Friday, July 10, 2020

Don't mention it!

At 11.59 on Tuesday night I will press send on the troublesome book. 


Like many authors, I have an ongoing internal debate about the COVID thing. Do we include it in the book? Do we ignore it completely? 

My good friend and I have delivery dates within the same week and we are both struggling  to bring the novel under control, so we decided to swap first raw drafts.

We were both in need of a good laugh.

He was concerned that his narrative had a time slip in it with alternating chapters that was only revealed at the end of the book. And that the entire thing was rubbish.

I was  worried that mine was not only complete rubbish, but also all about nothing. In a weird way nothing happens. It's more about the consequences of people thinking that something has happened and how social media can whip up a storm without any foundation at all.

His wasn't rubbish, I suspect another McIlvanney long list, or even the short list will be coming his way in 2021.  He was longlisted last year. Me the year before that. I am longlisted this year, He was longlisted two years ago.  We are taking it turn.


I like to think that the avalanche in The Red, Red Snow, a real Desmond Bagley type of ending, swung it for me!  The new book is set in the height of summer and even I will struggle to get an avalanche in this. 

One of my pet hates  is books written in a  time vacuum. Those books where the detective has been around for 27 years but is never any older,  although his children have grown up and left home. The dog  ends up being 32 but the detective hero has no grey hair and could challenge Usain Bolt in the 100m.

 My books tend to be set in a very particular time  frame. It's the one thing that pins the novel down is the day by day structure. So little did I know when I started writing that an incident on the 21st June 1978, to be reflected on the 21st June 2020, that the planet would be in one terrible mess by then.

I laid the first words for this book down in October 2019 when the pangolins and the bats were happily keeping their COVID to themselves. So it was written BV ( before virus ) but set at the time when lockdown is easing for its Scottish location.

One of the crimes involves the death of a medical  student of  Asian ethnicity at Glasgow University and it was that way before the BLM movement hit its stride, so to be authentic you have to reference it. 

A British celebrity committed suicide after, it is muted, unwelcome attention from social media about an up and coming court case.  And that is exactly what happens in the book, written weeks before it happened. 

Covid was useful in some ways as forensically what a gift it is for it to be 'normal' to wear a mask and gloves. 


An old man strikes up a very recent friendship with a young man, so how handy was it that the younger man offered to do the shopping for the older shielding man during lockdown and after twelve weeks of daily visits, of course some sort of friendship, however unlikely they were as a pairing, would strike up. 

Obviously as the (numerous ) rewrites have gone on – and there have been many things are tweaked to try and hit the right degree of lockdown for June 2020. I sent it off to my friend who pointed out that the detective gets rid of the two teenagers in his house by signing them up for a charity event in Malawi – they are now going to a log cabin in Tyndrum.  After being locked in the house for 12 weeks with three hormonal teenagers, I reckon my detective needs a break from  them.

My friend though had been talking to another author who was saying that it is not good to fix the book in such a precise time and although I accept their point of view, I’m not sure that I agree.

If it's set in 2020 and it says that in the narrative then I think  it has to be there, in the background. 

2020 which will go down in history as the year of the pandemic. 

For now, I have decided to leave it to my editor. It's not an integral part of the story just a nod here and there, but it will be interesting to see what my editor says.

And, I don't have time to rewrite it!

Caro Ramsay


  1. All best wishes for your book in a horrible, horrible year. It can only get better from here on out, right? Right? RIGHT???

  2. I just finished a standalone and sent it off to my "Beta-reader" accompanied by all the feelings of "it's rubbish." I actually began this book a half-dozen years ago, and the Covid lockdown gave me the chance to finish it. I, too, wondered what to do about including/excluding the pandemic. In my mind time is not relevant to my book, it could be before or after 2020, but if 2020 were the setting, I don't see how covid could be overlooked. I'm anxious to see how our colleagues handle that. It should be interesting. Kaldis #12 will undoubtedly have to wrestle with it.