FOR SUCH A LAIDBACK AND UNASSUMING man. Christopher Brookmyre has a lot of bile in his system. This could be due to his current place of residence (Aberdeen). the mixed fortunes of his underachieving footie team (St Mirren) or maybe just the world around him. Thankfully for us. he reserves his vitriol for his writing where he employs his drier-than-a- camel’s-pocket wit and scathingly satirical turns of phrase on those most deserving.
Initially lauded as a crime writer. Brookmyre has transcended the genre in his half dozen novels. writing pitch black comedy thrillers with a violent edge and a deeply cynical look at contemporary society.
His latest. Boiling A Frog, is the most Scottish of his books since his debut Quite L'g/v ()ne Morning. ‘I thought I‘d let the Scottish political scene fester for a few years before tackling it again.‘ he says. And now he is spoiled for choice when it comes to inspiration.
Brookmyre is keen to point out that the title of his latest opus is a metaphor. not a recipe. ’Frogs are
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brought out the bile in Brookmyre
poikilothermic.’ he explains. ‘They adapt automatically to changes in their environment and could in theory be put in a pan of water in which they could be boiled alive before realising they were in any danger.’
This metaphor applies to Jack Parlabane. one of Boiling A Frog's protagonists. who spends a proportion of the story in prison and is unknowingly being framed. Parlabane first cropped up in Brookmyre's debut and subsequently in Country Of The Blind and One Fine Day In The Middle ()f'l’lze Rig/21. Brookmyre tried to resist the temptation to bring the character back but the context made it all too enticing. ‘I started off with the intention that some of the book would be set in prison.’ he explains. ‘A friend of mine had been inside for a year and we had exchanged letters.
The stories he told me and the patter
was absolutely priceless: 1 had to use it. So I thought the best character to put in jail would be Parlabane. because he‘s a smart-arsed wee bastard. and I think a lot of people would like to see him taken down a peg or two. .\'ot least of all myself.‘
In his latest novel Scottish author CHRISTOPHER BROOKMYRE savages the Catholic Church, the Scottish Parliament and the prison service and still finds time for some pitCh black humour. Words: Mark Robertson
'A gay guy getting something shoved up his arse by another gay guy is disgusting but a heterosexual man gets something shoved up his arse by some young nymphet is just a bit kinky and accepted.’
Parlabane is a captivating leading man. a shrewd. seen-it-all-before investigative journalist who has a nose for a scam and a brass neck big enough to get him into all the wrong situations.
Behind Brookmyre‘s self-defacing demeanour resides an incredulity about the ‘establishment'. His objective is to show up the establishment for the shower of corrupt. contemptible shits he believes they are. This includes the Scottish Parliament and the prison service. but he saves much of his fervour for the Catholic Church. ‘The Scottish Parliament was a real chance for the Catholic Church to wield an inordinate amount of power. more than they ever had.‘ he states heatedly. ‘And in the process. giving an extremely unbalanced view of Scottish society. Obviously it was ripe for a sharp. intelligent analysis of the situation but. unfortunately. it was me so they had vibrators tip bums.‘
Brookmyre is referring to a moment in Boiling A Frog when a prominent New Labour MP gets a sex aid trapped in his rectum and some serious spin doctoring has to be administered involving a bimbo and a few porkies to save the day. ‘This wasn't about gay issues.‘ he says. ‘lt was to create a satire of New Labour in which they get a heterosexual to head their gay rights campaign and their heterosexual turns out to be a closet homosexual. A gay guy getting something shoved up his arse by another gay guy is disgusting but a heterosexual man gets something shoved up his arse by some young nymphet is just a bit kinky and accepted. The hypocrisy is astounding.’
Corruption. lies. violence. deception. vibrators. Brookmyre doesn't paint a very positive picture of our nation‘s governors. Perhaps because it's all too true. ‘I wanted to write about the parliament satirically.‘ he explains. ‘and I wanted to write about all the ways I could see the Scottish Parliament being abused. The one thing I didn't envisage was a millionaire bus tycoon getting involved.‘ But that‘s probably a whole other book.
Boiling A Frog is published by Little, Brown on Thu 14 Sep. priced £9.99.