Wednesday, 13 January 2016

ATLANTIC IN OUR BONES First Chapter of my new novel

Hi, just beginning final polish of what I hope is the final draft of my new 'Tartan Noir' novel ATLANTIC IN OUR BONES, the latest in my series The Mysteries Of Glasgow (another two novels, AZTEC LOVE SONG and GLASGOW, LIKE A STRANGER, are available already HERE:  ... and HERE:

No better way of testing if the words all flow freely than to read the darned thing out loud, which I've done with the first chapter posted on SOUNDCLOUD here....

And here's the text of that first chapter.... More to follow!!!

The moment he spots her, on the platform of the harbour's train station, a shock seizes Chief Superintendent Creggan, a shock sharper than the wind off the sea loch.

“Mhairi....?” he mutters, like the old family friend he is, starting towards her even as she darts aboard the train. He has almost reached her when the doors slide shut between them. The train, running late, starts grumbling into motion.

Creggan, who has just got off this selfsame train, weary after a tedious conference in Inverness, followed by the lengthy, slow-running journey which has brought him back home, runs alongside the carriage, Mhairi in view as she takes a seat on the carriage's far side, the girl's pretty, slender face fixed forward, giving no clear sign she has spotted him.

He gives up the chase as the train rattles into the distance. What is he concerned about? - he asks himself. The girl looks fine, old enough, just about, to competently make a journey on her own. And yet... it is not like her father, for better or worse, to turn her free like this. Creggan fumbles out his phone, thumbing his way to a familiar number. Past the platform's far end, he can dimly make out the island, on the grey horizon beyond the mouth of the sea loch.


On that island, the sea-wind swings wide a cottage's front door, clattering its knob against the wall of the narrow hallway. The gust ebbs. The door attempts to creak shut, barely halfway there when the next gust slaps it as wide as before. Beyond, past a hiss of wind-coarsened undergrowth, the sea grunts a cold grey laughter.

Wind-stirred puddles lie in the warps of the hallway’s linoleum floor. On the wall at one side, coats hang in a clump, threadbare sleeves and crudely patched elbows jostling one another. Through the living room doorway, the television crackles its imperfect reception of some faraway game show. On the coffee table facing the TV, the old manual typewriter hunkers its metal bulk. Alongside, the all-but-full ashtray and all-but-empty whisky glass gather dust. Nearby, the phone rings and goes unanswered.

In the kitchen, the little table with the checked tablecloth stands set for dinner, the dinner itself beyond rescue within the burnt-down stump of saucepan on the fused hob. A tiny crab scuttles the floor. The kitchen door, half-open onto the hall, voices a low groan, then slams against its frame, caught by a gust that makes the kitchen calendar flutter on its hook. The phone rings on.

Upstairs, empty rooms offer that ringing no answer. In Mhairi's little box room, the rumpled covers on the single bed hold only soilings of dried blood, the small and slender hand-print in blood on the wall above hardly hand enough to lift a receiver, the silence which chokes the place scarcely able to afford Chief Superintendent Creggan the answer for which, over on the mainland, he fairly aches.


Blurring by, the highland landscape and the troubled clouds above lie slashed with violet and scarlet. Hill after hill swells – green, brown, black - against the sky and is bundled aside. Between them and the edge of the railway track, a bog shivers, its pools mirroring the sunset clouds, the waters suffering the first stabs of oncoming rain.

Mhairi sips lukewarm tea. The train compartment is half empty, but still the figures with whom she shares it seem to press altogether too close, their various conversations a threatening murmur. Perhaps it’s her they’re muttering about: that strange lassie who bought her ticket with a cascade of coins across the station counter, like a kid who'd taken a hammer to her piggy bank.

That man there, face like a bleached headstone… doesn’t she know him? From Church, maybe? Friend of Dad’s? No… maybe not. Her Dad has so few friends. Has… Present tense. How dare she phrase it otherwise? Yet to see him back there at the station, Creggan of all people... what kind of fate, of ill luck, does that imply for this attempt at escape? Perhaps he's already phoned ahead, ensuring her arrest at the next station. Maybe he's been over to the island already and seen... and seen....

No, of course not, there hasn't been nearly enough time for that. And why should even he raise any alarm over her catching the same perfectly ordinary train he himself had just got off? All the same....

At the other side of Mhairi’s table, a baby on its mother’s knee screeches from a scarlet, single-toothed mouth, eyes fixed on Mhairi. Maybe that young and raw - she ponders – it can smell the blood. Like a crow. Or a police dog. Or maybe that’s a cry of sympathy? It’s a terrible thing, after all, to be a child in such a world, as Mhairi well knows: all of seventeen, yet with little more experience of all she is running from, of all she is running towards, than that cry-baby kid.

Her innards suffer their latest pang. The dour-faced man further up the aisle has seen her wince, craning his head for a clearer view. Does she know him? Does he know her? Did he spot that look Creggan gave her?

She knows one thing: she must get off this train.

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