How To Write Crime

Malcolm Mackay's Glasgow Trilogy – a vbrutal tartan noir about the UK's most violent area – was written on the Isle of Lewis, among the UK's most traquil spots. Here, he explains how

He hits the floor face-first, blood already running down the side of his head and onto the carpet. 

A second man stands behind him, the gun in his hand. He looks casual, he’s done this before. The beautiful woman who lured the dead man here is at the other end of the corridor, her mouth slightly open, her first sight of death.

I’m hovering by the front door, working out who’s going to speak first and what they’re going to say, picturing the stairwell they’ll exit by and the Glasgow street they’ll emerge onto.

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But first, a break.

I live on the Isle of Lewis, a place of moors punctured by lochs and wrapped in beaches. The murder rate is something in the region of one every 40 years, we’re not due another for a few decades, rather than one every couple of hundred pages.

It’s not a place to inspire urban gangland warfare, but it doesn’t need to be. It needs to be a place of quiet and comfort, where an imagination has the time and space it needs to wander. The imagination walks from the windswept quiet into an urban nighttime of gun shots and creeping shadows. You don’t have to have lived there, experienced the dark things you write about, not if you have the imagination and the environment to support it.

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So we’re leaving the peace behind and floating back into the corridor where the body still lies. Nobody’s moved an inch since we’ve been away, we haven't missed anything. They won’t move until the writer’s imagination gets off the island and back into the city, back into the corridor where the smell of blood is about to fill the small space and the body will be left behind for others to find.

A gunman sending a message to the kind of people I’m happy never to meet, in a world I can create but not personally experience.

The Sudden Arrival of Violence, the final in The Glasgow Trilogy by Malcolm Mackay, is out 16 January on Mantle 

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