Here we are again, then . . .
Publication day for Even Dogs in the Wild is here, and I’m thinking, Where did the year go?
The answer is pretty straightforward – I spent the first six months planning and writing the book. The good news is, I’m pleased with the result. As some of you will know, I took last year off, in that I didn’t write a new book. As a result, Even Dogs in the Wild came sprinting out of the traps. I had a real blast writing it, and to think it began with two ‘moments’ . . .
The first was a picture that came to my mind one night: Cafferty, standing in his living room, facing the window, while outside someone raises a handgun and aims it at him. I had no idea who this person might be, or why they’d be doing that, but I knew I had to do something with that image.
The second was a bar-room anecdote. You’ll be shocked to learn that I hear a fair number of these, but this one resonated more than most. It was the story of a suspected drug dealer in a village, who dies (of natural causes). There are rumours that a large stash of cash and drugs is buried somewhere in the nearby woods, which lead to a treasure hunt as interested parties pick up their shovels and start digging. I was reminded a little of Treasure Island, the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, and wondered if it would work in Edinburgh – there’s something people want, and they converge on the city to hunt it down.
Two moments. Two pictures. That was all I needed to get me started.
But this is also, I think, a book about loyalty and family, about the baggage some parents hand down to their children. And yes, of course it’s a novel about Rebus, and Siobhan Clarke and Cafferty and Malcolm Fox. I do hope you like it, if and when you get round to reading it . . . I’ll be on tour, of course: the UK, then Canada, then the UK again and Ireland.
Towards the end of January, I’ll switch operations to the US, by which time I’m hoping I might have heard another useful anecdote, or had another glimpse of an idea.
Over the next few days, I’m going to be writing a short story for the Christmas issue of New Statesman magazine. Now here’s the thing – I’d been toiling. I’d written a few short stories during my year off, but couldn’t think what to write about for the New Statesman. Then someone used a phrase in front of me. Just two words. And those two words got the cogs turning. A day or two later, I knew what the plot of the story would be. (I’m not going to let you in on the secret just yet – I want to write the story first!) But sometimes that’s all it takes: an open ear, a bit of patience and serendipity.
This isn’t meant to be a long newsletter – I’ll save some bits and pieces for the end-of-year round-up, where as usual I’ll discuss my Albums and Books of the Year.
I hope you get the chance to come and hear me talk about Even Dogs in the Wild at one of the events on my tour. If I’m coming nowhere near you, I can only apologise and hope the future brings us closer together.