Country Of The Blind (Abacus £15.99).
'It's supposed to be a ride first and foremost,’ Christopher Brookmyre explains. ‘All the other things I manage to throw into the mix count for nothing if it doesn’t bring the reader along on a bit of a rollercoaster.’
The Glasgow-born, Inverness- based writer needn't worry. The book in question, Country Of The Blind is a veritable Alton Towers of a novel.
Set at the fag end of the last Tory Government, Brookmyre's second novel starts with the murder of a Dutch media mogul - think of a Rupert van der Murdoch and you're nearly there - with the killers apparently caught just after the act. However, it soon becomes clear that the alleged villains of the piece - a motley mix of four Scottish doleites - are the patsies in a conspiracy that stretches to the Grampian peaks of Scottish society.
When they go on the run, all that's standing between them and their own all-too-sudden demise is their lawyer and a hard-bitten journo last seen in Brookmyre’s debut novel Quite Ugly One Morning.
Country Of The Blind's switchback plot is by turns complex, convoluted and, at times, even daft - how many other books can claim having a Skids lyric as a vital plot point? It is no surprise to learn that the writer is partial to Hollywood action movies, but even when the story strays into the land of the far-fetched, it remains undeniably a page-turner, garnished with a savage wit and a vicious tongue. Mr Brookmyre will not be on the Tories' Christmas card list this coming festive
At only 27, Brookmyre would appear to be a writer in
Christopher Brookmyre: a writer in a hurry
a hurry. His first novel won a First Blood award as the
best crime debut last year and, even before Country Of The Blind appears in the shops, he has wrapped up a third novel, a story of ‘fundamental religion and millennial hysteria' in contemporary Los Angeles.
Now there is talk of action on the film front, with the possibility of adaptations and original screenplays. So what is making Chrissie run? The answer is suitably Scottish, if unusually bi-partisan: 'I always say I work so hard because I’ve got a Protestant work ethic and a
Catholic guilt complex, so if I'm not busy, I feel guilty.’
Wait Till I Tell You (Bloomsbury £14.99).
The short story at its finest can be a perfect distillation of a tiny emotion, one small event prised open and exposed in resplendent gleaming prose
Candia McWilliam: ‘I was fat. ugly and clever'
that evokes emotion in the reader. Such is the effect of Candia McWilliam’s debut short story collection Wait Til/l Tell You.
The Edinburgh-born writer who came to light with her novels A Case Of Knives and Guardian Prize winner Debatab/e Land has delved into her Scottish childhood for this collection of enigmatic but perfectly formed stories geographically divided into the sections North and South.
McWilliam has been domiciled in England for some years now. Would this explain the presence of the word 'homesickness' in a number of her stories?
'I don’t think it's so much a question of nationality,‘ she replies. 'For me homesickness is something indefinable. It can be a longing to fall in love, a feeling of being deprived. We are always seeking something, so it's just a loose term to cover that common feeling.’
She is quick to supplement this with a heartfelt personal response: 'I consider myself much happier when
I’m in Scotland. The verbal life is completely congenial; the jokes, the nuances of language.’
What also distinguishes McWilliam's collection is the role of child protagonists and her comprehension of their mindset. She reveals an ambivalent attitude towards cthhood.
'You can’t write about children in a sweet way — yet they are - because it would be false. Children are so complicated but we do not allow for that complication, we want them to be good and untouched.’
Her own experience of childhood was bittersweet. 'I never felt like a child when l was one. It always felt very odd because I was attuned to adults, I lived among them and I read adult books. But I was fat, ugly and clever. I used to imagine some honeymoon radiance that other children must be living the perfect life. I'm not sure if everyone does that or if it's just me.‘
She ponders that thought with a refined laugh. (Ann Donald)
The write stuff
Guy Kennaway's latest book One People is inspired by his time in Jamaica’s rural north coast and its rum shops.
NAME: Guy Charles Kennaway. AGE: 40. PREVIOUS JOBS: I've been a gravel- digger, not a gravedigger. I’ve made adverts for the telly - for my sins, I worked for the Saatchis in 1979 on the Tory Party adverts. I was only the coffee boy but I feel ashamed - it's awful what I did to the world, inadvertently. I also did theatre reviews for The List at the very beginning while I was at Edinburgh University.
ROUTE TO BECOMING A WRITER: My dad (James) is a writer and I just thought he had such a cool lifestyle - loads of chicks, travel, occasionally drop by to give the kids a kiss and then bomb off to America. Unfortunately, my life has been absolutely nothing like that at all, so it has all been a bit of a misunderstanding.
DAILY ROUTINE: This isn't a joke by the way. I get up, put off writing for about fourteen hours and at about midnight write, literally, one sentence then feel a huge wave of euphoria as though I've just completed Bleak House. Then have a few drinks and quit writing for the day. I can't tell if it doesn‘t come easy or if I'm pathologically lazy. I've tried writing two sentences a day but one of them would always be crap - so I’m strictly a one sentence a day man.
INFLUENCES: I used to be into Burroughs and Pynchon but then I suddenly realised that I was barking up the wrong tree and I've totally changed now. Somebody like Armistead Maupin or Elmore Leonard, who have really cracking narratives.
AMBI‘I’IONS: My ambition is to see a stranger in a train reading One People and seeing them laugh out loud. That would give me a lot of happiness.
INCOME: I got £3,000 for the book which took about five years to write, so that's £600 per annum from my writing - cigars and claret all the way. I supplement my income with my wife's income - she's just a lucky girl. (Brian Donaldson)
l One People by Guy Kennaway is