The Long Midnight Of Barney Thomson (Barney Thomson Book 1)

This was written in an apartment in Dakar, Senegal, overlooking the city’s cathedral, in the summer of 1995. Originally titled THE BARBER SURGEON’S HAIRSHIRT, it was written in the past tense, and employed heavy use of dialect in the conversations, though not the prose. I dispatched it to every conceivable publisher and sat back to be rejected. It was rejected across the board, although several publishers wrote notes saying they thought it wasn’t awful, and one – Cannongate – did have an editor who was keen, but ultimately didn’t manage to get it taken up.

I wrote another book – which has now been distilled into a very short story entitled THE TARANTINO VERSION, available to read in the collection COLD SEPTEMBER – and sent that off around the world of publishing. 100% rejection, not so much as a word of encouragement. The latter was in fact a positive development, as it made me realise that editors weren’t just being nice about Barney – editors are never nice just for the sake of it, they don’t have the time – and so I rejigged the Barney book, rewrote it in the present tense, (as I’d just read a book in written in the present tense and enjoyed it,) changed the title to The Long Midnight of Barney Thomson, and went back out. Piatkus Books, who’d previously turned it down, accepted it.

They published three Barney books, and that was that.

In 2004, unable to find anyone else to publish the series, I put the book back into print, having created Long Midnight Publishing. These were the wilderness years, which have been, and continue to be, legion. When Kindle UK started up a few years later, I took the time to do something I’d been meaning to do for a while. I rewrote the book, changing it back into the past tense, while also removing the Glasgow dialect. I’d read several books with various dialects and decided I hated it when other people were doing it, so why was I doing it? I read an interview with the writer Charles Frazier, who discussed trying to use the rhythms and phrases of particular speech, rather than littering the prose with altered spellings and apostrophes. I liked the sound of that, and have run with it ever since.

Shortly afterwards, I signed with publisher Blasted Heath, who took the Barney series, and published the digital edition from 2011 until 2017. In 2015 the movie of the book, THE LEGEND OF BARNEY THOMSON, was released, and the paperback was published by Freight Books. Both of these editions were my rewritten, non-dialect, past-tense version.

In 2017 both Freight and Blasted Heath folded, and since then, The Long Midnight of Barney Thomson has been back under the banner of LMP. I’ve continued to tinker with the book, something which self-publishing allows. Maybe it’s wrong, but it’s not exactly rewriting history. Every now and again I look at it and think, oof, that’s a terrible line, and feel I should change it. And when I say every now and again, I mean every couple of months.

Nevertheless, despite all the tinkering, the story is essentially the same as it’s always been. It’s not like I’ve taken it to bits and completely rewritten it, which has been a temptation. It’s probably the best pure plot I’ve ever come up with. Despite the silliness of much of what happens, it develops organically, and works well. Now that I’m an accomplished uber-genius of a writer, I wish I could have that plot back, but it’s out there now, and I’m left using all the crappy, contrived plots I think of these days.

“Gleefully macabre, hugely enjoyable black burlesque,” said The Scotsman. So, there you are.


THE LONG MIDNIGHT OF BARNEY THOMSON was first published, to great critical acclaim, in 1999. It has spawned a successful series, has been translated into several European languages and was filmed as THE LEGEND OF BARNEY THOMSON, directed by and starring Robert Carlyle, featuring Emma Thompson and Ray Winstone.

Barney Thomson, awkward, diffident, Glasgow barber, lives a life of desperate mediocrity; shunned at work and at home, unable to break out of a twenty year rut, each dull day blends seamlessly into the next. However, there is no life so tedious that it cannot be spiced up by inadvertent murder, a deranged psychopath, and a freezer full of neatly packaged meat. Barney Thomson's uninteresting life is about to go from 0 to 60 in five seconds, as he enters the grotesque and comically absurd world of the serial killer...