Friday, June 25, 2021

In Dark Water By Lynne McEwan

One of the delights of being an established author is being given books to read by publishers to give a wee blurb or a comment for the back. Come to think of it, sometimes it's not so much of a delight as a trial.  A bit like doing homework; you know it's good for you, but you'd rather be eating cake.

But sometimes a total gem pops through the letterbox ( or into the inbox) and you start reading and can't stop because it's just so good. Obviously, the initial reaction is,  "I can do without this competition"  and then  you appreciate what has gone into this book.

And there was a rather spooky thing with this book- it found its way to me the same day that my own book. Dark Water, was republished. So the signs were good that this was going to be a rather excellent read.


I wasn't disappointed. It's a fantastic, realistic police proceedural  with a whole other layer of life  in  an area of Scotland that's often ignored. My own recollections of childhood holidays in that part of the world are  my dad warning me about the quicksand, and the injury I sustained when I was nibbled by a salmon.

But enough of that. Here's the author Lynne McEwan, who  is a very interesting subject herself!

Lynne McEwan

A beautiful part of the world.

How does it feel to be a published author?

It feels amazing! It’s not quite sunk in yet and I’m looking forward to seeing the book in the wild at bookshops and maybe even being read by a stranger in a café.


                                  Lynne's own pictures - she was a photo journalist before she turned to crime

What was your road to publication?

Like many writers it has taken time. I always loved books but I only started writing crime fiction with serious intent after I finished an Open University English and Creative Writing degree eight years ago. I was lucky that the first book I completed was long-listed for the Yeovil Prize, a competition for unpublished authors, and from this I got my wonderful agent Anne Williams at KHLA. IN DARK WATER is my second completed novel which I began while waiting to start the MA(Crime Fiction) at University of East Anglia in Norwich. I was thrilled that editor Louis Cullen at Canelo Crime saw the potential in it.


                                                     Stunning, both the scenery and the photograph

Can you give us a wee intro to Shona?

DI Shona Oliver has just moved back to Scotland from the City of London police to provide a fresh start for herself and her husband Rob and daughter Becca. She’s nicknamed ‘Wee Shona’ by her team, but they’d never dare say it to her face. She grew up in a rough area of Glasgow without either parent. She’s tough, compassionate and holds herself and everyone around her to high standards.


                                                   Lynne has written Shona with a very interesting domestic life.                                                 If I had Shona's husband, he'd be tied to one of these rocks                                                                                                and left for the tide to come in, CR

Most of the MIE readers are dotted around the world, can you tell them about the setting of the novel, and why you set it there.

IN DARK WATER is set on the beautiful but deadly Solway Firth which is the border between Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland and Cumbria in England. It has large, unmapped areas of quicksand and it’s said locally that the tide comes in ‘faster than a horse can gallop.’


                                                         Stunning. Just Stunning. I believe that round this area is                                                     a place of zero light pollution so imagine lying here and staring at the                                                     stars.

The area is dubbed ‘The Scottish Riviera’ as it has great wealth but there’s also real poverty too with some of the highest addict death rates in Scotland. It’s a place of contrasts, rural and urban, that also sits on the border with Northern England and has a major road running through it so as well as homegrown crimes I can import others too. I also loved the idea of two detectives from slightly different legal systems working together.


                                                                Lynne's photograph

The movement of the sea plays a large part in the book, and the detective’s ‘other job’,   both really feed into the narrative. As someone who gets seasick in a swimming pool,  I have to ask what research you did for those scenes?

I’m an armchair sailor these days but twenty years ago was part of an amateur 10m yacht racing crew on the Bristol Channel and did sit my day skippers certificate so I do draw on those experiences. There was a female member on the local lifeboat crew which was very unusual at the time. I’m fascinated by people who run towards danger, who risk their lives for others. I never got to ask what motivated her personally but she definitely influenced Shona. What inspires some people to help others is a question I’m exploring in these stores.


                                                            Again Lynne doing her stuff.

Also, when I worked as a newspaper photographer I flew several times with the RAF search and rescue helicopter from Anglesey in North Wales and that involved real rescues, some of which, unfortunately, were fatalities. I spoke to my local RNLI crew at Cleethorpes and watched them on exercises. They were really helpful and thankfully stopped me making a terrible literary mistake of putting diesel in petrol D-Class lifeboat engine!

Your other life is very interesting and, I suspect, it plays into the way you write; beautifully drawn descriptions. a real sense of location with scent and scenery. Are you aware of  that; was  it something you worked at or does it come very naturally to you to ‘look’ at things in  certain way.

Thank you! I think because I’m a professional photographer and worked in photo journalism for 25 years it has an influence on how I write. You’re always looking to create a narrative with images, find the beginning, middle and end of any set of pictures. Mood, and how you convey it, is important too visually. I do picture scenes and characters as I write them and consciously try to expand them out with other sensations of smell, sound, taste or touch. I want the setting of the Solway to be almost a character in itself. Facing the Atlantic ocean, the conditions change very fast and it can be beautiful and terrifying, often at the same time.


                                                   Lynne capturing  a moment at the Berlin Wall.                                                                                               How many stories are behind this picture?


What are you enjoying about the writing life? And what are the worst bits?

I’m just completing the dissertation for my MA, a novel, and talking to my fellow student writers always gives me a lift. I think crime writers in general are a supportive bunch. I love researching my books, just talking to people about their passions is so rewarding.

When the words are flowing it’s great but ‘killing your darlings’ - deleting those bits you really like but just know aren’t working – is always painful.

What’s next for Shona?

I’m currently working on the second book featuring DI Shona Oliver which will hopefully be out next year.


                                                                 One of her celebrity shots!


                                                     And a shot of somebody who will soon be a writing                                                                                                             celebrity!!

Caro Ramsay and Lynne McEwan


  1. WOW, two stars shining brightly together though their respective Dark Waters! What more could the fates possibly do to make this moment more magical. Hmm, perhaps a little Muddy Waters blues music in the background? By the way, Lynne, congratulation--I'm sold! Thanks for the intro, Caro.

  2. Thanks, Caro and (especially) Lynne. Read the first chapter on Amazon, and I'm hooked. Cuh-ching!