Author of the Month

Name: Tony Black

First Novel: Paying For It

Most Recent Book: Gutted

'Written with brio, Gutted is a rollercoaster ride from riveting start to exhilarating finish.'

Ex-journalist, Gus Drury is so down on his luck that he takes a job hunting badger-baiters on Corstorphine Hill at the edge of the city of Edinburgh. He hears a scream. He runs towards it and trips over a body that has been freshly gutted.
The corpse is Tam Fulton, former colleague of one the cityís most dangerous men, Rab Hart and Gus is quickly labelled as suspect number one. Tam was reputed to be carrying fifty thousand pounds, which has gone missing. So not only are plod after Gus, so is Rab Hart.

ďPlodĒ in question is Jonny Johnstone, an up-and-coming Hugo Boss suited detective who happens to be engaged to Gusí ex-wife, and for reasons completely unrelated to guilt, is determined to lock Gus up for the murder.
The scene is set for a tale involving illegal dog fights, the underbelly of a beautiful city and a corrupt police force. As Gus fights to uncover the truth, the only witness that can testify to his innocence is run down in the street and between them Hart and Johnstone tighten the noose round Gusí neck.

Gus Drury is the kind of character who when faced with two settings on the self-destruct button goes for the one marked ďslowĒ. Alcohol is his poison and he needs a good shot of it after the bookís opening, where he falls into a corpse. In between drinks he has a crime to solve and relationships to save before his life is completely ruined.

Despite his obvious problem the reader is immediately engaged in Druryís world and this is down to the skill of the writer. Tony Black, take a bow. This first person narrative is a super-charged, testosterone filled force of nature and I defy anyone not to get caught up in it.

Druryís struggle with the people in his life is emotive and described in a crisp effective prose. Despite his protestations and his Kafkaesque self-loathing we canít help but feel that Drury is actually a really good guy. His friends attempt time and again to get him back to some form of normality and the flashbacks involving his ex-wife, Debs give Drury an added dimension and display that there is more, much more to this man than booze and violence. These events are displayed with real compassion and act as an excellent counterpoint to the hard-edged life Drury has driven himself into. Written with brio, Gutted is a rollercoaster ride from riveting start to exhilarating finish.

Reviewed by: M.M.

CrimeSquad Rating


1) What makes a truly great crime/thriller novel?
Thatís the million dollar question isnít it Ö for me, it always starts with character. If you care about the character, youíll want to stick with them through thick and thin.
2) Now that the crime/thriller genre represents the largest section of fiction sold in the UK, do you think we do enough to celebrate the quality and diversity of the writing?
Weíre getting better, the wider share of readers is waking up to whatís out there but thereís still a long way to go.
3) You have connections with Scotland, Ireland and AustraliaÖhow do you feel your background has informed your writing?
On a really simplistic level, I can slot in and out of voices from those countries very easily. I love all three countries and Iíve stored up stacks of experiences from them - some that have crept into the work. Iím very lucky in that regard, itís a broader palette to chose from; donít think I could be happy just writing about Leith!
4) The high quality of your work and the setting of Edinburgh mean you will draw inevitable comparisons with a certain Mr RankinÖa millstone or a pleasure?
A pleasure, obviously. Rankin has a huge following and his status in Scotland, especially, is iconic. Itís inevitable that Iíll be compared with him but then I think just about every Scottish crime writer has been at one time or another.

Iíve been compared to Irvine Welsh and Allan Guthrie too, again, hugely flattering and always nice to hear, but itís not something I take too seriously.
5) What other writers have influenced your own works?
Iím a huge Hemingway fan, thatís where I started out, reading his thoughts on writing and absorbing all the mythology. In terms of Scottish writing Iím a big time Irvine Welsh fan, I just reread Filth and it still had me in stitches Ö better than Viz. Ken Bruen canít put a foot wrong with me either, itís a physical impossibility for the man to write a bad sentence never mind a bad book. Then thereís the classics of the genre like, Goodis, Thompson, Cain, Lewis, Raymond.
6) Spill the beans, TonyÖhow alike is Gus Dury to Tony Black?
I had a pair of cherry Docs once, but thatís about it. Yeah, weíre both hacks and about the same age, we both live in the east end of Edinburgh but I can honestly say Iíve never nutted a politician. Iím not quite so close to the gutter, but, itís a common misconception that authors really are their characters Ö I wish I was sometimes, would be nice to sort out all your woes by just smacking someone in the mush.
7) Do you see a lot more mileage in Gus Dury or do you have other ideas that you plan to work on?
Gus has got some legs, heís evolving with each book - Iíve just finished the third one and heís surprised me a little with how much heís grown. Iím keen to see where this guy ends up; he really does still interest me. Iím not one of those authors who have a whole grand arc mapped out for their series character, Iím letting Gus lead the way.

But other books are bubbling away too. Iíve just agreed with my editor, the brilliant Rosie de Courcy, to alternate the Gus Dury series with standalones. Itís great to have that freedom and the support from my publishers to stretch myself because Iím bristling with ideas.
8) Raymond Chandler once wrote of crime fiction that the "mystery and the solution of the mystery are only what I call 'the olive in the Martini'". Whatís your view?
Like Iíd argue with Chandler! I hear what heís saying and I do agree, Iím not overly concerned with setting up a big puzzle that has to be solved, that has to be unravelled Ö itís not Sudoko. Itís back to the character aspect, Iím far more interested in exploring a multi-layered individual and how he interacts with the world than simply moving chess pieces about on a board.
9) In a dream scenario who would you like to direct and star in a film/TV adaptation of your book?
Iíve been asked this before and I had to say for film, Danny Boyle and Robert Carlyle Ö to be honest, I donít think anything gets made in TV unless Martin bloody Clunes is in it!
10) Which is more important, great plot or great characters?
Ah, itís characters again! Repeating myself Ö
11) What is your favourite movie adaptation of all time of a crime/thriller novel?
Can I twist the question, slightly? Ö I just saw Eric Bana in Chopper, and all I can say is it blew me away. I believe they took some liberties with the facts but thatís one film that deserves much more cred.
12) What is your favourite crime/thriller novel of all time?
Oh, God Ö how can I pick one? Okay, The Moon in the Gutter by David Goodis.