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Writer Gareth Halliday launches debut thriller at Waterstones Inverness on Thursday

By Margaret Chrystall

WRITER Gareth Halliday may not have to give up his cold loch swims as he pursues a career in crime writing that officially launches – with his first book From The Shadows – on Thursday at Waterstones Inverness.

The pull of exploring the remote and beautiful landscapes of the Highlands is what lured him up from the south of Scotland 13 years ago. And as he continues the series of books, Gareth will be staying right here, surrounded by the landscape he loves and that has helped inspire his books.

The seed for From The Shadows came once while walking with his partner Sarah on the west coast. Gareth began to imagine what would happen if you found a body and the story that would bleed back from that into a dark plot of murder and fear.

Now he has peopled his beloved remote landscapes with a cast of compelling characters, perhaps, most importantly, the physically-imposing, dogged detective inspector Monica Kennedy who must find out why a boy has been abducted.

In seven days she tracks a killer Gareth calls a “narcissistic psychopath”. And alongside Monica, social worker Michael Bach has his own dark past to confront as he desperately searches for a boy who asked for his help before disappearing.

Gareth makes finding a publisher sound relatively easy. Taking the advice often given to writers, he looked to the Writers and Artists’ Yearbook for contacts for publishers. And replying to an advert in it for agents, he found himself accepted before a bidding war began among publishers for his book.

Gareth said: “The way it works generally you have to get an agent first. Some publishers won’t consider you if you haven’t got one, but it’s just easier if you’ve got one. I just went through the Writers and Artists Yearbook and it said you’re likely to be rejected endlessly. At the time I hadn’t quite finished the book. I thought ‘I’ll get this first oneout of the way!’.”

New thriller From The Shadows.
New thriller From The Shadows.

But there was no rejection. What the publicity calls “a hotly-contested auction” ensued and From The Shadowswas snapped up by Harvill Secker.

“If I could have chosen a publisher when I started out writing – I’m a big Jo Nesbo fan and he is at Harvill Secker – that would have been one of my top places. I was delighted with that,” said Gareth. Harvill Secker is part of Penguin Random House, one of the biggest publishers in the world.

Gareth said: “That was a year ago now, so it seems in the past. I went to London, stood by the penguin on the street outside. Writing a book is such a solitary activity and then to go down and meet people who have read your book and liked it, is such a strange and exciting experience.”

Gareth has already written the second book in what he plans to be a 10-part series featuring DI Monica Kennedy.

“When it’s your first book, you basically have an infinite amount of time to write it. The second one, I’ve enjoyed learning to write a novel in a much shorter time frame.”

Gareth tries to write every day, he says, a 500-word formula that he borrowed from the routine of a writer in a Graham Greene novel.

Wanting to write about the mysterious comes from Gareth’s dad: “When I was a kid he used to be a paranormal investigator, writing books about these mysteries he investigated and it was the most terrifying but exciting thing. He had shelves of books with unexplained mysteries and the paranormal.

“All the darkness that comes out in the book and the idea of these unexplained and lurking dangers in the landscapes, that side of it came from my dad.

“And there’s a massive influence just from the landscapes up here. The Highland landscape is almost like another character, almost the backbone of the series, I would say.”

From The Shadows is launched at Waterstones Inverness today (Thursday, April 18) at a free signing and author talk event at 6pm. Come along and hear Gareth talk about his book.

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