Regular readers of this blog may recall my review of the excellent, atmospheric, chilling crime novel, Thunder Bay by Douglas Skelton. You can read my review here.
I caught up with Douglas recently at one of his many excellent events around Scotland and took the chance to find out a little more about Douglas and his writing.
As part of a new feature on my blog, I asked Douglas to respond to my 4×4 questions.
4 key characters in your book, Thunder Bay, and why they are important.
Obviously, the first character has to be Rebecca Connolly. She is the protagonist and the story is built around her and her need to find answers, not just regarding the events of 15 years before but also her own family history
Roddie Drummond would be next. His return to the island is the catalyst for everything that follows.
Mhairi Sinclair may have been murdered 15 years before the action takes place, but she figures prominently in the flashbacks and she casts a long shadow over the lives of those who remain.
Finally, the island itself. Stoirm. Its history, its folklore, its landscapes are important to the story and to the characters. It is fictional but I had to make it real.
4 pieces of music that you listened to when writing or which make you think of Thunder Bay
I choose the music I listen to when writing carefully. It has to fit the mood of the book or the particular chapter. And generally, the music is a film score or classical. Writing a book takes a long time so there’s a variety of music playing. Among the sounds for Thunder Bay, I had Rachmaninov’s Isle of the Dead and Sibelius’ Symphony No 2, as well as two scores by John Williams – the 1979 Dracula and The Fury.
4 places that remind you of Thunder Bay.
Stoirm is fictional but I’ve used various locations as a base for it. The island itself is an amalgam. One part of my family is from Gigha so there’s bits of that in there. The wildness is from Mull. The exposed western coast, and the high seas of the bay itself, is from a trip on Harris, when I visited a bay on a stormy day and the waves raged in. I loved it. The mountain in the book is based on Schiehallion in Perthshire. So if I were to visit all of these places now they would make me think of Thunder Bay and Stoirm.
4 films that convey the atmosphere you are writing about in Thunder Bay
Basically, any film with a community either hiding something or refusing to acknowledge it, especially if an outsider arrives to expose it. ‘Bad Day at Black Rock’, for instance, sees Spencer Tracy appearing in an isolated town with secrets. The 1984 version of Agatha Christie’s ‘Ordeal by Innocence’, with Donald Sutherland, is another. I haven’t seen it for many years but I do seem to recall there being a very dark edge to it. The book and film ‘Mystic River’, with its ensemble cast and the darkness at their heart. Finally, perhaps surprisingly, ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’, with its message that the past is not necessarily what we thought it was.
I’m currently writing a new book featuring Rebecca. It’s not set on Stoirm – there’s only so much you can do with an island and it’s not Midsomer – but back on the mainland. At the moment it’s called ‘The Blood is Still’.
I’ve also got a few events lined up – I’m in Blairgowrie on May 11 to talk about Thunder Bay and do a You the Jury. I’m in Waterstones Inverness on 20th May; in the Highland Bookshop, Fort William on 21st May and in Waterstones, Oban on 22nd May. The Four Blokes ( four crime writers, Neil Broadfoot, Gordon Brown, Mark Leggatt and Douglas Skelton) are looking for that plot in the Southside Fringe in Glasgow on May 23 and we’re bringing Carry on Sleuthing: Murder at the Knickerage to Glasgow in June.
My thanks to Douglas Skelton. You can buy Thunder Bay at all good bookshops or via these links: