Christopher Brookmyre has something of an ambiguous relationship with Inverness.
He spent nine months in the Highland Capital in the mid-1990s when his anaesthetist wife was posted to Raigmore, the region's biggest hospital, and admits the couple were not too happy at the disruption to their lives caused by the enforced move. "Then we moved to Aberdeen and really learned to appreciate Inverness and certain local customs you have here. Like smiling," Brookmyre told an audience in the Highland Capital.
He and fellow Scottish bestseller and occasional crime writer Iain Banks (check out newspaper thriller Complicity for example) were star turns at the inaugural Inverness Book Festival centred on the city's Eden Court in July 2004. The other Ian frae Fife, Mr Rankin, had also been invited by Festival director Jason Rose, but had to bow out because the October date clashed with Bouchercon and a Canadian publicity tour.
Other writers attending the four day event included Toby Litt, Inverness's own Booker-nominee Ali Smith and poet and novelist Jackie Kay, but the Banks and Brookmyre double bill were the star turn among the fiction writers, their audience beaten only by the turn out for mountaineer Doug Scott.
Prompted by questions from an enthusiastic audience, the pair skirted over subjects as diverse as the lack of respect among the literati for genre fiction whether science-fiction or crime, who they might consider co-authoring a book with (Banks' answer: "J.K. Rowling if we had a 50/50 royalty split") to their views on the official opening of the Scottish Parliament. Banks boycotted the Royal ceremony. Brookmyre, although no less of a republican, accepted an invitation to attend. There were three reasons for this he explained. Curiosity, possible research purposes and last, but not necessarily least: "My mammy told me.
"She made it very clear this was a major historic occasion and a long lie in the morning was not a good enough excuse." The occasion allowed Brookmyre to give the audience a sneak preview of his latest work in progress. It may not feature his semi-regular lead character Jack Parlabane, but it certainly bears a trademark Brookmyre title; All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses An Eye.
"To give it my one line Hollywood pitch, it's Shirley Valentine meets James Bond," Brookmyre said. "I suppose it started with my wife and I going to see a Bond film, one of the Pierce Brosnan ones, and deciding it wasn't much good. It was the one with Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist. A believable bit of casting that was. My wife came to the conclusion what was needed was not James Bond, but Jane Bond. Take all the sexist attitudes we had and turn them on their heads."
With the central character, Jane Fleming, a young East Kilbride grandmother, Brookmyre revealed he wanted to use the original James Bond milieu of the books, the South of France and all the gadgets.
"But I felt the only way it would work would be to tell it from a woman's perspective," he added.
He also revealed the book has another heroine, computer hacker Alexis Richards.
"Her name abbreviates to Lex Richards, which happens to be the name of a talented winger for St Mirren in the 1970s," Brookmyre said.
Brookmyre's devotion to Paisley's football club is matched only by the contempt he heaps upon fans of Glasgow's Old Firm and their sectarian baggage inherited from centuries of Irish conflict.
Given this attitude, it was a fair question later in proceedings when Brookmyre was asked why he had opted to make Angelique, his Lara Croft like policewoman from A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away and The Sacred Art of Stealing, a Rangers supporter.
"I realised that if I continued to make all my fictional characters St Mirren supporters, they were in grave danger of outnumbering the real ones," he quipped.
He also revealed the new book's wordy title had come from a rather unusual source.
"It's one of those things that mothers say, but I heard it again recently when I was playing a computer game of all things," he told the audience.
"It was Serious Sam, a first person shoot-em-up that's almost a throw-back to Doom.
Suddenly, in the middle of blowing away all these monsters the character comes out with this line - 'All fun and games until someone loses an eye' - which was so ludicrously inappropriate in the midst of all this carnage that I thought: 'I'm having that for my next title.'"
The other reason for picking the title was wanting to see the face of the man who designs his covers, a man who is now receiving sympathetic greetings of "you poor bastard" from his publishing colleagues.
"There was talk of the title being so long that there wouldn't be any room for my name, but I reckon with a title like that people are going to be able to work out its one of mine anyway." Brookmyre added.
After being presented with a choice bottle of malt whisky each, Banks having recently written a book on distilleries, the star turn of the first Inverness Book Festival left the theatre as content and happy as the thoroughly entertained crowd.
Despite the loss of its main venue Eden Court Theatre, which will be closed temporarily as part of a multi-million pound refurbishment, the Inverness Book Festival will be back for 2005 and the crime quotient is likely to be upped with Ian Rankin the main target for star attraction and Mark Billingham expressing an interest. And with Scottish crime fiction in such a healthy state, don't bank on these being the only genre writers to make an appearance.
Chris Brookmyre’s latest book is ALL FUN AND GAMES UNTIL SOMEONE LOSES AN EYE, published by Little Brown May 2005 in both hardback and paperback.
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