John Gibson: Corstorphine badgers are in the mystery

IT should help see him through the crunch. Edinburgh author Tony Black has just clinched a contract with his London publishers for four more novels. Making it six big adventures in all for Gus Dury, whose Leith upbringing proved a plus when he turned private eye for a living.

Tricky times in the book trade, with so many writers tearful. Toiling over their typewriters. To some it must seem like a life sentence.

So Black, having cracked it, has to be considering turning full-time author and giving up the day job. Freelancing with a local paper has been helping him get by. His man Dury, you should know, was a hack, son of a footballer in Leith with a fatal taste for the swallie.

You should, too, know Black's debut yarn last summer, Paying For It, promised Gutted, the follow-up in June. Dury's investigation into dog-fighting takes him to Corstorphine Hill. "You never know what goes on up there," Black reckons. "Dury's delving is sure to scare the badger-baiters."

By the way, what do you get if you cross a skeleton with a detective? Sherlock Bones.

Tanks for nothing

Is this all they've got to think about? You mean to say we are actually paying them for this? Some MSPs, rousing colleagues from their slumbers at Holyrood, have been debating in considerable detail the size of the tanks for pet tropical fish.

Not large enough, they're saying, and fish are becoming obese. So obesity doesn't just stalk our street, it's rife in the fish tanks.

In case you want to take their names, here are the MSPs at the heart of this fishy story in the depths of the recession . . . Bill Butler, John Wilson and Robin Harper. It appears the lunatics haven't escaped from the asylum.

Now check out your budgie. Is it too fat? Is it rattling its cage? Beware the knock at the door from the watch-the-birdie polis.

Ahoy there!

Shiver me timbers. An old matelot mate of mine is reminding me that the National Maritime Museum of Greenwich's collection of art includes paintings of the great pirates and buccaneers.

Which takes me back a few weeks during that bitterly cold spell. So cold I had to keep my collar up and keep pulling my hat down over my buccaneers.

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