Friday, June 30, 2023

Four men on the window seat


"He dropped his trousers, slowly, shamefully to reveal the tea cosy of inspiration."

So, against all better judgement, I asked the four men  who are known collectively as Four Men In Search Of A Plot
 (or four blokes who haven't a clue) to attend an interogation on my window ledge.

It's a big window ledge.

I fired incisive, carefully constructed questions at them but they answered with the usual nonsense.

Mark was always first off the err.... mark.

Mr Mark Leggat (the inventor of the exploding nun)

What is your latest book? Why did you write it? And, is it any good?

M - PENITENT is my latest book, available in all good bookshops, and some crap ones too. Its been longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize, as has fellow author Douglas DouglasSkelton. Its the first time Ive been longlisted. I wrote the book as 'the big idea' I had about it wouldnt go away, which is a secret room in a flat. Why is there a secret room, and who is in it? But I cant tell you as its a secret, so I wrote the book instead. As to whether its any good, I think it can only be described as a seminal work in the canon of European literary history, and up there with The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories(A Surkiss, 2003) and How to Avoid Huge Ships(J.W. Trimmer, 1992).



                                   Mr Neil Broadfoot, likes to throw his characters off the top of Scottish landmarks.

N Ive just finished the edit on Unmarked Graves, my sixth (!) Connor Fraser book, which is out later this year. Honestly, I wrote it because Ive got a contract to deliver a book a year, so its lucky that I got the idea for this one, which started with the thought of dumping a body in Airthrey Loch on the Stirling University campus. When I realised I probably couldnt do this personally, with Skelton ( fellow Scottish author) as the victim, I fictionalised it, and came up with a web of political intrigue, violence and secrets dating back decades. Is it any good – not a question to ever ask a writer whos just finished an edit, Im way too close to it, but its got all the usual elements folk have come to expect from a Connor Fraser novel.


                                     Gordon Brown- his lovely, very intelligent wife is really good at literary trivia.

                                                             Him?  He disappeared to the bar!

G – No More Games is my latest book, and Ive just stopped working on the sequel to answer these questions – Im easily distracted. No More Gamesis set in 1974, on the south side of Glasgow – a time of power cuts, three-day weeks and inflation – not far off what we went through this winter. It stars a young lad called Ginger Bannerman who, with his friend Milky, falls foul of a local gang lord and has to grow up fast to save himself, his friend and his family. Think Stand By Meset in Glasgow. As to whether its any good or not – all I can say is that its the best reviewed book Ive ever written. Can't say much more than that.


                                                                Douglas Skelton. Behind bars...where he should be

D I have two latest books, because unlike these others slackers I graft. ‘A Thief’s Justice’ is the second in my historical mystery/thriller/adventure/spy novels (I do try to cover all the bases) featuring Jonas Flynt. I wrote it because it’s part of a series and you can’t have series if you don’t write the books. To be serious, I wanted to have Jonas investigate a murder. The first book, ‘An Honourable Thief’ had crime - did I mention it’s been longlisted for the McIlvanney Award? - but it was also an adventure. This one is a mystery with a possible miscarriage of justice at its heart. As for it being any good, I’m in no position to say (of course it is). Did I mention I’ve been longlisted for the McIlvanney Award?

The other, coming very soon, is ‘Children of the Mist’, the fifth Rebecca Connolly novel. It’s also part of a series, so see above as to why I wrote it. Again seriously, I wanted to set a Rebecca in the Kinloch Rannoch area of Perthshire because I love the place. But is it good? That’s up to the readers to decide, he said with humility beaming from his face. Can humility beam? I must ponder that.


Are there any exploding nuns in the book? If not, why not?

M  - There is an exploding nun, but it takes place just out of scene. When my main character, Hector Lawless, is standing on the Royal Mile, having just been caught by CCTV, there is a muffled thud to his right. This is the unfortunate demise of Sister Ophelia BomberCantaloupes, who had just clenched her pipe bomb between her teeth, which was already overstuffed with top grade shag, when a gentleman tried to light it for her. Her mission to bomb St Giles Cathedral and start a Holy War will have to be postponed until after the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, as itll look too much like all the other no good street acts.

N No, but there is an exploding university professor, if that helps? I wouldnt dream of using an exploding nun, thats Marks schtick and he does it very, very well. Now an exploding crime writer, that I could work with. Must tap Skelton again for some research….


G I think there is a woman in the street in my book, at one point, who may be an off-duty nun and passes wind violently – does that count? The thought raises a serious point – I promise its my only serious point. Memorable scenes – such as an exploding nun. I love memorable scenes in a book. Those Tarantino moments when the world around seems to vanish, when the characters lose themselves in the moment. Theres a scene in No More Games, while Ginger and Milky are lying on a garage roof, watching a baddy when the conversation turns to how easy, or hard it would be, to become an astronaut. Having not a clue as to whats required I just had fun imagining what kids think is involved, and vanished from the plot line for a few pages.

D I have no exploding nuns. I have no nuns in danger of imminent combustibility. In fact, I have no nuns. There’s nun of this and nun of that. After a conversation with Anna Mazzola and DV Bishop at last year’s Bloody Scotland, I realised that I am deficient in the number of clergy in my books because I find that when authors put nuns, or monks, they can’t stop. It becomes habit forming. I’ll get my cassock and leave now.

What do you favour as an instrument of mass destruction? – Avalanche? Monkeys?

M – Id start a TikTok craze where you can cook a sausage between your teeth in seconds by sticking a pair of scissors into an electrical socket. That should thin them out a bit.

N Badly played bagpipes. That skirling, off-key shriek is enough to drive anyone homicidal. Other than that, the current Tory government seems to have been quite an effective weapon of mass destruction if the COVID inquiry hearings are anything to go by.

G Id favour using the Hypno-Toad from Futurama. A world-wide broadcast with the toad hypnotising the planet, sending a simple message – ‘End It All. Of course Id be wearing a blindfold and ear defenders, and Ive had pre warned all my close friends and family in advance. That way we get to inherit the earth – and, of course, Id become supreme leader.

D I’d suggest forcing people to read Neil Broadfoot’s books but that would be far too cruel.


Do you wear a tea cozy of inspiration when you write? Do you have favourite writing socks? A favourite jumper? A truss?

M – Im a bit boring, really, nothing special, just the usual six foot tall tartan stovepipe hat, grass skirt, Victorian nipple tassels and screaming.

N Im too traumatised by Marks answer to provide my own. Im off to find a good therapist

G Comfortable. Thats the word I use. Whatever is comfortable. From naked to my favourite Pudsey costume – if I feel relaxed in it then that works. This can have its downsides. Writing in the buff, in a Pret-A- Manger in Canary Wharf is not recommended. I can vouch for this – Im currently asking the nice police officer if I can just have five more minutes to finish typing before he arrests me.

D I favour a vintage nautical blue peacoat (although I’ve yet to find the blue pea) with brass buttons, a pair of rough trousers (their foul language comes in handy while writing), Turkish slippers (they’re a delight), a cravat, pince nez and a long cigarette holder for long cigarettes. Occasionally I do wear the tea cosy of inspiration because I am its carer but mostly I don a Nepalese velvet smoking hat, although I’ve never seen it smoke any velvet yet.



If you were thinking of the top 5 of writers who would be number 2?  ( Im  number 1 obviously.)

M – Spike Milligan. His war memoirs are my desert island books.

N Craig Russell. A sublime writer and a good guy. He wrote a scene in a book called The Third Testament that is so immersive it gives the reader dementia for the duration of the scene. Powerful, terrifying and moving.

G Stephen King. I fall out of love with him every so often but unlike other writers, I always trip head over heels back into his arms. As Im known to say – read his book, On Writing, if you want to know how to write.


D Whilst taking issue that you would be number 1, I would have to plump for Ed McBain. There are probably better writers out there but he’s the one who influenced me the most.

So there you go. That's what us Scottish crime writers have to deal with, imagine putting  up with that on stage. Live.  No wonder we are so good at thinking about killing people.....

Part 2 next week! Bet you can wait. I suspect everybody who reads the blog will be too busy next Friday.


  1. Now I'm going to have to read all of these books to find out about all the exploding persons!

  2. I haven't time to leave a comment, as I'm late for my doctor's appointment to see if there's anything that can be done for the severance of the tendons connecting the ass-end of my brain to my funny-bone. Apparently, so-called-humor-induced mental whiplash is actually a thing. Who knew?

  3. When are the boys getting the show on the road again? I need to research that tea cosy for my own work.

  4. Now THAT'S what I call humor for a nasty Friday spent packing up the van after two months on one Greek island to move on to another...this time in search of nun sense.

    1. I knew Jeff would come along with a nunpun. Not disappointed. With all the sweaty, hard work, I'm glad you've finally figured out which island you're supposed to be on, nun the less.