Sunday, February 21, 2021

Interview with Malcolm Archibald

"We have a murder at Balcumbie Golf Course.” Mackay smiled faintly. “You play golf, don’t you?”

“Yes, sir.” Watters said.

“At Balcumbie?”

“No, sir. That is the elite course in Dundee. I play at the Dundee Artisan Course.”

“Ah,” Mackay said. “I thought golf was a democratic game.”

“In theory, sir, but some courses are not.”

“Well,” Mackay said. “You will have your chance to place your plebeian boots over their hallowed turf. There is a dead body on the thirteenth green.”

“You said it was a murder, sir?”

“As the man was stark naked and ripped to shreds, I’d say so.” -Murdered On the 13th, by Malcolm Archibald

For only the third time (the first two times Christine Asbrey was the honoree), a Scottish crime author has made the cut and named Author of the Month. This month, I profile Malcolm Archibald, who, as with C.A. Asbrey, has written extensively in both fiction and nonfiction on Scottish and UK crime.

15) Malcolm, I have to ask- Since you’ve devoted your literary life to Scottish and UK crime almost to the exclusion of all else, what were you before transitioning to writing full time? 

     I have been many things, from a travel agent, to a policeman (short career!) to a postman in rural and urban Scotland, to a college lecturer. My last job was a lecturer, teaching history and communication (basic English.) However, I do not write exclusively about crime; I also write about the whaling industry- non fiction- and historical military fiction with my Windrush (19th century) and now MacKim (18th century) characters.

14) I’d first like to talk about Sergeant Mendick, your earlier series character. What makes Sgt. Mendick tick, what are his strengths and weaknesses and will you continue the series? 

     Mendick was a man with a haunted past, as his wife and daughter died. He was a soldier in the 26th Foot, the Cameronians (same as an uncle of mine) and saw action in the Far East during the Opium War. The first book in the series, ‘The Darkest Walk’ was long listed for the People’s Book Prize and short listed for the Roma FilmFest. His strengths were his determination and humanity, and his weaknesses – he was never a genius! The second book gave more of his background and how he got his name, and the third, Golden Voyage, introduced a man named George Watters.

     ‘Darkest Walk’ was based on the events around the Chartist troubles of 1848, when Mendick had a conflict of interest between his duty and his conscience, and Golden Voyage was based on an actual event, when a very clever gang stole a ship and sailed the world stealing cargoes. However, there are no plans to continue with Mendick.

13) That takes us to Det. Sgt. Watters, who also chases criminals but roughly 10-15 years after Mendick’s adventures. I have to ask the same questions of him- Strengths, weaknesses? What motivates Watters to chase the most dangerous criminals of 1860’s Scotland? 

     Watters is a spin-off from Mendick. He is a different character, a happily married man with an interest in playing golf. He likes to walk and think at the same time, is more convivial than Mendick and possibly more intelligent. He tends to get involved in complex cases –usually based on historical events – and works them out with a mixture of a hands-on approach and a lot of spadework, plus the use of informers. His most recent published case, Murdered on the 13th, began with a murder on a Dundee golf course and brought Watters to investigate illegal prize fighting (not unknown in Dundee), prostitution and the fishing industry – all topical for the period.

12) Since the two series transpire within reasonable proximity to each other, are there any plans to write a crossover featuring the two? 

     Golden Voyage has both men. I have a vague idea of bringing Mendick into a later Watters investigation, but nothing concrete.

11) As I’d hinted above, you’ve extensively written about Victorian era Scottish crime in nonfiction books such as Bloody Scotland, A Sink of Atrocity, The Real Mean City, Whisky Wars, Riots and Murder and Fishermen, Randies and Fraudsters. What accounts for your fascination with Victorian-era crime? 

     I fell into it by mistake. I was working on my degree dissertation (as a mature student), which was on the social side of Dundee whaling men, and I found the whaling men had a reputation for violence. While looking for aspects of their criminality, I developed an interest in Victorian crime; not just the big-name Jack the Ripper type, but the clever thieves, the types of pickpockets and the fraudsters and fringe people. I try to include the less obvious criminality in my books, as well as the pests who were so unpleasant for the ordinary people.

10) Have any real crimes in 19th century Scotland ever made it into your fiction at least as a plot device? 

     Yes: the theft of the ship Squirrel is the mainspring of Golden Voyage and in Murdered on the 13th, Watters uses an old technique to find a thief in a large house. The technique belonged to the 17th century, but worked. The pickpockets devices in The Atlantic Street Murder and in 13th were genuine, as were the shop-breaking ideas

9) Lest I pigeonhole you as exclusively a crime author, you’ve also written a five part series featuring Melcorka, who abandons her life of luxury to defend her native Scotland from the invading Vikings. What induced you to venture into historical fantasy? 

     An Irish author named Maurice Walsh! When I was much younger, I was wandering about Scotland and was marooned in Scrabster, waiting for the boat to Orkney. Bad weather had prevented any sailings, so I read a book named ‘Sons of the Swordmaker’ – the idea stayed in my head and many years later I wrote ‘Shadow of the Wolf’ and the ‘Swordswoman' series.

8) What is it about Scottish true crime that you think distinguishes it from that of other countries and why does it appeal to you so much as a novelist? 

    Crime is universal. Both Mendick and Watters worked in London as well as in Scotland. However, Scottish crime has a certain uniqueness as it incorporates social and cultural differences: what one section of society views as criminal, another will not. Whisky smuggling or poaching were frowned on by some classes, yet welcomed by others.

7) Plotter, pantser or plantser? 

     I plot for weeks, with chapter by chapter details, then start to write and end up with something completely different!

6) While growing up in Scotland, who were your favorite authors? Have any of them had an influence on your own development as an author?

     Too many to list, but RLS is high there, with Kipling and Hogg, Robert Service and Neil Gunn, George MacDonald Fraser and Walsh; C S Forester and Tolstoy; Dickens and Walter Scott. I’d like to think that Stevenson is there, somewhere.

5) It must be a strange and mystifying experience for a non-writer to be married to an author. How much input does your wife of 40+ years have on your work? 

     She still listens to my ranting when my researches find something I think is interesting. I admire her patience, although I can see the glaze come over her eyes when I ramble on – and I can’t blame her for that. Just by being there, I draw comfort from her.

4) If possible, discuss what your typical writing day is like. Do you draft exclusively in a notebook, straight to the laptop and do you set daily word goals? 

     I am up about half past five, check emails etc, and set to work. I am on the computer about 10 hours a day and take hand written notes in the evening, or write small pieces; ideas come to me in the shower or in the garden – all sorts of inconvenient times! Yes, I have daily and weekly work goals, and I hate editing!

3) Do you see Scottish noir (aka Tartan noir) one day getting as big as Scandi noir? 

     I would like to think so. There are many very talented Scottish authors who produce some very impressive work.

2) You and your wife live in a pretty wild area of northern Scotland. How conducive is that for your writing? 

     Any part of Scotland is fantastic for stimulation. The cities are redolent with history, the landscape crammed with folklore and atmosphere. Where we live now, I have a Pictish fort, the site of a fairy abduction, the site of a supposed 15th century cannibal, an 11th century battlefield, a standing stone and two castles within a three mile radius; add two golf courses, a 19th century fishing harbour and a view to a smuggling coastline – what more could a writer wish for?

1) So, what’s next for Malcolm Archibald? 

Another Watters, another Windrush military book, another MacKim military book and maybe some more non-fiction. As long as the ideas keep coming. . . and thank you for reading this diatribe.

If you’re interested in Malcolm Archibald’s work, follow the handy links below to his novels’ product pages and author sites:


Post a Comment

<< Home

KindleindaWind, my writing blog.

All Time Classics

  • Our Worse Half: The 25 Most Embarrassing States.
  • The Missing Security Tapes From the World Trade Center.
  • It's a Blunderful Life.
  • The Civil War II
  • Sweet Jesus, I Hate America
  • Top Ten Conservative Books
  • I Am Mr. Ed
  • Glenn Beck: Racist, Hate Monger, Comedian
  • The Ten Worst Music Videos of all Time
  • Assclowns of the Week

  • Links to the first 33 Assclowns of the Week.
  • Links to Assclowns of the Week 38-63.
  • #106: The Turkey Has Landed edition
  • #105: Blame it on Paris or Putin edition
  • #104: Make Racism Great Again Also Labor Day edition
  • #103: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Toilet edition
  • #102: Orange is the New Fat edition
  • #101: Electoral College Dropouts edition
  • #100: Centennial of Silliness edition
  • #99: Dr. Strangehate edition
  • #98: Get Bentghazi edition
  • #97: SNAPping Your Fingers at the Poor edition
  • #96: Treat or Treat, Kiss My Ass edition
  • #95: Monumental Stupidity double-sized edition
  • #94: House of 'Tards edition
  • #93: You Da Bomb! edition.
  • #92: Akin to a Fool edition.
  • #91: Aurora Moronealis edition.
  • #90: Keep Your Gubmint Hands Off My High Pre'mums and Deductibles! edition.
  • #89: Occupy the Catbird Seat/Thanksgiving edition.
  • #88: Heil Hitler edition.
  • #87: Let Sleeping Elephants Lie edition.
  • #86: the Maniacs edition.
  • #85: The Top 50 Assclowns of 2010 edition.
  • #(19)84: Midterm Madness edition.
  • #83: Spill, Baby, Spill! edition.
  • #82: Leave Corporations Alone, They’re People! edition.
  • #81: Hatin' on Haiti edition.
  • #80: Don't Get Your Panties in a Twist edition.
  • #79: Top 50 Assclowns of 2009 edition.
  • #78: Nattering Nabobs of Negativism edition.
  • #77: ...And Justice For Once edition.
  • #76: Reading Tea Leaves/Labor Day edition.
  • #75: Diamond Jubilee/Inaugural Edition
  • #74: Dropping the Crystal Ball Edition
  • #73: The Twelve Assclowns of Christmas Edition
  • #72: Trick or Treat Election Day Edition
  • #71: Grand Theft Autocrats Edition
  • #70: Soulless Corporations and the Politicians Who Love Them Edition
  • Empire Of The Senseless.
  • Conservative Values for an Unsaved World.
  • Esquire's Charles Pierce.
  • Brilliant @ Breakfast.
  • The Burning Platform.
  • The Rant.
  • Mock, Paper, Scissors.
  • James Petras.
  • Towle Road.
  • Avedon's Sideshow (the new site).
  • At Largely, Larisa Alexandrovna's place.
  • The Daily Howler.
  • The DCist.
  • Greg Palast.
  • Jon Swift. RIP, Al.
  • God is For Suckers.
  • The Rude Pundit.
  • Driftglass.
  • Newshounds.
  • William Grigg, a great find.
  • Brad Blog.
  • Down With Tyranny!, Howie Klein's blog.
  • Wayne's World. Party time! Excellent!
  • Busted Knuckles, aka Ornery Bastard.
  • Mills River Progressive.
  • Right Wing Watch.
  • Earthbond Misfit.
  • Anosognosia.
  • Echidne of the Snakes.
  • They Gave Us a Republic.
  • The Gawker.
  • Outtake Online, Emmy-winner Charlotte Robinson's site.
  • Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo
  • No More Mr. Nice Blog.
  • Head On Radio Network, Bob Kincaid.
  • Spocko's Brain.
  • Pandagon.
  • Slackivist.
  • WTF Is It Now?
  • No Blood For Hubris.
  • Lydia Cornell, a very smart and accomplished lady.
  • Roger Ailes (the good one.)
  • BlondeSense.
  • The Smirking Chimp.
  • Hammer of the Blogs.
  • Vast Left Wing Conspiracy.
  • Argville.
  • Existentialist Cowboy.
  • The Progressive.
  • The Nation.
  • Mother Jones.
  • Vanity Fair.
  • Citizens For Legitimate Government.
  • News Finder.
  • Indy Media Center.
  • Lexis News.
  • Military Religious Freedom.
  • McClatchy Newspapers.
  • The New Yorker.
  • Bloggingheads TV, political vlogging.
  • Find, the next-best thing to Nexis.
  • Altweeklies, for the news you won't get just anywhere.
  • The Smirking Chimp
  • Don Emmerich's Peace Blog
  • Wikileaks.
  • The Peoples' Voice.
  • CIA World Fact Book.
  • IP address locator.
  • Tom Tomorrow's hilarious strip.
  • Babelfish, an instant, online translator. I love to translate Ann Coulter's site into German.
  • Newsmeat: Find out who's donating to whom.
  • Wikipedia.
  • Uncyclopedia.
  • Icasualties
  • Free Press
  • YouTube
  • The Bone Bridge.
  • Powered by Blogger