With the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival just days away, we’re giving you the chance to get to know some of our shortlisted authors a little better.
Introducing Brian McGilloway, whose novel The Last Crossing, is vying for the title of Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. Originally from Derry, Northern Ireland, Brian is the author of eleven crime novels, including the Benedict Devlin and Lucy Black series. This is his second nomination for the Crime Novel of the Year award.
What’s your favourite tipple for enjoying with a book?
I’d love to say Theakston’s but, as a coeliac, most beer is off the table for me. Generally, a good cup of tea. My dad took real pride in making a cuppa and he’s passed that on to me.
Where are you most likely to have that creative “eureka” moment?
Generally, when I’m not writing! If I’m stuck on a plot point, I tend to go and do other things and let my mind wander a bit. Cutting the grass, washing dishes, going for a drive are all ways to focus on something else. Frequently, if I’m driving, I’ll have to ask my wife to write something down for me, so my car is littered with scraps of paper and bits of envelopes with plot points and bits of dialogue written on them. I probably should be much better organised!
If you could be any character in a book, who would it be?
The adult me would say Nick in the Great Gatsby because I love that time period and that book – the prose in it is just beautiful. In reality, I’d more inclined to say Winnie-The-Pooh: carefree, with good friends, clarity and simplicity of thought, having a never ending supply of comfortable jumpers and almost always on the verge of having a smackerel of something nice to eat sounds like a pretty good deal to me if I’m honest.
What’s the most “Peculier” situation you’ve found yourself in while researching a story?
For one book, I had to research whether disposable nappies were in common use in Ireland in the 1970s. I managed to track down someone online who seemed to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of nappies of all shapes and sizes, posting reviews of different brands and types. Fairly far into the research, I discovered that he was able to post said reviews as he wore said nappies through his working day, mostly for his own gratification. That was more information than I needed!
The most enjoyable was researching goldmines for one of the Devlin novels. A new mine had opened near where I live and I contacted them, asking if I could get a look around the site for research. They initially refused, thinking I was a journalist. When I told the manager that I was a crime writer, he immediately agreed. It turned out his brother writes crime novels about biker gangs in the US. It was a fascinating tour though I was disappointed at the distinct lack of old bearded men in dungarees prospecting by rivers.
Do you think you have what it takes to commit the perfect crime?
Probably not. I tend to overthink things so would probably be paralysed with indecision. Of course, to commit the perfect crime, you’d first have to convince the world you were totally incapable of doing so…
What would make you a better author but a worse person?
Being more selfish with my time. I teach full time and my wife and I have four kids and all that that implies which all makes finding time to write difficult and taking time seem selfish on occasion. I did leave teaching for a few years but found I missed the students and the opportunity to introduce them to books and writing that I love so I went back into the classroom. As for the pram in the hallway being the enemy of good art? Who knows, but I wouldn’t change it for a second. Being a dad is best thing in the world for me and, I hope, has made me a better person than I was before I had kids.
Find out more about the festival and the programme of events here