Friday, September 2, 2016

Death in Dumfries

                                                     
My guest blogger today is Jackie Baldwin who is just about to launch her debut novel, published by Harper Collins no less. Jackie practiced as a solicitor in a rural town for twenty years specialising in family and criminal law. She then retrained as a hypnotherapist!

As well as being involved in her local crime writing group, she is a very supportive fan of Scottish crime writing, driving long distances from the wee bit at the bottom of Scotland up to the middle where all the action happens…. Well that is what I used to believe until I asked her what goes on down there in deepest Dumfries and promptly blagged her for a blog.

Dumfries is a lovely part of the world although blighted in my mind by the smell of burning carcasses. I was unfortunate enough to drive through there at the height of the Foot and Mouth epidemic and it's not an image easily forgotten. So here is Jackie, with her more rounded view of that part of the world...... And just to mention - there is a lot of buzz in bookworld about her debut novel!


                                                     
                                                                   Jackie Baldwin


So why set my crime novel in Dumfries?  This place is in my blood. Aside for a few years when I was off studying in Edinburgh, I have always lived in this area. It speaks to me in a way that no other area could.

Dumfries and Galloway is one of the largest and most remote areas in Scotland. It tiptoes right up the English border on one side and falls into the Irish Sea on the other. During the Troubles in Ireland the local Benedictine Convent School was evacuated a few times due to bomb threats. That same Convent, my former school, now abandoned, features in a scene in my novel and explains my preoccupation thematically with issues of guilt and redemption as well as why I chose a former Roman Catholic priest as my main character.

                                  

                                                     Drumlanrig Castle
                               by Lynne Kirton from source geography.org.uk.

The largest town in the area is Dumfries which is where the main police resources are concentrated. The modern facilities there now are a far cry from when I used to pitch up to the old Station as duty solicitor. Whilst Dumfries is large enough to have its share of city problems it is small enough to make it difficult to put a painful past behind you, which my character, DI Farrell discovers on his return. Sitting in court, at times someone I knew would appear in the dock. I would do my best to pretend I had never seen them.

There is also the scourge of drugs, addiction and poverty. When I came back to Dumfries as a young court solicitor, I was shocked at the extent to which drugs were ravaging the generation coming up behind me. I saw a lot of hollowed out souls with long lists of priors, the majority of which were linked to their need to obtain a fix. I was a frequent visitor to Dumfries Prison and, in fact, bought my wedding dress en route there one day. You can see why I don’t write romance.

Along from the green dome of Dumfries Sheriff Court at the junction of Buccleuch Street and Irish Street is where public hangings used to take place. The last man to be publicly hanged in Scotland, Robert Smith, was executed there in 1868. His death mask can be viewed in Dumfries Museum.

At the other end of the scale, there is incredible wealth as we have our own landed gentry including the Duke of Buccleuch whose seat is Drumlanrig Castle. In a plot that would rival the best crime fiction novel, there was a real life heist of da Vinci’s painting of Madonna of the Yardwinder from the Castle in 2003. Nobody was charged but it was recovered in 2007. Five men went on trial for conspiracy to extort £4.25 million for its safe return but all were acquitted.
                                
                             The site of hangings- hopefully long before the photographs.

Much of the area is undulating farm land. There are wild, beautiful forests, deserted beaches, and cliffs where the only sounds are the piercing tones of the oyster catchers and gulls. There are still smugglers caves along the coastline where the poet Robert Burns rode as a Customs and Excise man. Ruined castles and Abbeys abound. We also have our fair share of tiny uninhabited islands. In August 1960 a relief lighthouse keeper, Hugh Clark, was murdered on Little Ross Island. The other man on duty with him fled but was later convicted.
                                         
                                                 Little Ross Island. No idea if there is a Big Ross Island.....


Dumfries and Galloway is an area that offers up many contrasts. In so far as crime writing is concerned, it offers a wealth of places to hide the bodies and a diverse psychological landscape to explore.


The new book. It looks fab.


Jackie Baldwin, guesting for Caro  02 09 2016








16 comments:

  1. Welcome, Jackie, from another former convent school inmate and creator of priestly main characters. Congratulations on your debut!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Annamaria!I will look out for those.

      Delete
  2. You got to love the Scots' sense of hospitality. Who else would arrange for hangings to take place outside a deli?

    Congratulations, Jackie, and welcome to our MIE world!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, I don't like to thing what it would have been selling to eat back then...

      Delete
  3. Thanks for writing Jackie! Best wishes on the success of your book. You're a welcome fresh face and a breath of fresh air after listening to Caro prattling on and on every Friday, I've gone bald scratching my head trying to figure out what the heck she was trying to say in her twisted Glaswegian tongue. I'm hoping my sore ribs heal up before she returns with her usual fare.

    Feeling safe and secure, half a world away...

    ReplyDelete
  4. My Pleasure, Everett! You should hear me when I get going in the Dumfries dialect. My own husband looks at me like I'm an alien!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I didn't know guest bloggers were allowed to be nice to Everett. I thought that was against the rules. Stewards enquiry!

    ReplyDelete
  6. The rule is this: Guest bloggers are allowed to be nice to EvKa under the following conditions:
    If in his comments he refrains from hideous (read ALL) puns.
    And they are female, live outside the USA, and have published fiction.

    I propose an amendment to the bylaws to read, "Guest bloggers MUST vilify EvKa if he says the least negative thing in their presence about any regular MIE blogger other than Jeff." All those in favor say, "Aye."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I apologize. I thought I was living on the other side of the international date line and that it was Satireday and that I was responding to one of Jeff's columns. How I confused Caro for Jeff, I don't know, I plead momentary lack of self-preservation. Obviously, I should have known better, as Caro has (and hasn't) hair in all the proper places.

      Delete
  7. Aye! And I suppose we can excuse Jackie on the basis that she doesn't know him...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You’re a bit quick on hitting the “AYE” button Ms. Ramsay…I will remember that in Saturday’s post…

      Delete
  8. Welcome, Jackie! Now I must read your book and 'go' to Dumfries!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Cara! You will need wellies and a raincoat.

      Delete
  9. I plead automatism on the basis of excessive and unwitting consumption of cake which caused hyperglycaemia and unsoundness of mind.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I frankly don't know who I'm replying to any more. The barbs seem to be coming from all quarters...but it's time for me to return to Barb in my quarters and bid ye all goodnight,,,and a few other well chosen but not uttered words.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wait... what happened to Jeff "Give no quarter, not even a dime" Siger? (Wait... is that 'dime' or 'damn'? I'm so confused. Is it Satireday yet?

      Delete