Scot's e-book electrifies readers as it becomes a Kindle hit

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He is an unknown name with little pedigree as an author after beginning his writing career at the age of 50. Now, just eight weeks after the electronic launch of his breakthrough novel, Gordon Ferris is being lauded as a rising star of Scottish literature.

• Gordon Ferris has emerged from the literary shadows with his novel being downloaded about 30,000 times Picture: Robert Perry

The former finance worker has been catapulted into the bestsellers' list - beating off competition from world-famous authors such as Dan Brown and Stieg Larsson.

The Hanging Shed, Ferris's fourth novel, has been one of the top downloaded books in the UK since being released on the Amazon Kindle by publisher Corvus.

The book, set in Glasgow after the Second World War, has received rave reviews from users of the electronic reader after being promoted over Christmas with a special 1 offer.

Previously a partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers' banking division and a computer operative for the Ministry of Defence, the Kilmarnock-born author has amassed more than 50 five-star reviews on Amazon, and created a real buzz in the comparatively new world of the e-book where it has remained in the top five fiction books for several weeks.

"I can't tell you how gobsmacked I am," said Ferris, who counts crime writer Val McDermid among his fans. "It just seems to have been the right moment. I couldn't be more delighted."

Precise figures for Kindle sales are unavailable - but the e-book, which was one of a series available for a discount price of 1 for a limited period, is believed to have been downloaded as many as 30,000 times. The book will be published in a more conventional hardback form on 1 March, by Corvus for 15.99.

Sales of 30,000 in six weeks are still low compared with those of printed bestsellers - which commonly sell around 30,000 copies a week. However with 6.5 million e-book owners in the UK, the potential for sales is soaring.

In the US, Amazon announced last month that e-book sales had overtaken printed sales for the first time.

Ferris said he was a great fan of the Kindle - but that he did not expect the discounted pre-release to generate such large sales. He began his writing career after receiving a payoff from his finance job in 2000.

"Releasing an e-book at Christmas time was a brilliant wheeze and it seems the momentum built up," he said. "I have been amazed to find myself sitting in the top three or four of the Kindle bestseller list. Lots of people got a new Kindle for Christmas and they were looking for something to put on it."

The Hanging Shed has 98 reviews on Amazon, including 58 five-star rankings. One reviewer described it as "as good as if not better than Ian Rankin." Reader reviews have become increasingly important in influencing sales since the growth of online companies such as Amazon.

The hero of his breakthrough novel is Douglas Brodie, a world-weary war-scarred ex-cop turned crime reporter, who gets caught up in a battle to save his best friend from the noose.

The story begins at the Hanging Shed in Barlinnie jail, where condemned men were put to death by the hangman Albert Pierrepoint. The shed stood in the jail grounds until 1995, when it was finally condemned.

Ferris, who lives in London, said he had enjoyed returning to Scotland to research the book. He is currently working on a second Brodie novel.

McDermid praised his writing saying "Gordon Ferris is the natural heir of Stevenson and Buchan."

It was an impossible voice …

In THIS excerpt, Brodie receives a phone call from childhood friend Shug, a man he thought was dead.

"Yes, hello? Brodie here," I gasped.

"Is that you, Dougie boy?"

A bucket of ice splashed down my neck. No-one called me Dougie now. It had been Brodie for a decade. The voice scratched at my memory, but I couldn't put a face to it. Wouldn't. My mind simply rejected the likelihood. For it was an impossible voice from the days of bows and arrows, spots and whispering girls, of fist fights that ended in bloody lips and trembling anger. Of a great betrayal that gnawed at me still.

"Who's this? What's happened?" I pressed my palm against the wall for support, feeling the cool plaster suck at the heat of my hand.

"That's a big question' said the voice.

My mind was fumbling with memories. The timbre and cadence were heavier and slower but, oh, so disturbingly familiar. I knew who this was, but didn't, couldn't believe it. How could it be him?

"Let's keep it simple, then. Who… are… you?"

With new strength "Don't tell me you don't know me, ya Proddy sod."

That did it. The mocking West of Scotland greeting.

"Shug? Is it you?"

"Aye Dougie, it is"

"But how, what the hell? I thought you were dead!" My voice cracked and echoed round the empty entry.

"So did I, old pal. So did I."

"But this is great! Just fantastic!" I couldn't stop feeling bad about him, about how we'd left things. Time to move on. He cut in.

"Dougie… It's no' great at all…"