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Why have I set my first six novels in the late 1940’s? For one thing, the immediate post-war years are an unmapped literary landscape. Other writers, wanting a non-contemporary setting, chose the war period itself or jumped forward to the rock ‘n’ roll 50’s or flower-power 60’s. They’re missing out. Post-war Britain was a cauldron of change and upheaval. The country was broke, its empire disintegrating, and a million men, demobbed after six years in uniform, were fighting for jobs and a new role in society. Their estranged womenfolk had found a taste for independence and wage earning. And sometimes, for other men. . .


The nation’s cities were bombed out slums. Winston, the architect of victory – had been turfed out by a country desperate for change. Atlee’s new Labour government was promising impossible dreams: a welfare state and a national health service to sweep away the poor-house and reduce the appalling levels of child mortality. Diseases like TB, polio and rickets were rife, and children with leg callipers a commonplace. Rationing was worsening. The black market spawned during the war had become the norm. Spivs and wide-boys ruled the roost, and corruption was endemic.


In other words, the late 1940’s were a perfect stage for unleashing a lone hero against the forces of vice and venality. Conveniently too, it’s a time when capital punishment held sway, otherwise there would have been no Hanging Shed. It also meant I could duck all the CSI, DNA testing, police procedural stuff and concentrate on the hero and the story.  


Why Glasgow for my Douglas Brodie series? I was born and brought up in the West of Scotland. Write about what you know they say. My earliest recollections of Glasgow were the sound of tram bells sounding through the yellow smog of the 50’s. Pre-war Glasgow was scarred by razor gangs and slums, hunger marches and unemployment. The second World War was a brief hiatus in its steady decline from ‘Second city of the Empire’ to slum capital of Britain. By 1946, Glasgow was a mean city in a mean time.


Why London for my Danny McRae series? It’s where I first came to live and work. It’s where my grandparents came in ’46 when they couldn’t find jobs in Ayrshire. London was bombed to bits in the war and was a perfect noir setting for a private investigator like McRae. And next to Glasgow, it’s the best city in the world.  


But there’s another over-arching reason for choosing this period. The people living through the late 1940’s were very much unsung heroes. The men didn’t want to talk about the war. The women didn’t want to moan about their lot. My stories are about the wee folk, the ones who quietly made the best of it, through rationing, squalid living conditions and deprivation. I’m writing for the folk who just kept buggering on.


BUT… it’s time to move on. Time to write in the moment. My next book is a contemporary thriller called THE MONEY TREE…. Watch this space

Am I stuck in the past?