Lewis man, 31, wins top crime writer award

A 31-YEAR-OLD writer from Lewis who still lives with his parents and whose first novel was published just nine months ago has won the 
Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year award.

Malcolm Mackay on the streets of Glasgow, where his award-winning novel, How A Gunman Says Goodbye, is set. Photograph: Donald MacLeod

Malcolm Mackay beat titans of the tartan noir world including Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, Ann Cleeves, Gordon Ferris and Denise Mina to scoop the prize at Bloody Scotland, Scotland’s International Crime Writing Festival in 
Stirling last night.

Mackay won the award for his novel How A Gunman 
Says Goodbye, the second in a trilogy about Glasgow’s criminal underworld. Mackay, who despite setting his series in the city has only visited Glasgow a handful of times, was praised by the judges for his “inspiring story”.

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Bloody Scotland Festival manager Dom Hastings said: “The judges faced a challenging decision for the Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award this year. Each 
of the shortlisted authors 
presented strong stories with 
creative characters, all reflecting the true nature of the 
Scottish literary award.

“Malcolm Mackay is a newcomer to the shortlist and we are delighted to see him at the top of his game with such an inspiring story.”

Mackay said he was astounded to have won the award so early in his writing career. “I’m delighted and shocked,” he told Scotland on Sunday. “Given the quality of the rest of the shortlist, it’s a huge surprise. My first book only came out in January and the second in July, so it’s very much been a whirlwind of new experiences.”

Mackay wrote his first novel, the gritty tale of a hired hitman in Glasgow’s seedy underworld, in secret in his bedroom at home in Stornoway while recovering from ME, an illness he was diagnosed with as a teenager and which has prevented him from working or attending university.

“The first book was written as a hobby,” he said. “I messed around with it and didn’t take it too seriously. I wrote the book without telling anybody because I thought if I sit down and write it and it doesn’t work out I’ll never have to
admit to it.”

He sent the book, The Necessary Death Of Lewis Winter, to an agency in London in September 2011 and within two months had an agent and a three-book publishing deal worth £100,000.

His award-winning second novel, How A Gunman Says Goodbye, was only published in July.

The third part of the Glasgow trilogy, The Sudden Arrival Of Violence, will hit the shelves in January 2014.

Mackay beat some of Scotland’s best-known writers to the award, including Rankin, who was nominated for Standing In Another Man’s Grave, and Cleeves, whose shortlisted novel Dead Water is the latest in her Shetland series, the first of which was turned into a BBC drama.

Hastings said: “The wealth and diversity of contemporary Scottish crime writing is 
demonstrated by this exceptional shortlist, featuring 
writers at the top of their game, including Rankin and McDermid. ”

Mackay was presented with a trophy and a cheque for £1,000 at the award ceremony last night.

He is currently putting the finishing touches to a fourth novel, set in another part of the criminal underworld created in the Glasgow trilogy, which he hopes will be published next year.

“The whole thing is still such a new idea for me – the idea of being a writer,” Mackay said. “The experience is still new and it’s rather thrilling.”

The Deanston literary award is intended to raise the profile of Scottish crime writing across the board.

Crime fiction, crime non-­fiction and anthologies of short crime stories are all ­eligible. Charles Cumming claimed the award for 2012 with A Foreign Country.

The competition has been judged by a selection of top critics, including former head of the Scottish Arts Council and editor of The Scotsman Magnus Linklater, Shari Low of the Daily Record and Baillie Liz Cameron of Glasgow City Council.

Deanston distillery’s senior brand manager Michelle Lansdowne said: “The award represents a new style of tradition and supports local talent; it’s great to see the criteria based purely around Scotland.”

Twitter: @emmacowing