Dramatic opening scene of murder on Culloden Battlefield opens Douglas Skelton's second REbecce Connolly thriller set in Inverness
FOR his second Highland thriller set in Inverness, crime writer Douglas Skelton creates an unforgettable opening scene as snow drifts down on a murder victim dying on Culloden Battlefield.
Dressed in full historic Highland battle dress and with a claymore plunged through him, the body is our first glimpse of the mystery at the heart of The Blood Is Still – Douglas’s follow-up to Thunder Bay which introduced driven young Highland journalist Rebecca Connolly to her readers last year.
The Blood Is Still is the second episode for the feisty young reporter with the Highland Chronicle – a local newspaper not 100 miles from a Highland News & Media title, perhaps. In the new book, Douglas’s story ventures down to the city’s fictional Inverferry area and Rebecca is hot on the scent of a story as fuming neighbours unite against a paedophile set to be rehomed near them by the council.
“The body on the battlefield was the initial idea for the book,” said Douglas. “I had nothing else.
“I had a body in full Highland dress with the claymore as the murder weapon, but no other idea of what the book would be.”
But for Douglas – who likes to let his storylines emerge as he writes – this is normal.
In the aftermath of the body being found, a film being made about the ’45 Rebellion has angered right-wing group Spirit of the Gael, connected to a shadowy group called New Dawn linked to death threats. So Rebecca has a tough story to unravel.
“It just unfolds as I write it. I wish I could plan,” Douglas said. “It might be easier for me, but I just can’t do it. It’s just not in me. I get bored plotting. So I just like to get down and see where it takes me.”
As well as its Inverness setting, the story features Fort William, Clachnaharry and the River Ness.
For Douglas, this book had an added challenge, as his wife Margaret sadly died while he was writing it and he only resumed writing the book three months later.
“It was a difficult book to write,” Douglas said, paying tribute to friends and colleagues who helped him through. They also reassured him that his nerves about the new book not being all he’d hoped, were pure fantasy.
“Some people are saying it’s better than Thunder Bay, which is a relief. I was always seeking reassurance because of the three-month gap – always a bad thing. When I came back – and because I don’t plot – I had to get back into the mood of it.”
Douglas was nervous he wouldn’t quite have ‘got’ Inverness, but it is a good balance between instantly recognisable places and Invernessian traits and the work of his imagination.
One thing the former local newspaper editor has ensured is that Rebecca will get a chance to stretch her reporting wings in the third title, started and due to be completed by July.
“Rebecca is getting a lot tougher – and quicker with her tongue – and I’m more comfortable with a character who is quick with the quips,” he said. “At the Edinburgh launch I was talking about what makes her tick – it’s doing her job.
“I was also asked ‘Is she ever going to find happiness?’. I said ‘Highly unlikely!’,” added Douglas.
But fans may have the chance to get together with Douglas’s hero, ex-crook Davie McCallum, from his earlier series. They might want to keep their eyes open in The Blood Is Still ...
The Blood Is Still (Polygon, £8.99) is out now.