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SPEAKER NIGHT, Douglas Skelton – Wednesday 6th March 2024

Douglas Skelton has been one of my favourite authors ever since I read his series of gritty Glasgow crime novels based around the life of Davie McCall. They are on my ‘unputdownable’ list and are a must for any Scottish crime novel fan.

For a variety of reasons, I have managed to miss several opportunities in the past to hear Douglas talk about his life as a writer, so I was delighted to hear that he had been invited to speak at Ayr Writers’ Club.

Douglas Skelton turned out to be a gentle, soft-spoken man, despite being very much an expert on some of Scotland’s most horrific crimes.

I’m sure I don’t need to remind you of the horrific details of the ‘Ice Cream Wars,’ which Douglas spent several years researching and writing about. He tells about meeting TC Campbell and the vast amount of information he had to wade through while researching his book.

Eventually, becoming somewhat disenchanted with writing about true crimes, Douglas moved to fiction writing. Blood City became the first in a series but actually was the fourth book he wrote; Open Wounds, was written first. After many rejections, he was offered a four-book deal.

Turning to “something different”, two Dominic Queste books appeared, starting with The Dead Don’t Boogie, a brilliant title! Again, his knowledge of the Scottish crime scene was put to great use. Skelton says he set himself three rules before writing these books:

  1. Never give characters strange names
  2. Don’t write about serial killers
  3. The above rules don’t apply!

Douglas calls these his “get two guys to kick in the door” books. As well as violence and memorable characters, these books are also full of humour.

We all want to know about an author’s writing process; the magic spell that produces a novel. Douglas was adamant that he doesn’t plan. He does, however, think a lot about his writing for a long time, letting ideas percolate in his brain until they are ready to be put to paper.

A gritty chase thriller set in New York came next, but although Douglas is very proud of it, he admits, very honestly, that it didn’t sell.

However, his next series about Rebecca Connolly, a young journalist, sold well and Douglas enjoyed being able to link this contemporary series to Scottish history and mythology.

Douglas finished the evening by reading an excerpt from his new series, based on an idea he’s had for twenty years. This historical crime series, which he says he has greatly enjoyed writing, begins with An Honourable Thief. These books are full of outlandish characters and language, which Douglas revels in.

A question-and-answer session finished off a very enjoyable evening with Douglas giving his advice on ‘writer’s block’ which he says doesn’t exist. He said about writing, “Get it down and push on. You can’t edit a blank page.” Good advice indeed!

The evening ended with a vote of thanks and much deserved applause.

Fiona Johnson



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