So, 2015 – looks like you’re on your last legs.
You’ve been a funny old year, my first as a full-time author. Whatever the hell that means.
It has been successful, although I’m far from achieving my goal of going into tax exile.
But this year’s Davie McCall was very well received overall. That made me happy.
I read some great books this year, which made choosing just one for the Daily Record’s Book Club Page on January 2 extremely difficult. I don’t think I read as much this year, judging by the number of titles by top authors on my To Be Read pile. So if your name doesn’t appear here, don’t take it personally – I’ve just not read it yet. So many books, so little time – and I don’t read fast. My lips get very tired.
I did read a few books that are not yet out – and let me tell you, you’re in for a treat next year and in 2017. I may also have worked on a thing or two myself.
Michael J. Malone’s ‘Beyond the Rage’ was an absolute belter, as was Neil Broadfoot’s ‘The Storm,’ which was so smooth you wouldn’t believe it was only his second novel. Their writing just gets better and better and if you haven’t caught up with them, then get those sandshoes on and pick up the pace. I’m expecting big things from them both next year.
Matt Bendoris brought his tabloid chirpiness and no-nonsense story-telling stunningly to the fore with ‘DM for Murder’ (shortlisted for the Scottish Crime Book of the Year. Contractual obligation to mention that fulfilled), while Graeme MacRae Burnet’s more literary ‘His Bloody Project’ was a stupendous achievement, an historical crime story where we know the culprit yet it still managed to surprise me!
I approached Graham Lironi’s ‘Oh Marina Girl’ with caution as, like Graeme’s book, it was literary. Being of a pulpy bent (although I believe there are pills I can take for that) I tend more towards the thick-ear school but this Rubik Cube of a novel was a delight.
All of the above were published by Contraband, a courageous Scottish imprint dedicated to bringing the best in crime writing to the shelves. (They’re bringing one of mine out next year. Yes, I’m crawling. No, I’m not ashamed of myself).
Speaking of literature, crime writer Benjamin Black is actually poet John Banville and this year I caught up with his Philip Marlowe turn ‘The Black Eyed Blonde’. OK, it wasn’t Marlowe in his prime but it was close enough.
After his sojourn in the Faroe Isles with the utterly fabulous ‘The Last Refuge’, Craig Robertson returned to the streets of Glasgow. His new one, ‘In Place of Death’, was a hugely satisfying mystery set around the world of urbexing, exploring urban sites usually closed off to the public. It was another in his Narey and Winter series, which if you’ve never read you should add to your list. You really feel the city tremble beneath your fingers in Robertson’s writing. Don’t tell him I said that, though.
I started reading Caro Ramsay’s Anderson and Costello thrillers this year. The first, ‘Absolution’, was a gripping read with a surprise ending. I like surprises. The rest of the series is on my list for future reading and I know I won’t be disappointed.
Theresa Talbot’s first novel, ‘Penance’, was very impressive. Funny and dark in equal measure, it took a real-life incident from the 1950s and weaved in a modern-day murder mystery. She’s a name to watch – and a voice to listen to if you’re driving, for she reads the traffic report on BBC Radio Scotland. So when you’re stuck in a traffic jam, you know who to blame.
This year I also read Peter May’s ‘Entry Island’ and ‘Runaway’. Loved them both. That man writes so well it’s sickening (something he shares with all the authors I mention here. Some of them have to go. I mean, seriously). He is a true craftsman.
Craig Russell’s ‘The Ghosts of Altona’ was also expertly delivered by a master. The prose was so evocative.
Val McDermid returned with ‘Splinter the Silence’, in which Tony Hill and Carol Jordan found themselves mired in the murky world of on-line trolling and the even murkier world of internal police politics. It did not disappoint the author’s myriad of fans.
Val also gave us a belter of a non-fiction piece in ‘Forensics’, a highly readable look into the nuts and bolts – and beasties and slime – of forensics. A must read for any would-be crime writers.
Meanwhile, Alex Gray took Lorimer away from the concrete and stone of Glasgow to the tranquillity of Mull with ‘Keep the Midnight Out’. Naturally, there was a murder or two – and fans lapped up the change of scene eagerly. The opening scene in particular was brilliantly descriptive.
Tony Black stepped away from urban noir a couple of years ago and this year he brought us his second Bob Valentine book. The Ayr-based cop with the tendency to see dead people (long before TV’s ‘River’) found himself dealing with a tragic family drama that took him across the water to Arran. The seaside setting makes for a refreshing alternative to the city-based cop thrillers we’re used to and ‘A Taste of Ashes’ was a fine read.
I also enjoyed my introduction to his Gus Durie novels, ‘Loss’. Terse, dark, brutal.
Nick Sweet took us even further afield – to Spain – for a ‘The Long Siesta’. There wasn’t much loafing about in the sun in this dark tale of murder and past crimes in the Seville sunlight. It was another fast-paced, no-nonsense read and we’ll hear more from this author, I’m certain.
Mason Cross gave us his second Carter Blake thriller in ‘The Samaritan.’ He writes American so well it’s hard to believe he’s not got mom’s apple pie running through his veins.
None of the above are listed in any order of preference. But which one did I choose for Shari Low’s column?
It was a tough decision, a REALLY tough decision, because all of these books deserved it for one reason or another.
In the end I decided on…
Sorry – you’ll need to buy the paper to find out.
Unless my contribution doesn’t make the cut.