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Bobby March Will Live Forever: A Q & A with Alan Parks

PART OF THE Generations ISSUE

‘And as night falls and the chatter dies down there’s still one person who doesn’t know what Glasgow is talking about.’

Alan Parks has quietly become a writer to watch in Scotland’s crime writing community, building his name with each of his visceral, pageturning thrillers. He has just released his 3rd novel starring his troubled detective, Harry McCoy, and BooksfromScotland caught up with him to find out more about his series.

 

Bobby March Will Live Forever
By Alan Parks
Published by Canongate Books

 

With your new book, Bobby March Will Live Forever, you’re now on your 3rd Harry McCoy thriller. Tell us about the novel, and how it fits in with the series you’re building?

The book starts with the overdose of Bobby March, a Glaswegian guitarist back in the city for a concert. What initially seems like an ordinary overdose becomes more complex as McCoy investigates. He is also dealing with the promotion of Bernie Raeburn, a rival who is determined to make his life misery. He keeps him off the big case of the moment, the disappearance of a twelve year old girl. Murray, his ex boss asks him to find his missing niece and to keep it off the books. McCoy soon discovers why…

The book takes all the familiar characters – McCoy, Wattie, Murray and Cooper and falls what has happened them in the six months or so since the last book. Big changes for everyone.

 

A troubled detective and the Glasgow underworld of the 1970s. What made you decide to take on such sacred cows in the Tartan Noir firmament in your own writing? You must be very brave!

Not really, just stupid! I like all the cliches of Scottish crime writing. The mean streets, the sidekick, the razor wielding thugs, the grumpy Boss. I wanted to write books that had them all and try and look at them in a slightly different way.

 

The whydunit takes precedence in your books rather than the whodunit. Tell us about the inspiration behind the characters of McCoy and Cooper.

The idea was to have two characters on the different sides of the law who were tied to one another. They met growing up in care and Cooper looked after McCoy so McCoy feels a huge debt to him, keeps being friends with him even though it’s not the best thing for his career. They are very different though. Cooper is like a shark, he moves forward doing what has to be done with no regrets or looking back while McCoy is more of a victim of his past, it still affects him and what he does. The challenge for both of them is to remain friends as both their respective careers move forward.

 

You’re taking on two genres—historical fiction and crime fiction—how much research goes into creating Harry’s world?

Quite a lot! There is the library stuff – what was going on at the time, what pubs were open then, what was happening in the city at the time, what day to day life was like. Yo can do some of that at The Mitchell Library. I’ve spent a lot of time on The Glasgow Floor these past couple of years.

Then there is the other stuff, the more mood research. That means watching films from the time, old TV programmes and listening to music from the era. That helps you just get a general idea about what was in the air at the time, what people were thinking and talking about.

 

There’s some interesting rewriting of some rock n’ roll history in Bobby March. Having worked in the music business yourself, did you always want to bring your knowledge there into the series?

No! Everyone kept asking me why there was no music stuff in the books but I wanted to avoid it until the characters and the atmosphere in the books was established. Book three seemed about the right time. Bobby March is a kind of Zelig character. On the edges of a lot of big events and around big stars but never quite the star….

 

The titles of your books so far suggest at least twelve books in the series. Do you have an idea of how the series will pan out?

I could lie and say yes….

 

Can you give us any hints on what April might bring?

Just starting it now. A few clues – The Holy Loch. Peterhead. Mau Mau. Brothers. A house by the sea…..

 

What other books are you looking forward to reading in 2020?

I read The Young Team by Graeme Armstrong which was great. Reading Long Bright River by Liz Moore, also really good. Looking forward to Liam McIlvanney’s new one. Death in her Hands by Otessa Moshfegh. The F*uck it List by John Niven and the new Phil Klay, Missionaries.

 

Bobby March Will Live Forever by Alan Parks is published by Canongate Books, priced £14.99.

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