Publisher: Saraband Books
Genre: Crime Fiction
Sam the butcher is missing, and maverick investigator Dominic Queste is on the case. But it’s not because he misses Sam’s prize-winning steak pies… A dangerous man has arrived in Glasgow. He’s no small-town crook, and he’s leaving a trail of disturbing clues across the city, starting with the missing cousin of Queste’s new lover. Amidst a twisted game of cat and mouse, suspicious coppers and a seemingly random burglary at the judge’s house, Queste has to keep his wits about him. Or he might just find himself on the butcher’s block.
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Tag You’re Dead. I have a Q & A with the author to share today.
Welcome Douglas. Before we start, could you tell me a little about yourself?
I’m a former shelf stacker, bank clerk, office paper pusher, ad salesman, civil servant, taxi driver (for two days), wine waiter (for two hours), journalist and newspaper editor. Never got the hang of any of them. I began by writing non-fiction but made the leap into fiction in 2013. I now have six crime thrillers to my name.
Today we are talking about your new novel: Tag You’re Dead. Could you give us a quick summary and introduce us to Dominic Queste?
Dominic Queste calls himself an odd-job man. He’s not a private eye in the strictest sense but he walks the same mean streets. He’s quirky (I hope!) in that he can view the world through the perspective of movies and TV shows. He’s not a fantasist, he’s too hard-headed for that, but he does love his movies. He’s also quick-witted, fast-talking and, when forced, pretty tough. In TAG, a missing person case he undertakes for his girlfriend turns lethal when he finds himself being stalked by a serial killer.
When we meet Dominic, first in The Dead Don’t Boogie and now in Tag, you have made it clear that his past has not been the easiest of rides – a recovering addict who has had more than a few run-ins with the police. Does the rocky background give you more leeway to develop the character?
I like characters who struggle against their demons to do the right thing. For me it does, as you say, provide leeway to develop them. People who have something for which to atone. Dominic, as one character says, is Raymond Chandler’s slightly tarnished knight. There’s more scope in someone with an edge. I was never interested in squeaky clean heroes – as a child I much preferred Batman to Superman, for instance. I’m drawn to darkness. Must be my Celtic blood.
Dominic is a one-man “IMDB” and has a film reference for every occasion, how does this become a problem for him in Tag? Also, how much of the film trivia comes from your own fascination with cinema?
The serial killer discovers Dom is a buff and uses film references and quotes to taunt him, to keep him on the knife-edge. And ALL the film trivia comes from my own film geekiness. My head is cluttered with movie trivia.
Tag You’re Dead is primarily set in Glasgow but you take the action out of the city too. Could you tell us about the locations which feature in the story? Have you chosen to write about places you enjoy visiting?
The story takes Dom to the Highlands, specifically the area around Loch Rannoch in Perthshire, although the specific cottages I mention are fictional. It’s a part of Scotland I love. Everywhere you look is picture postcard beautiful and the air is so fresh and clear. I’ve set it in the autumn (or the Fall, as the Americans say) and the colours are breathtaking. I would encourage everyone to visit. Dom was certainly impressed!
Dominic Queste has a tendency to use humour and quip his way through conversations but Tag is quite a dark read. Was that a difficult balance to achieve when you were writing?
It happened naturally. As they say, it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye (Note – no one actually loses an eye. Or do they?) Dom uses humour as a weapon, as a defence, as a barrier, as a way to leaven his own darkness and that which lies around him. However, it’s a tricky thing to write – too much and the book becomes a comedy, too little and it becomes TOO dark. I hope I’ve struck the correct balance. My problem is that I have to often resist the need to go for the quick, or cheap, laugh – in my writing and in my own life.
The phrase “Tartan Noir” is widely recognised but I get the impression quite a few Scottish authors are not overly fond of it. Is it a convenient marketing hook or a chain around your neck?
It’s both. I understand why it’s done but a large part of me doesn’t see the need. We’re writing crime thrillers. It shouldn’t matter where it’s set, as long as that background comes alive, as long as the reader believes it. I see no label for crime fiction set in England, or the US. However, I am very proud to be a part of the clan – and one of the best things to come from the trend is Bloody Scotland, our very own International crime writing festival, which takes place every September in Stirling.
Do you believe that a number of the crime stories set in Scotland have a distinctive “voice” that a reader could identify and associate with?
There’s a great deal of superb crime writing coming out of Scotland and there’s no doubt that much of it carries that distinctive voice that comes from the setting and the rhythms of Scottish speech, just as authors from other parts of the world can do with their backdrops. Scottish readers like to see actual locations but what about those who are unfortunate enough not be Scottish? They are drawn by character, plot and readability.
On a final note, I’d be keen to know which authors you enjoy reading. Which inspire you or have influenced the stories you want to write?
My earliest influence was the western ‘Shane’ by Jack Schaeffer. That generated my fascination with characters trying to shake off their murky past.
The 87th Precinct novels of Ed McBain were my next big influence. They were fast-moving and funny and occasionally shocking. His dialogue was sharp and sassy. The early books didn’t have an ounce of fat on them.
There are so many great authors out there but I’m drawn very much to Americans. I think Dennis Lehane is absolutely wonderful, as is Robert Crais. Both can have a strong thread of humour running through the darkness. Although Irish, John Connolly sets his books in the States and they are fabulous.
Huge thanks to Douglas for joining me today!