15 August 2017
We were watching a game of cricket in Estonia a couple of summers ago. Tallinn has one artificial wicket in a grass field in the middle of a hippodrome, and three teams, who play each other in a two-month round robin.
I was talking to this fellow from Glasgow who was playing in the game, and he was telling me about an argument he’d had with the Sri Lankan captain of one of the other teams. (There was only one Estonian player. Mostly the players were Asians, with the odd Brit, South African or Australian thrown in.) The guy from Glasgow said about the argument, “He’s getting quite heated, and I says to him, ‘calm the fuck down, man, calm the fuck down!’ And he’s like, ‘I need to calm down? You’re the one who’s swearing!’ So I says, ‘That’s no’ swearing. I’m from Glasgow, it doesnae count.’”
The guy, the Glasgow guy, was Indian. But that didn’t really matter. He was Glasgow. I never spoke to him again, didn’t really find out much about him, but I used to play cricket in Glasgow in my twenties, and I remembered lots of guys like him.
So, the following spring, there I was, having to come up with a lead detective character for a new Glasgow crime series. Up to that point my main leading series characters had been:
Barney Thomson: white male, mid-50s, miserable
Thomas Hutton: white male, mid-40s, depressive
Robert Jericho: white male, early 50s, morose
Ben Westphall: white male, mid-40s, melancholic
If you look closely, you might see a pattern. But really, don’t worry if you miss it, because more than likely only the trained literature student will be able to see the carefully woven strands that link all my lead characters.
Anyway, I thought it was time to come up with something different, and I remembered my Glaswegian Indian fellow at the cricket, and I wondered about having a Glasgow-born, Indian policeman. But then I thought, I’ll just end up making him a miserable bastard in his fifties, and it’ll be exactly the same.
So, as well as making the character Indian, I made her female. And bisexual. (I should add, that the latter wasn’t so that I can stick in some regulation, male fantasy, lesbian sex. There are no lesbian scenes in the books. There will be no such scenes in the future.) I was reaching for someone different, and an Indian, bisexual woman was certainly that.
Despite the myriad familiarities in DI Pereira's story – mother, partner, church-goer – I do realise it’s stepping into a different life, and one must step carefully; but despite the differences between her, and Barney and Hutton, she’s Glasgow born and bred, and that’s what defines her.
Of course, I’m from Cambuslang, so the fuck do I know about Glasgow?
Detective Sergeant Bain doesn’t have too many aspects to his story yet. I had to cut back the Pereira family life already, as it was getting in the way of the crime narrative, (I was informed.) There will be time for DS Bain further down the line.
And that's how it started.
On the next exciting episode of The State Of Things, Pereira and Bain: just what the fuck are these books actually about?