I was born in Glasgow in the late 1970’s, and was raised in a quasi-religious family of taleslingers; a grandfather who’d twist Greek and Norse mythology with classic ghost stories to create his own brand of bizarro bedtime stories, and two older brothers whose love of punk rock, heavy metal and eighties video nasties would leave an indelible impression.
I spent my childhood reading time flitting between Roald Dahl, the Bible, C.S. Lewis, The Beano, Tarzan novels, Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone’s Fighting Fantasy roleplaying books, liner notes on Iron Maiden LPs, and the occasional sneaky peek into the teetering stack of western, adventure and horror novels at the side of my grandfather’s armchair. It was among that pile that I caught my first fascinating glimpses of the book covers of writers like James Herbert, Wilbur Smith, Stephen King, Richard Laymon, Elmore Leonard and Guy N Smith. In particular, the image of on army of giant crabs descending on an unsuspecting beach resort, massive pincers dripping blood, stays with me to this day.
I think I made my first attempts at writing at around ten years old; stories of monsters in the woods snacking on foolhardy teenagers, and musclebound barbarians chopping up everything in sight. In high school, my creative writing assignment stories (a team of mercenaries battling cannibal tribes in the jungles of darkest Africa, an escaped lunatic going on a murder spree with the aid of a selection of power tools, and a nose flute extraordinaire stranded on a deserted island, battling bears with a chainsaw), raised a few English teachers’ eyebrows. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I started playing about with an idea for a novel inspired by the legend of Sawney Beane, the mythical mass murderer and cannibal who supposedly lived in a cave on the Ayrshire coast in the sixteenth century with an extended inbred family.
Ten years later, coming off of years of wheel spinning in the tourism, call centre, insurance and bar and restaurant sectors, I was studying Music and Digital Media at the University of Glasgow with the aim of becoming a music teacher. I gave my half completed, half arsed attempt of a book to Writer in Residence Louise Welsh, who took pity on me, gave me my first lessons in editing, and encouraged me to finish what I’d started as she thought there was something there. Soon after, I published In the Devil’s Name, and finding that quite a few people were digging what I was shovelling, I was soon at work on a second novel. I also dropped the idea of a stable career in education and signed up for a masters degree in Creative Writing at the University of Stirling, a bold move which my wife still questions the wisdom of.
After discovering an old folk tale about lycanthropy on the Isle of Lewis, my second book gave me the chance to sink my elongated canines into the subject of werewolves, my all-time favourite and most feared monster ever since I’d been subjected to classic 80’s horror flicks like An American Werewolf in London, The Howling and The Company of Wolves by my elder siblings in their efforts to traumatise their wee brother. Looking for a new take on the well-worn trope, I took a leaf out my late grandfather’s book and gave the story a Norse mythology twist, which happily tied in with what I’d uncovered while researching the wolfskin wearing berserkers of King Harald Fairhair, first ruler of Norway. The Wolves of Langabhat was published in the late summer of 2015.
A bunch of short stories followed, including the Pushcart Prize nominated Durty Diana (think Brief Encounter, but with serial killers), Catharsis (a brutal revenge story based on a real-life mugging incident), and Tam o’ Shatner, my supernatural comedy sci-fi tribute to the Robert Burns masterpiece of almost the same name. Tam o’ Shatner would later go on to take the runner up spot at the Dunedin Robert Burns Poetry Competition in New Zealand, and first prize at the Give it Your Best Shot competition at the Falkirk Storytelling Festival.