Detective writer reveals some undercover facts

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By Mark Davey

The creator of investigative journalist Jack Parlabane revealed some snippets of his own at a Sonefield Castle talk.

Christopher Brookmyre was making a return visit to Tarbert Book Festival, last Saturday evening, by popular demand, for another sellout show following his debut last year.

The appearance was part of a nationwide tour which, during November, includes two islands, Shetland and Orkney and a border raid into northern England at York.

He found an appreciative audience perhaps buoyed by snifters of Springbank whisky provided, for a pre-event tasting, by the distillery’s Grant MacPherson.

Mr Brookmyre, approaching his 50th birthday next year, explained that he has recently shortened his christian name to Chris following a request from his publisher of 22 years, Little Brown.

‘We have a good relationship, 22 years is longer than quite a few marriages,’ said Mr Brookmyre, ‘It was a chance to re-package me and Chris is easier to fit on the front of an app.’

It was not the first time his name could have been shorter. Mr Brookmyre revealed that before he was born, in 1968, his mother wanted to call him Ira.

Mr Brookmyre told the audience: ‘My dad said: ‘It is a nice name Grace but if we call him that in Glasgow we are going to have the polis round all the time because Ira is written on all the walls.’

‘This is a regionally specific joke,’ Mr Brookmyre added, ‘It would not work in Cheltenham.’

He spoke about his latest book sci-fi detective novel, Places in the Darkness and his interest in computer hacking spawned by his childhood fascination with a Sinclair ZX Spectrum.

Mr Brookmyre said that hackers are often not really clever and rely on people’s stupidity to gain passwords and access.

‘To keep people annonymous we all use our porn star names,’ he suggested, ‘That is our favourite childhood pet’s name combined with our mother’s maiden name, which are the most common security questions.’

Going round the audience he quickly discovered the name Thumper Hardy.

He said that most people view that information as of little value but in fact it can be priceless.

Moving on to research he said it is much easier in the inter-connected 21st Century and that trips to the library, which he had to make for Not the End of the World, are not necessary.

He said that was the reason why some authors seemed to have huge fact dumps in their books. They had spent so much time looking up the information it had to be used.

It was not all plain sailing though for Mr Brookmyre to get started as an author which he attributes to: ‘A long term prejudice in publishing against books which are s***e.’ This led to his first three being rejected before ‘Quite Ugly One Morning (QUOM),’ made the grade.

Mr Brookmyre said that his thoughts were humourous but up to QUOM it had not occurred to him to put them down in a book.

Answering a question about how he concocts his titles, Mr Brookmyre said that QUOM is the title of the 8th track on American singer Warren Zevon’s 1991 album Mr Bad Example.

The ninth track: Things to do in Denver When Your are Dead was used for the title of a low budget film which premiered at Cannes in 1995.

Mr Brookmyre said the film appeared the same week in 1997 that QUOM was published but either he has not checked his facts, the film was re-released or being pre-Google it is a computer error.

Anyone who missed Mr Brookmyre’s appearance at Tarbert will have another chance in Lochgilphead library on Wednesday November 29 at 7.30pm or the next day in Oban’s Corran Halls at 7pm.

During Christopher Brookmyre’s ribald talk he used his fingers to put the emphasis on size. 25_c44bookfest02_brookmyre

Before his talk Mr Brookmyre signed copies of his novels. 08_a44chrisbrookmyre01