (for ‘Exit Music’) between October 1st and 10th. Off the top of my head, I’m doing Seattle, Portland, Houston, Washington DC, Chicago, and Raleigh (N.C.) Again, I’ll try to post exact details nearer the time.
As soon as I get back to the UK, I’m acting as ‘guest curator’ at the Cheltenham Literary Festival. I’m negotiating sessions on art, music, sex, crime, and the year 1968 (forty years on, as it were).
So I need a break in November, right? Well, yes, but I’ll probably be starting work on another book instead. Just don’t ask me what kind of book. That sort of thinking is beyond me at the time of writing.
The first paperback copies of ‘Exit Music’ arrived this week, and it’s a fantastic edition, filled with notes for reading groups and (at last!) a map of Rebus’s city. I sat down and started reading the first page… and felt myself being pulled back into the story again. Does it really mean we’ve seen the last of Rebus? I’m still not convinced. There’s no way he’s going gentle into that dark retirement. And I still like to spend time with him. Maybe one day…
Back to ‘Doors Open’, which revolves around the theft of a famous painting by a nineteenth century Scottish artist called Monboddo. Don’t bother looking him up - he’s fictitious. So is the painting… for now. But there’s a fun idea in the pipeline - I plan to commission an artist to paint the portrait as described in ‘Doors Open’. We’ll then use the resultant piece of art as a competition prize. How funky is that?! (Mind you, there’s always the chance I’ll become obsessed with the painting, as happens to the hero of the novel, and won’t be able to part with it, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.)