Fresh Blood

Name: Chris Longmuir

Title of Book: Dead Wood

'...right from the get go you realise that you are in the hands of an excellent storyteller.'

In a grim Dundee of urban decay and criminal deprivation what happens when the cold, calculating world of gangland retribution collides with the psychosis of a serial killer?

Karaís boyfriend has deserted her, leaving her responsible for the debt he ran up with Dundeeís biggest gangster, Tony. His thugs are determined that Kara should pay up, so penniless and desperate, she leaves her young children home alone, to join the oldest profession on the streets of a cold city.

Against her better judgement she allows a strange man to take her out to the woods just outside the city. Once there he drags her into the trees. She manages to escape and while hiding from him stumbles across the corpses of his previous victims. Terrified, she manages to get to a telephone box to make an anonymous phone call to the police.

An investigation led by newcomer DC Louise Walker begins, but she is not the only one determined to catch the killer. Tony the gangster, learns that his daughter is one of the victims and vows revenge. Who will find the killer first? And what kind of justice will prevail?

Dead Wood has just won the biggest prize in British literature for an unpublished writer. The Dundee International Book Prize comes with a £10,000 cheque and publication from Polygon. Not too shabby.
Was it worth it? Without question. This is a deserving winner and right from the get go you realise that you are in the hands of an excellent storyteller.

This is a story told from a multiple viewpoint and such is the writerís skill that you are never torn in your loyalties. Every character earns their place in the novel and earns a place in your heart and/or your mind. From the start you are caught up in Karaís predicament and are rooting for her to win a place of safety.

Chris Longmuir then assembles a cast of suspects and an assortment of investigators leaving you guessing right to the last. This is a book that I was desperately keen to get back to whenever life thrust me from its pages and one that I would heartily commend to you. An impressive debut that promises more to come from its accomplished author.

Reviewed by: M.M.

CrimeSquad Rating

Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) How would you classify your writing, and do you consciously try to write to a certain style or genre?
I suppose you could call my writing dark crime verging on noir. I have tried to write other types of novels and have a saga languishing in the bottom drawer which, as far as I am concerned, can stay there. However I am more comfortable writing crime and think my mindset is too dark to be successful at any other kind of writing.
2) What type of crime novels do you like to read? Do you prefer series or standalone?
I prefer standalone crime novels although I do also read series. My taste, like my writing, veers towards dark crime. I like novels by Val McDermid, Mo Hayder, and several American authors like Jeffrey Deaver. I also went through a Stephen King phase although I donít think I would have the ability to write pure horror in the fantasy field.
3) Your novel famously won the Dundee International Book Prize, along with a handsome cheque of £10,000. Tell us about the moment when you heard you had won.
I was told over the phone and it was suggested I should sit down. Then I think I went through a real mixture of emotions. First I was as high as a kite (excuse the clichť), then I went through a phase of disbelief which was compounded by an embargo on the information, so it became dreamlike. I knew in November but couldnít tell anyone about my success until the bookís launch on 26th June. It was a surrealistic seven months when nothing really felt real, apart from the editing process, so I think it was only when the award was presented that it really sank in.
4) Your book touches on actual real-life murders that happened in the same setting as you use for your fictional murders. How difficult was that for you to contemplate? Were you ever tempted to change the setting?
I donít think it would have worked so well if I had changed the setting as the real-life murders are so integrated into the Dundee consciousness. I needed these historical murders for the plot to work but I had a lot of reservations about using them. I was very conscious that there would be living relatives or friends of the two murdered girls and I didnít want to add to their grief, so I did not describe the historical deaths in any great detail. I was not so circumspect with the fictional deaths though.
5) What is it about crime writing that made you want to explore it as an art form?
Possibly because Iíve always liked reading crime fiction. Initially I liked it for the puzzle aspect, then I progressed to Ďletís have a good scareí type of fiction and then onto the psychological elements. So I suppose you could say Iíve combined all three elements into my writing. As to whether itís an art form, well I wouldnít like to pass an opinion on that. I just like to write a good story.
6) What are the qualities you look for in another writers' work?
Thatís a bit difficult to say. I read widely and generally know when Iíve enjoyed a book and when I havenít. What I donít like is having to sit with a dictionary at my elbow when Iím reading, and I donít like to go back and reread to ensure Iíve grasped what the author is saying. So, Iím afraid I must admit to not liking the type of literary fiction that has obscure meanings.
7) What do you start with plot or character?
I start with character, and usually with a single scene and, like Topsy, the book just grows. In many ways I am like my reader, I donít know what will happen next. The danger with this kind of writing style is keeping track and making sure that what is written is physically possible within the time frame, so I keep a timeline chart to check out where everybody is at any given time, and what happens when.
8) Most Scottish fiction is centred in the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Was the setting of Dundee a deliberate choice and if so, why?
I worked in Dundee for a good part of my social work career so the city is familiar to me, as is its dark underbelly. I donít think I would have been so convincing if Iíd set my crime in Glasgow or Edinburgh. Besides, itís time Dundee had its turn.
9) Who would be your dream cast of movie actors for an adaptation of your story?
Thatís a difficult one. I hadnít really given that any thought up to now. I suppose John Hannah might make a good Bill, heís matured a bit since he did the original Rebus adaptations. Iím not sure about Kara, maybe a younger version of Jody Foster. But if an adaptation was made Iím sure producers would have their own ideas, and by the time Iíd been picked up off the floor or scraped off the ceiling, the whole thing would have been decided.
10) Without giving away the plot, which book included your favourite plot twist of all time?
There arenít too many books that catch me out with their plot twists. But Jeffrey Deaver does it every time, possibly because he does twists on top of twists. So I would say any of Deaverís books.
11) What is your favourite movie adaptation of a crime novel?
An ancient one Ė Murder on the Orient Express; and slightly more up to date Ė Silence of the Lambs.
12) Would you describe yourself as a crime fiction fan in general and, if so, which authors do you most admire and why?
Aline Templeton for her characterisation and her earlier psychological novels. Val McDermid and Mo Hayder for their handling of the horror of dark crime. Jeffrey Deaver for his plot twists.
13) What is your favourite read crime of all time?
Whatever Iím reading and enjoying at the time. But to mention a few Ė The Butcherís Theatre by Jonathan Kellerman; Red Dragon by Thomas Harris: Shades of Death by Aline Templeton; Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid; and too many more to mention.