I’m in a weird publishing frenzy at the moment. Stanley, needless to say, is constantly demanding attention, but the latest in my detective series, Shadow Selves, is also available now as an ebook on Amazon (UK and USA) and from Solstice Publishing. Not only that – today I received my author’s copies of Brilliant Essay, which appeared just before Christmas.
Shadow Selves was triggered by a visit to an operating theatre while an operation was in progress. It was arranged by Donnie Ross (Dr Dx to his online friends) and I’ve reproduced some details of the experience in the scene where Jack Carston, my DCI, visits the hospital to check their procedures. More interestingly, though, the whole book is set in and around the fictitious University of West Grampian. And why is that ‘more interesting’? Because I used to teach at a university here and the assumption (among some people) may well be that the people and things I describe may also be based on personal experiences. They’re not, except insofar as I know the general academic atmosphere, the demands and privileges of working in such an institution and the small p politics in which some teachers and researchers delight.
The people are certainly fictitious. Books always carry the careful ‘any resemblance to real persons, places, or events is coincidental’ disclaimer but I have to say that, even though you’ll find it in my books, it isn’t really needed. I may borrow how someone looks, or copy what he/she wears, but using a real person as a model just doesn’t work for me. I only tried it once, and I found that my awareness and knowledge of the actual person prevented my character from growing and being himself. Presumably (and it was certainly true in my case), a writer ‘uses’ a real model because there’s something special or unique about that person – he/she is wonderful or despicable. The real person I chose was the latter but he wasn’t my character. In the end, I had to free the character and let his nastiness develop in the way he wanted to express and live it. The result was that he turned out to be more charismatic (in a horrible way) than the real guy. But I wouldn’t want to spend too much time with either of them.
So anyone reading Shadow Selves and expecting to recognise x, y or z will be disappointed. What I hope they will get, though, is a sense of the strange world of academia – a rarefied place where high culture and low cunning co-exist and some individuals continue to be blissfully unaware of how privileged they are to be safe in their ivory tower. Oh, and they’ll get a couple of deaths, a stalker and a case of sexual harassment.
OK Stanley, be quiet. I’m coming.