I like Waterstones in Newton Mearns because they often have authors no-one else has managed to get. I’ve listened to Jeffrey Deaver there and will be going to listen to Linwood Barclay later in the year. They are also, of course, excellent supporters of Scottish crime. Lin Anderson is coming in August and last night they hosted Denzil Meyrick talking to Douglas Skelton about his new novel, A Breath on Dying Embers.
Hosted in the Primavera Coffee shop in the heart of the Avenue Shopping Centre’s atrium, a sold out audience gathered to listen to this pair discussing Meyrick’s most recent novel.
Now, if you’ve never seen Denzil in action, you are missing something special. Denzil Meyrick is close to notching up almost 2 million copies sold of his Kinloch D.C.I. Jim Daley police series and his latest book is brilliant, with as Denzil himself says ‘a jaw-dropping, skull-exploding ending’.
Denzil has had quite a career, variously being a police officer, Distillery Manager, Pub owner, freelance journalist and even a short spell as an actor (he had a brief appearance in Heartbeat in 1992, apparently). As Douglas Skelton said, there’s a common thread running through his career choices.
Meyrick described his newest book as being bang up to date. His last two books, The Relentless Tide and Well of The Winds had historic elements to them, but Denzil describes this one as a book about the way we live today. This is Meyrick’s Brexit book; the one where he brings the world to Kinloch in the form of a cruise ship commandeered by the UK Government to bring an international trade delegation to Kinloch. It deals with themes of terrorism and utilises drone technology amid a host of much loved and well-kent returning characters.
A Breath on Dying Embers puts Brian Scott front and centre, even going undercover after he receives a promotion he’s waited 22 years for. Meyrick wanted to do something different with this book, using the same local Kinloch community to say something about the state of our country today and offer a different perspective.
The strong thread of humour that runs through Meyrick’s books is of course still there. Though Jim Daley is a somewhat morose character, Meyrick doesn’t like relentless sadness because it doesn’t reflect reality. So where in the last book readers found an 8ft blue chicken, this one has a giant octopus within its pages.
Kinloch, is of course, a thinly disguised Campbeltown. Meyrick has said ‘I write about Campbeltown, though I call it Kinloch. It’s one of the most unique places in Scotland—far away from the main centres of population, but it’s still on the mainland. It has this feeling of being in the 50s or 60s… There’s a sort of otherness there’. So what, asked Skelton, do the locals think about his books?
Meyrick says they’re happy because they are on the map. People visit Campbeltown now because of the books. Anchoring them in Kintyre gives a very strong sense of place. Of course, says Meyrick, people think they recognise characters from the books; think they are in them, though they’re not. Although he did once uncannily reflect a certain harbourmaster…
Skelton asked Meyrick about his impetus to turn to writing. A period of serious illness laid Meyrick up and so he thought he might as well try his hand at writing. He wrote on and off for two years as and when he felt like it and after he submitted his book, he got a contract in 5 weeks. Now it takes him around 4 to 5 months to write a book.
After the explosive ending of the current book, what’s next, asked Skelton? Meyrick has a new series in mind. A Paisley based series written from the point of view of a gangster. He intends to keep the Daley books going in ‘one form or another’, too. (Take from that what you will).
Meyrick’s writing routine starts early, He writes for 3 or 4 hours early in the morning and then stops to read or otherwise take a writing break. He starts with the thread of an idea and goes from there.
Douglas Skelton and Meyrick have been longlisted for the Bloody Scotland McIlvanney Prize for Crime Novel of the Year, alongside Stuart McBride and other notable Scottish authors. Skelton for his remarkable exciting and atmospheric Thunder Bay and Meyrick for A Breath On Dying Embers. Cue much friendly rivalry and joke telling, though it’s clear that Meyrick has a great deal of respect for Skelton’s writing, so much so that he is starting a company to make audio books and the first of these will be an audio version of Skelton’s brilliant The Dead Don’t Boogie, read by the wonderful David Monteath. I cannot wait for that!
Will Jim Daley ever get married again, asked an audience member? Do you want to see him happy (if he survives) asked Denzil? “Never going to happen”!
Is there anything he wouldn’t write about? He doesn’t like books with animal cruelty or cruelty against children, but enjoys books that are reflective of society. The Scandinavian crime books do this very well, he says.
What would he like to write if not crime? He wouldn’t mind trying his hand at fantasy or science fiction or perhaps a non-fiction book about Kintyre.
I asked him about his views on the Staunch Prize that rewards books that don’t contain violence against women. Here, he agrees with Val McDermid that while society still perpetrates terrible crimes of violence against women, it is right that these are reflected in fiction.
Meyrick’s not a fan of the new Police Scotland set up. While it gives a much larger scope for crime writers, in that they can now send their investigators anywhere on Scotland, Meyrick thinks that its a politically driven move that takes officers away from knowing and understanding their patches well, leading to a less effective force overall.
It was clear from the high level of audience engagement that readers are really invested in Meyrick’s books. In response to a question about potential television interest, Meyrick revealed that there was interest from streaming companies, so it’s not out of the question. He even has his own ideas for casting.
Could these actors be the Jim Daley and Brian Scott characters we have come to love so well?
This was a brilliant night, full of fun and laughter. The only slightly wrong note was that there weren’t nearly enough copies of Thunder Bay available for the audience members who wanted one, despite Newton Mearns Waterstone’s best efforts. I sincerely hope that’s remedied before Skelton returns to interview Lin Anderson in August. Are you listening Waterstones central and Polygon?