Monday, 25 June 2018

Mark Billingham & Steve Cavanagh

It was a packed house at Waterstones in Sauchiehall Street on Wednesday evening to hear two big hitters in the crime writing world - Mark Billingham and Steve Cavanagh. And I have never laughed so much at a book launch before!

Keeping order was McIlvanney Prize 2018 longlister Chris Brookmyre, as the guys talked about their new books - The Killing Habit by Mark Billingham and Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh. Both have been getting rave reviews, and having read Thirteen (review to follow) I can agree that it's fantastic. I haven't had chance to read The Killing Habit yet, but I am a big fan of Mark's writing, and look forward to getting into it at the earliest opportunity.

The spark for The Killing Habit came from a news article about the Croydon Cat Killer, later renamed the UK Cat Killer, as the area in which he (or she) operated within expanded. This individual has so far killed 450 domestic cats and is the subject of an on going investigation. It turns out thatmestic cats kill an astonishing 55 million birds each year. So one active line of enquiry, is that this is a bird lover exacting revenge. A very big concern for the police is what this individual might go on to do, as the torture and killing of animals can be a precursor to murdering people, so they are very keen to stop him or her.

Anyway, I digress slightly. This all gave Mark an idea for the book, but he was quick reassure us that no cats are actually killed in the story. Crime writers know that it doesn't matter what agonies and horrors they put their human characters through, but if they harm a hair on the head of a cat or dog, there will be hell to pay from their readership!

Thirteen is the fourth in the Eddie Flynn series, but works perfectly as a standalone. Eddie is a former conman turned attorney in New York, defending a client in a murder case. But the actual murderer isn't trial, he's on it the jury! It's a corker. Steve didn't base it on real events, but has been asked if it was based on American killer Edward Wayne Edwards who had a similar MO. At this point author Craig Robertson, who was in the audience, informed the gathered assembly that Wayne is the most common middle name of American serial killers! Parents to be - you have been warned!

Neither Mark not Steve base their books on real events, because often reality is far stranger than fiction. Mark told the true story of the guy who, on discovering that lemon juice could be used as invisible ink, covered himself in lemon juice to commit a robbery. When the police arrived to arrest him a short time later, he was genuinely gobsmacked that he had been seen! And Steve, who is a practising solicitor, once acted for a guy charged with armed robbery. With a dead seagull. Really. That was possibly my favourite story of the night, but there were so many to choose from!

Mark revealed who Jack the Ripper was, according to Scotland Yard. Steve was asked by Chris about the similarities and differences between British and American lawyers. Apparently, the procedures are similar, but slightly different, and in the UK we have a solicitor and a barrister rather than just an attorney in the US. If you get the chance to hear Steve speak, ask him about this, and he will hopefully treat you to the story of Sister Mary, who struggled with the difference between a solicitor and a barrister. I was practically crying with laughter, and certainly can't do it justice by trying to retell it here.

We also heard about Steve getting trapped inside a toilet at a very swish American hotel. So swish that, whilst waiting for an engineer to arrive, the staff sustained  him with Pinot Grigio instead of water! It was the second time I had heard this particular story, and it was even funnier this time around.

Both authors will be taking part in the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in Stirling, 21st to 23rd September. Steve has a panel event, and is also one half of Two Crime Writers and a Microphone. Along with his (podcast) other half Luca Veste, he will be recording a live podcast on the Saturday evening. Mark, along with Wednesday night's host Chris Brookmyre, will be playing on the Friday evening as part of supergroup Fun Lovin' Crime Writers. Chris also has a panel event. All of these events, and many more brilliant ones, can be booked through the Bloody Scotland website.

The guys were asked what other authors they are reading just now. They both recommended Mick Herron and Martyn Waites, and Chris mentioned Dark Town by Tom Allen. Mark then brought the event to a close by reading some of his favourite one star reviews!

I could have listened to these two, and Chris, all night. It was so much fun. I got my books signed and my pic taken (although the lighting wasn't brilliant by the signing table). I don't know about other book communities, but the crime writing one is hugely encouraging and supportive. In the audience on Wednesday night, cheering on (and occasionally heckling) their mates were fellow authors Mason Cross and Craig Robertson (both also McIlvanney Prize longlisters), Alexandra Sokoloff and Neil Broadfoot. And it was great to catch up with Claire Duffy and several of my fellow bloggers too.

All in all, a fantastic evening!

You can buy The Killing Habit from Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

You can buy Thirteen from Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.


  1. And a couple of wee books and a tote bag from a fellow blogger :D I got a fab bookmark from the beautiful Sharon, a wee piccy with Noelle and Kat brought me a book and candles to cheer me up. We have such a lovley circle!

    Twas a great night, wish I had got to speak folk and stay longer but I was too sore, I need to read both books xxx



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