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12 Books in 12 Months

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whisky

Smoke Heads and Pack Men

left: Alan Bissett, right: Doug Johnstone

I first came across Doug Johnstone and Alan Bissett when I worked in the library service.  I happened to start by reading second novels by both of them (The Ossians by Johnstone and The Incredible Adam Spark by Bissett), although this wasn’t deliberate and technically The Ossians was Johnstone’s first novel, it just came out second.

At the time I thought maybe I liked these books because I could relate to them; they were about things I recognized.  Johnstone’s book is about a band touring the edges of Scotland, which starts off in Edinburgh – I live in Edinburgh and all my flatmates are in bands.  Meanwhile Bissett’s is about a lad with learning difficulties living in small town Scotland – I grew up in small town Scotland worked for a while with kids who had learning difficulties.  Having read more of their stuff, though, I know I’d have enjoyed them even if they hadn’t happened to appeal so specifically to my experience.  This is because the quality of the writing is high, and because they are both doing something a bit different.

Rather than giving them an event each, the book festival decided to put the two men together last night to chat about their newest books, Smoke Heads (Johnstone) and Pack Men (Bissett).

Continue reading “Smoke Heads and Pack Men”

Western Tropes

Obviously you can’t write a piece of genre fiction without researching the genre.

Well, technically you can, but chances are it won’t work.  Sometimes it doesn’t work even when you do research the genre, as with my first novel, which was supposed to be a Mills and Boon romance parody but became something very different – even though I read ‘The Millionaire’s Inexperienced Love Slave‘, one where an American tourist falls for a Greek Tycoon, something about a Rake, a deeply disturbing one in which a grieving widow falls in love with her dead husband’s long lost twin brother… the list goes on.  My one regret is that I never got around to the charmingly alliterative ‘Mediterranean Billionaire’s Blackmail Bargain‘.  I say regret, but that’s not what I mean.

Anyway, this week I’ve been researching the Western genre by reading short stories from a rather amazing website called Rope and Wire.  This is essentially a bunch of Western enthusiasts enthusing, and as such some of the stories are quite fun, whilst one or two are kind of terrible.  I enjoyed ‘Mexico George and the Cabin at Rio Del Poncho‘ in the same sort of way as I enjoyed the Owen/Gwen dialogue up against a tree in the ‘Countrycide‘ episode of Torchwood – slightly open mouthed in disbelief and going ‘really?  You thought that would work?’

As I go along I’ve been compiling a list of elements to consider including and updating for Book 3.  Here are some of them.

– Area used to be home to an industry such as mining (in my book could be steelworks, or some other factory) but is now very poor
– Injuns (maybe mine could literally be a person from India – possibly owner of a local business or something)
– Shaggy eyebrows (well, those are timeless)
– Whisky, straight up (ditto)
– A weatherbeaten complexion (he likes gardening…)
– A mysterious stranger to blame ill fortune on – who ends up saving the day (not sure how to use this yet)
– A trusty steed (scooter?)
– A nemesis (slightly older teenage lead of the gang)
– Guns (air guns?)
– Mention of the war (the one mentioned in Westerns is obviously the American Civil War between north and south – Victor’s would have to be one that happened in the 1950s or later – could potentially be a ‘war’ as in industrial action rather than armed combat?)
– A beautiful woman with a tragic past
– People in need of help (someone to stand up to the kids who are terrorizing the street)

Any more for any more?

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