My next book is called Close to the Bone. It’s a Logan McRae novel set in Aberdeen with the usual dysfunctional cast of absolute maniacs and morons, but this time there’s a distinctly weird feel to it…
The idea for the book came to me when I went to visit the council archives in Aberdeen. They’re kept in this tiny little room in the Townhouse, which almost nobody knows about, but anybody can go there and look up documents dating back to the 13thCentury. It’s a fabulous resource, because when you see these things on television, there’s always somebody wearing crisp white gloves, and turning the pages very slowly, for people to ooh and aah over. But in Aberdeen you can actually go and see these things and touch them yourself, so there’s this great connection with history. The staff are great, hugely helpful, passionate about what they’re doing. And it’s free too!
While I was there, I asked Aberdeenshire council’s head historian to take me through the history of witchcraft in the borough and the city. There’s a very unpleasant rumour that Aberdeen used to save up its witches until it had enough to burn all in one go, because it would be cheaper that way. But this is, of course a scurrilous lie! What would happen is that one person would be accused of being a witch and arrested. Now, because King James I had written and published a book called Daemonologie at the end of the 16th Century everyone knew there was no such thing as a witch operating on her own. No, she would be in league with the Devil and there would be a coven of other witches working with her to implement his infernal wishes. King James I said it, so it had to be true!
As the witch in custody was obviously just the tip of the evil iceberg, some fine upstanding members of the community would torture her (or him) until they provided the names of others in the coven. Given the horrific things these fine upstanding members did, it was no surprise that the poor soul they were torturing would quickly name names. Any names. Anything just to get them to stop. And as soon as they did, they went off to arrest the newly named ‘witches’ so they could torture them as well. Who would name others… And within the space of two days you could go from having one witch to six – all of whom had to be burnt as quickly as possible because they were dangerous and scary things in those days.
For me, this whole process really sparked the idea of – what if this started happening again? What if somebody decided that they were a real life witch finder, and then set out to try and make a difference in this world by getting rid of the witches?
Coincidentally, there’s a book I’ve been wanting to write for years now – an alternative history, FATHERLAND meets SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, then goes for a pint with NIGHT WATCH sort of thing – that’s all about a team of witch finders. And while it doesn’t yet exist beyond the echo-filled caverns of my brain, in Close to the Bone somebody is making a film of it. A Hollywood-style blockbuster, all filmed in Aberdeenshire. And that made the perfect framework to hang the story on.
There are witches, nudity, DI Insch makes a return, and some very unsavoury characters do some very unsavoury things…. But if you want to find out what, you’ll just have to read Close to the Bone.
Close to the Bone will be available to buy online and in store from the 17th January for just £8.00!