Happy Saturday, friends! Today I’m lucky to bring you a guest post from an author I met at Bloody Scotland and who is super friendly, super nice, and very interesting! His novel Heart Swarm in on my nightstand and here I am, taking part in the next book’s tour! This makes me extremely happy! Enough blah blah, let’s dig in!
Thank you so much to Sarah Hardy at Books on the Bright Side for inviting me to support Allan!
Title: Wasp Latitudes
Author: Allan Watson
Date of publication: 2018
Number of pages: 346
Against a background of brutal attacks on people and property by a rag-tag group of homeless men whom the media quickly dub Berserkers, DI Will Harlan is juggling with a head-in-a-bucket patricide, a lethal wife-swapping session, a sex-tape scandal involving the Royal Scottish National Orchestra – and perhaps most discomfiting of all – a spate of late night phone calls from his favourite serial killer, Howie Danks.
As the wife-swapping investigation spirals into a glut of cold-blooded slayings carried out by a mysterious pair of killers known as the Wasp Queen and the Priest, Harlan has to look into the past where a cold case may contain uncomfortable answers. But it’s in the present where the real danger lies as he follows a twisted path of mind control and madness leading to a cruel land some call the Wasp Latitudes.
Author for a Day
So what does it take to finally convince myself I’m a proper writer? It’s not as if I don’t have enough solid evidence to sway a stern-faced jury. There’s the sturdy collection of novels and short stories I’ve cobbled together over the years. Add to that I’ve written hundreds of comedy sketches for radio and television, was a regular contributor to a much loved newspaper column and even had a number one novel in Canada last year. But I still practically strangle myself to death with looping slime-covered tentacles of self-conscious denial when put on the spot and invited to define myself as a writer.
It’s not that I don’t want to say I’m a writer. It’s more of a defence mechanism to deflect the condescending smiles and outright laughter that have come my way when I owned up to how I liked to spend my leisure time. Maybe I just spent far too much with the wrong crowd of people.
To my ‘old crowd’, claiming to be a writer was a pompous boast. They compared such a claim to putting myself on a pedestal, expecting to be lauded and admired. For them the word ‘pretentious’ could have been coined solely for those who mistakenly believed they have stuff in their head worth sharing with the world. So I kept a low profile and learned to laugh off any suggestions that I take my passion seriously. Except… well, I do.
Strange then that a small piece of laminated plastic on a cotton lanyard emblazoned with the legend ‘AUTHOR’ finally freed me from the chains of self-cynicism. The reason for this sea-change was being asked to fill a slot for Crime in the Spotlight at Bloody Scotland. Hell, I didn’t even go through the formal selection process. Someone else had cancelled at short notice and I got drafted in as a replacement. Not as if I was going to say no.
The idea is you get three minutes on stage prior to a stellar name in the world of publishing doing their own event. It sounded easy. I mean what could possibly go wrong? Um… well, for a start I came down with a nasty hacking chest infection the week before the event. I didn’t even get to bunk off sick and recuperate. Instead I found myself running a training course in Liverpool, wheezing and spluttering my way through the intricacies of trying to record and configure optic fibre telecommunication circuits. Not the ideal preparation for such an important public appearance.
I was handed the Ambrose Parry event, an author who as many will know is a collaboration between husband and wife team Chris Brookmyer and Marisa Haetzman. I’ve long been a fan of Brookmyer’s books and wasn’t going to let a pair of badly congested lungs get between me and my big day. Besides, my event wasn’t until 3:45 p.m. which meant I could at least lie in bed till lunchtime then head off at a leisurely pace to Stirling. Only thing was, the organisers decided they wanted a rehearsal at 9:00 a.m. to check the timings in case someone was sneakily planning on doing a marathon reading and bore the audience to into a stupor before the main act did their bit.
So with very little sleep I headed off to the Albert Halls in Stirling that morning feeling like death warmed up. As the train sped towards Stirling I did consider that the universe was finally taking the side of my old friends and punishing me for pretending to be a writer. The rehearsals weren’t great. Just us nervous Spot-Lighters in an empty theatre proving to head-honcho Gordon Brown that we could keep things within the three minute time slot.
The universe, still messing around with me, decreed I go last which didn’t help my nerves. Even worse, I noticed everyone else used their entire allotted time to read from their novels. It appeared I’d made a rash decision when planning out my three minutes, splitting the time into a pseudo stand-up comedy routine about my book and then finishing off with a very short reading. This act of folly was duly confirmed when I finally took the lectern and ran through my lines to utter silence. All that was missing was the low hiss of a desert wind and some stray tumbleweed.
After that I trudged along to the Bloody Scotland booking office at the Golden Lion hotel to collect my Author Pass. At that point I actually thought the smart move might be to simply get back on the train and return to bed. I’m so glad I didn’t. When I told the guy behind the desk who I was, he asked if I was press or an author and I mumbled, ‘Author’ in a voice so small and squeaky it could have belonged to Jimmy Krankie.
And that’s where everything changed. Once I slipped that Author Pass over my head I felt like man reborn. I strode through the town, my pass on my puffed out chest challenging anyone who so much as glanced my way to question my credentials as a writer. Those who didn’t look my way I’d wave to catch their attention, my body language screaming at them, ‘Look at me, punks, Author at large!’
After a few hours of this I did come back to reality and used my official author status to launch an assault on the fabled authors’ Green Room at the Golden Lion where I helped myself to the complimentary coffee and ate as many biscuits as I could without actually vomiting. I got to pose for an official Bloody Scotland photo portrait and chatted to loads of lovely people before I finally had to return to the Albert Halls.
I met Chris Brookmyer and his wife in the dressing room, both of whom seemed outrageously impressed by my laminated Author Pass. Quite rightly, too, I told myself. However, I came unstuck somewhat when Val McDermid crashed into the room and after exchanging pleasantries with the Brookmyers came over and glared silently at me for what seemed the longest amount of time. It was a hard look that said I know what your game is, you fraud – before leaving again. My new found confidence ebbed away. McDermid had seen through the magical properties of the Author Pass and passed judgement.
Before I could recover, I found myself being led downstairs to the back of the stage. The Brookmyers were taken on first and introduced to tumultuous applause. I peeked through the curtains and saw the hall was full. Seven hundred partisan readers who would crush me with the gravity well of their combined apathy. Then I heard my name being mentioned over the PA and someone pushed me forward.
The spotlights were blinding as I took the four shaky steps to the lectern. The silence was profound. Only then did I realise I’d given no further thought to changing what I was going to say. So I prepared for the worst, made sure I had a clear line of retreat and said exactly the same words that had fallen so flat at rehearsals. And… this time it worked. Cue laughter. More than I’d hoped. Even the reading went flawlessly, no coughing, or stammering, or drying up. I swaggered off the stage to a long soothing round of applause.
Later, when I finally slipped off the talismanic lanyard I thought I’d once more revert to being a timid apologist for having the bare-faced cheek to imagine I could write. But just like Bilbo Baggin’s fabled ring, it seems once you wear that Author Pass, it changes you, there’s no going back.
So if anyone is actually still reading this, listen up. I AM A WRITER and I don’t care who knows.
I am so honored to be hosting this guest post. I lived this day at Bloody Scotland as a guest. I was in the audience for the Ambrose Parry event. I saw Allan come up on stage and deliver his piece like a pro, as if it was the easiest thing to do. I would have melt on the spot had I been in his shoes and I can tell you that this guy definitely is a writer. I am so glad I got to see him stand there and talk to us before giving us a glimpse of his work.
I am grateful and happy I got to know more about Allan’s version of the day, and I am so amazed at what he’s achieved. He’s got my full support and I can’t wait to meet him again!
You can grab Allan’s work on Amazon: Here
Allan Watson is a writer whose work leans towards the dark end of the fiction spectrum. He is the author of seven novels – Dreaming in the Snakepark, Carapace, The Garden of Remembrance, 1-2-3-4, Monochrome, Heart Swarm and Wasp Latitudes.
In between the books, Allan wrote extensively for BBC Radio Scotland, churning out hundreds of comedy sketches, in addition to being a regular contributor for the world famous ‘Herald Diary’.
He occasionally masquerades as a composer/musician, collaborating with crime writer Phil Rickman in a band called Lol Robinson with Hazey Jane II whose albums have sold on four different continents (Antarctica was a hard one to crack)
Allan lives and works in Glasgow, Scotland, but has never worn the kilt or eaten a deep fried Mars Bar. He also once spent three days as a stand-in guitarist for the Bay City Rollers, but he rarely talks much about that…
Twitter – @allanwatson12