Author of 21 and a half novels at the time of writing (The Way Of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry was recently released, Ambrose Parry being the pen name of Brookmyre and his wife Marisa Haetzman. More on that later), Christopher Brookmyre is a leading light of “Tartan Noir” alongside writers like Val McDermid or Ian Rankin. Brookmyre usually has a more comedic spin. For example….
“This is Glesca….Any time you’re confused, take a wee minute to remind yourself of this inescapable fact: this is Glesca. We don’t do subtle, we don’t do nuanced, we don’t do conspiracy. We do pish-heid bampot bludgeoning his girlfriend to death in a fit of paranoid rage after 48 hours straight on the batter. We do coked up neds jumping on a guys heid outside a night club because he looked at them funny….When you hear hoofbeats on Sauchiehall Street, it’s gaunny be a horse, no a zebra”
Of course, these are crime thrillers. So, sometimes it’s a horse, sometimes it’s a zebra and sometimes it’s a chimpanzee with two coconut halves. The books frequently deliver the reader those “Ooh, you sneaky fucker” moments where you find yourself delightfully surprised by the villain’s actual plan or the hero’s solution to the inescapable problem.
A good place to start is Quite Ugly One Morning…because it’s his debut novel and it races out of the traps with a fully formed voice. It also introduces Jack Parlabane. Investigative reporter, cat burglar, laconic comedian and sometime hapless blunderer into murder and mayhem. Brookmyre based Parlabane on Ford Prefect. He loved him as a character “who cheerfully wanders into enormously dangerous situations and effortlessly makes them worse” Parlabane has been a recurring lead and was played by James Nesbitt (The Hobbit, Lucky Man) in a TV adapatation.
The character work is what makes the books for me. Even the utter bastards (and the debut villains include a Tory MP, so yeah, UTTER bastards) are given a convincing voice. It’s no good having a villain who knows he’s a villain. Even Boris Johnson probably thinks he’s not a bad guy.
(Eddie Marsan as MP Stephen Lime in Quite Ugly One Morning)
To quote receurring character Simon Darcourt – “Just for a while.” Death’s opening chat upline in his great seduction, before he drugged you with soporific comforts, distracted you with minor luxuries and ensnared you with long term payment plans. Join the rat race ‘just for a while’. Find a bigger place , out in the ‘burbs ‘just for a while’. Lie down in that wooden box ‘just for a while’
You could see this as a convincing argument for not following a normal career path and seizing the day. Maybe not for becoming a freelance terrorist and serial killer, as he does, but still…
A tip for picking a read is that the more light the title, the more comedic the book. One Fine Day In The Middle Of The Night fully deserves The Scotsman newspaper’s pullquote ” Die Hard wi’ A kilt on”. Black Widow is more Gillian Flynn-esque, describing the case of the murder of a video game developer (Which Brookmyre has done, adapting his novel <i>Bedlam</i> into a game) by his wife, an anaesthetist (Which is the day job of Brookmyre’s wife…..hmmmm)
They couple obviously get along a lot better than that and as mentioned earlier, have recently collaborated on a historical crime thriller featuring James Simpson, the Edinburgh pioneer of anaethesia. (Think “The Alienist” but more haggis) which was optioned by Benedict Cumberbatch’s production company before release, so I’d imagine will be on a screen near you shortly.