A packed house in Waterstones Glasgow tonight for the launch of Alex Gray’s The Stalker, her 16th Lorimer novel.
This was a special venue for Alex, not least because the opening scene in the book is set in Waterstones in Sauchiehall Street. Alex’s publisher, Lucy Dauman from Little, Brown, paid tribute to Alex’s work and especially her ability to bring places vividly to life.
Interviewed by Jenny Brown, Alex told us that the focus of this book is on Maggie Lorimer, newly published children’s author, as foreshadowed at the end of Only The Dead Can Tell. Alex has even given Maggie Lucy Juckes from the Jenny Brown Agency as her agent.
Lorimer has a big case. Two women have been found murdered; one in Bellahouston Park and one in Queens Park. Both women bore a strong resemblance to Maggie. Solly Brightman thinks that, because of the ferocity of these murders, the killer must have been active prior to both these murders. So Lorimer starts looking at missing persons with the same similarity to the murdered women. And when he finds someone, he brings in Professor Lorna Dawson, CBE, the leading Soil scientist and Head of the Soil Forensics Group at the Hutton Institute.
Alex then introduced Professor Dawson to the audience. What a treat that was! She was utterly fascinating and talked about using her knowledge of soil strata and forensics in solving real cases, as well as giving professional guidance to writers like Alex, Ann Cleeves and advising on Silent Witness.
Professor Dawson talked about the importance of giving readers real forensic information. It’s important that crime novels are authentic, she says, because you never know when a reader might be called to serve on a jury. She talked about a team approach and great CO-operation and collaboration between geologists, botanists, forensic scientists, the Police and academics in working to get the best science possible in criminal cases.
Professor Dawson has worked on some well known cases. She had looked at the Ben Needham case, 20 years after the little boy disappeared and the World’s End case which they were able to solve because of the good integrity of the samples to which they were able to bring new techniques 37 years later.
Lorna says 5hat when she works on a case she only ever wants to know enough information to give her work context, so that she can remain completely objective and focus on the science. Afterwards, she says, it can really hit you, knowing what has been done, but the knowledge that the team are helping to bring closure and resolution to families really helps.
Alex and Lorna both took questions from the audience and Alex talked about her writing routine, which is pretty disciplined, though, she says, she does go a bit ‘bonkers’ when she is coming to the end of a book and she gets desperate to finish. She edits every day so her rewrites are not too onerous. She doesn’t always know how a book will end, though she did with The Stalker.
I am really looking forward to reading The Stalker and will read it with increased fascination now that I have heard Lorna Dawson speak.
The Stalker Is available now.