In Conversation With Elvis Shackleton #3
06 November 2009
In the third in a series of informal discussions to mark the end of the long running Barney Thomson crime series, Long Midnight Publishing Publicity Director, Elvis Shackleton talks to author Douglas Lindsay about A Prayer For Barney Thomson.
ES: So, tell us how this one came about. Were you planning the third while you were writing the second?
DL: No, this one was a three-line whip. I liked the second, but after that I'd had enough. I never meant Barney to stretch on indefinitely, like the universe or Coronation Street. I thought two would do it...
ES: That wouldn't have been a series.
DL: No, and that would have been fine. But my agent talked to Piatkus, and they said, basically, we want a third Barney novel or we don't want anything.
ES: Gosh, you must have felt disrespected?
DL: Well, you know, it was still in the late 90's. You just got on with it back then. Feeling disrespected is a more modern phenomenon.
ES: What did you want to write?
DL: I had this great idea for an epic, sweeping novel of the sea, a haunting tale, set in an old whaling town on the east coast of Scotland. It was going to be kind of Moby Dick meets Star Wars, with a Nazi vampire zombie element thrown in.
ES: And Piatkus said no? That's weird.
DL: Tell me about it.
ES: But you know, what exactly is a vampire zombie? Vampires are the essence of dark malevolent sophistication. Their ways are artifice and sophistry, guile, cunning, and perfidious subtlety. They are suave and cool, the classic poisoned chalice. The zombie, on the other hand, is at the opposite end of the scale. The zombie is a thuggish, unthinking killing machine, a brute intent on the savage farming of human flesh. Maybe that's why Piatkus said no.
DL: Possibly. But I liked the juxtaposition.
ES: So, your natural creative urges had been squashed. Tell us about writing the novel.
DL: Well, at the time I was working a standard nine hour day in a Somerset cheese mine. We had a one year-old, and my wife was pregnant. So, I ended up writing this novel at 11 o'clock at night and at five in the morning.
ES: Which explains why this is the darkest of all Barney novels.
DL: Yep. I didn't really want to be writing it, and when I did, I was tired. I sat down one day to start it off, with no idea of where I was going, and there in front of me was the script for the movie My Name Is Joe. The idea for the basic concept - Barney Thomson being part of a Murderer's Anonymous group - came to me and I was off.
ES: And you killed off many of your main characters?
DL: Well, I was tired. And in the end I didn't kill off as many as I would have liked, as the editor at Piatkus sent it back and asked that it be cheered up a bit.
ES: So, you put some jokes in?
DL: Let's not get carried away.
ES: All these years later, where do you think it stand in the panoply of Barney Thomson novels?
DL: I hate it. I'd like to re-write it to include some vampire zombie scenes.