Today folks I’m moving away from the horror and taking a wee trip down the road to chat with one of finest exponents of Tartan Noir. What’s that I hear you ask well Tartan Noir is a form of crime fiction particular to Scotland and Scottish writers. It has its roots in Scottish literature but borrows elements from elsewhere, including from the work of American crime writers of the second half of the twentieth century, especially of the hard-boiled genre. Tony Black is the authot of the excellent and successful Gus Dury novels.
GNOH– Hi Tony, how are you doing?
TB — All good here,thanks.
GNOH– I must say it really is an honour to have you over for achat.
TB — Ha, you dunnowhat I’m gonna say yet!
GNOH– In the main I am a horror fan, and until recently Ihaven’t really read outside of the genre. I was pointed in your direction by Paul D. Brazill, and Kent Gowran. I must say Ihave not been disappointed, your book are first class.
TB — Very kind ofyou, sir. And Paul and Kent know their shit so that’s a huge ego boost thatthey recommended me to you.
GNOH– Could you give the readers a little bit of backgroundinfo about yourself?
TB — Well, I used tobe a pro racing driver, and a spy, before I became a male model. Actually thatlast bit’s not true. Ray Banks was the male model.
GNOH– Can you remember what first prompted you to put pen topaper?
TB — Actually, no. Iwas writing before I could write according to my mother.
GNOH–Did you always want to be a crime writer?
TB — Nope. My firstfour books were as far from the crime genre as you could imagine. They neversold but there’s interest in them now.
GNOH– How would you describe your writing style?
Varied. If you lookat the early stuff it’s very staccato, brisk. That’s in part due to the first-personnarrative and the lack of lucidity in the central character’s thoughts. The newstuff on the other hand is much more considered and less flashy. The non-crimestuff is different again … I don’t know what that says about me, splitpersonalities probably.
GNOH– There is a very strong Tartan Noir scene in and aroundEdinburgh, why do you think that is?
TB — Edinburgh’s avery inspiring place; the writers living there – and there are plenty – areabsorbing the history, the architecture, the diesel fumes. Actually that couldall be utter bullshit. I’ve no idea if I’m honest.
GNOH– Do you guys ever meet up, and if you do, which smoky bardo you meet in. It has to be a smoky barwith and old Jukebox in the corner.
TB — There areopportunities for writers to get together in Edinburgh in an organised way likethe CWA for example and I’ve been known to show face there now and again, butthere’s only a few authors from Edinburgh I associate with regularly, in asocial way. Al Guthrie is a great mate of mine but I can’t tell you where wemeet because he’s too famous and women will turn up to throw underwear at him.
GNOH– Knowing the women of Edinburgh, surely they would throw their fur coats?
GNOH– What do you love about Edinburgh, and what do you hateabout it?
TB — I love manythings about the city; it’s the place I have the longest association with in myfairly itinerant life. My mother’s family is from Edinburgh so it’s kind ofhome base. I love the feel of the place, the architecture and the compactnature of the topography. I love the people, the bars, the culture. I’m not sokeen on anything orchestrated by the council like the new tram system and binmen strikes.
GNOH– There is a strong undercurrent of dark humour in yournovels. Do you think this is animportant factor in grounding and balancing the grittiness of the story?
TB — Yes and no.Gallows humour is an integral part of the Scottish psyche and I like to reflectthat. Also, the darker the subject the more humour can texture a work but it’sa very fine line. I have read crime novels that were clearly trying far too hardto tickle the ribs and it just becomes risible.
GNOH– What do you think is the appeal of Gus Dury? Despite being a loser alcoholic, as a readeryou can’t help but like him.
TB — Gus’s heart isin the right place. He’s all about justice and no matter how much of a fuck uphe is there is always the thrill of rooting for an underdog.
GNOH– Gus has some very strong opinions on Edinburgh, socialequality and U2. How much of this isfictitious and much of these views are yours?
TB — I think U2 suckballs. I think they should have stopped at The Unforgettable Fire. There. Isaid it. I’m pretty sure Gus would like to punch Bono a new hole, I’m not thatbad, I’d just like to watch.
GNOH– If you met up with Gus, what would you say to him?
TB — Probably, ‘‘Doyou need a hand up, mate?’’
GNOH– The characters in your novels speak with a very strongScottish accent, how well has this travelled? Have you ever had to translate for the American editions of the books?
TB — It’s never beenan issue to be honest; there are a couple of my Aussie mates who’ve queriedindividual words and phrases but that’s about it. I’m not writing in full-onScots demotic like, say, Irvine Welsh so it’s still understandable.
GNOH– You’ve taken Gus to helland back, what’s the poor man ever done to you? Are you ever going to give him as break?
TB — Ha-ha. Part ofthe appeal of Gus is that he’s wading through the pits of hell … I think if heever finds a level of peace and calm then the series is over. He just wouldn’tbe interesting anymore.
GNOH– You have just released the first in a new series ofnovels featuring Detective Inspector Rob Brennan. How does Truth Lies Bleeding differ from Gus’sseries?
TB — It’s quite adeparture really. On a simple level it’s a third-person split narrative but thecharacter of Rob is the polar opposite to Gus. Rob is a family man, he’s apublic servant and he does things by the book. He’s not unlike Gus in otherregards – he’s a bit confrontational and his people skills are sub-Chewbacca buthe is very much his own man.
GNOH– You have gone on record stating that the two series willnever meet. Are you not tempted at all?
TB — Never. I don’tdo intertextuality.
GNOH– You released the book at the Edinburgh Book Festival,how well did that go?
TB — Very well, theevent was sold out and the Godfather of Tartan Noir, William McIlvanney wasthere in the audience so I was smiling like a puppy dog the whole time.
GNOH– You have just sold the film rights to Gus’slatest novel Long Time Dead to Richard Jobson. How did this come about, did you put the rights out there or did Richardcontact you?
TB — I’ve been intouch with Richard since my time as a journalist and I knew he’d read GUTTEDand was keen on that but I got Random House to package up the other books forhim and he was blown away by LONG TIME DEAD and wanted to move on that one.He’s a big fan of the character of Gus – he really understands him – and haslots of his own ideas about how he wants to portray him on the screen. I’m veryconfident he’ll do a fantastic job.
GNOH– What would be your ideal cast?
TB — Well, Richardwants Dougray Scott for Gus and I am all for that. I’m a huge fan of his work,the guy has real presence on screen and he’d fill the role perfectly.
GNOH– Will you be having anything to do with the production?
TB — I’m helpingRichard with the screenplay but he’s doing all the heavy lifting.
GNOH– Will it be filmed in and around Edinburgh?
TB — Yeah, it’s setthere so makes sense.
GNOH– Can you let us in on any future projects you have linedup?
TB — I’ve got anovella coming out with Pulp Press and a new Rob Brennan novel called MURDERMILE which all at RH UK are very chuffed with!
GNOH– Many, many thanks Tony for taking time out of your dayto answers these questions, it has been a huge honour to be given the chance tochat with. And thank you for getting meout of a reading funk, your novels are a brilliant look into the dark side of agreat city.
TB — My pleasure,and doubly delighted to hear you got along with Gus!
Tony’s books can be purchased from all good book shops. If you’re in Edinburgh go to Blackwells on The Bridges, the staff there are really helpful.
You can also purchase them by clicking the link below
Tony Black’s Amazon Page