Podcast tells gory tale of Scottish crime writer’s life

Debut novelist Charles E McGarry beside Loch Awe
Debut novelist Charles E McGarry beside Loch Awe
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It is not so much a whodunnit as a how do you do it?

Aspiring crime writers will this week be given an insight into the arduous journey from pitch to publication.

A podcast series, the first of its kind, will shed light on the experience of Scottish writer Charles E McGarry, whose debut crime novel, The Ghost of Helen Addison, is released next month

From the experience of being rejected by agents and publishers through to debates over the book’s title, cover and body count, the series – ‘Debut: A Crime Writer’s Journey from the Bedroom to the Bookshelf’ – offers an insight into the often obscure and fickle world of publishing.

Its six episodes include interviews with two of the biggest names in Scottish crime writing, Val McDermid and Chris Brookmyre, who offer advice to McGarry on his fledgling literary career.

For budding writers who dream of giving up their day job, the podcast is especially relevant.

McGarry, from Glasgow, was in his thirties when he gave up a well-paid job as a business analyst with BT to concentrate on fiction. There was, he recalls, “nothing particularly wrong” with the role, but he felt he was treading water.

After putting pen to paper, he received one rejection after another from agents and publishers – blows recounted in candid detail in the podcast.

“One said that the body count was too low,” he said.

McGarry followed one agent’s advice and revamped the structure. Some 14 years later, the 19th draft found its way to Alison Rae, an editor at Polygon. She loved how its protagonist, private detective Leo Moran, bucked the genre’s conventions. “He’s miles away from the divorcee, alcoholic detective with the empty fridge,” she said.

The novel, Blackwell’s book of the month for July, follows Moran, an avowed gourmand who becomes unsettled by visions of violent crimes.

After the ritualistic murder of a young woman in Argyll, he helps the police, meeting a host of characters along the way, including her ghost.

The 44-year-old, who has signed a two-book deal, said: “People can be overawed by the idea of producing a book, but it’s a journey of many small steps. I hope the podcast is entertaining and hopefully helps people working on their first novel.”