Gateway to a life of crime

Where did you go to school?

St Mark’s and St Luke’s in Barrhead.

Did you like it?

At secondary school there were times during which I thought it was a microcosm of society - a fascist society - because of the policy of punishing huge groups of people for one person’s indiscretion. That sort of thing I found very frustrating.

Did you get into trouble?

Not a great deal. I did get pulled out of class by the head of the English department once because of an essay I had written. My English teacher had told her boss she should have a look at it because she thought it was good, but her boss thought there were things about it that were inappropriate. Rather than using phrases like "Oh gosh!" in the story, I had decided to make the dialogue a bit more realistic. She dragged me out of class and lectured me on the use of inappropriate language and themes. I obviously paid a great deal of attention! She is probably now telling people she was a seminal influence on me.

What subjects were you good at?

English, predictably enough. I suppose that was the only one I thought I would shine in. It often depended on the teacher and who was in the class, rather than the subject itself. I was not particularly quiet but I remember there was this French teacher who spoke to my mum on parents’ night saying she was surprised I had a lead in the school musical because I never said a word in class. It was simply because I found the French class so stultifyingly boring that I never found anything to say.

Did you have a favourite teacher?

Mrs Festorazzi, my English teacher from third year to leaving school, who was very encouraging. She, in common with the other teachers I liked, spoke to me, if not like an adult, then like an intelligent human being. She recognised we were allowed opinions on literature. My friend and I managed to talk her out of doing A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute. We argued it was really boring and there were better books we could be doing. We didn’t manage to get her round to doing Lord of the Rings, though.

What did you want to be when you left school?

I always wanted to be a writer.

Did you go to college or university?

I went to Glasgow University to study English and theatre. I went on to work as a sub-editor for Screen International in London and then I started writing long-form fiction when I was about 23.

What do you wish you had learned at school?

I would like to have gone to a school where we were told the two sides of the abortion issue. Some of the things they did at my school would be technically illegal in this day and age. The headmaster took a whole lot of biology textbooks and with a black marker pen blotted out any references to birth control. The fact that there were teenagers at the school who were pregnant and the connection between the two did not seem to cross his mind. I thought this was a highly irresponsible thing for him to be doing.

Did you have a nickname?

Tediously obvious ones such as Brookie.

What is the most important lesson you have learned outside of formal education?

That organised religion be disregarded and ignored.

Novelist Christopher Brookmyre’s seventh book, The Sacred Art of Stealing, was published last month. His first novel, Quite Ugly One Morning, won the inaugural Critics’ First Blood award for the best first crime novel of the year. He will be appearing with Ian Rankin, in conversation with Stephen Jardine, at The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, on 25 November at 7:30pm.

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