Today I’m delighted to feature Scottish author Alan Jones. Alan has three gritty crime stories to his name, the first two set in Glasgow, the third one based in London. He has now switched genres, and his WW2 Sturmtaucher trilogy will be published from August to December 2021. It is a Holocaust story set in Northern Germany. The first in the series The Gathering Storm has received rave reviews, whilst the second, Flight of the Shearwater is waiting in the wings
Alan is married with four grown up children and four wonderful grandchildren.
He has recently retired as a mixed-practice vet in a small Scottish coastal town in Ayrshire and is one of the coxswains on the local RNLI lifeboat. He makes furniture in his spare time, and maintains and sails a 45-year-old yacht, cruising in the Irish Sea and on the beautiful west coast of Scotland. He loves reading, watching films and cooking. He still plays football despite being just the wrong side of sixty.
His crime novels are not for the faint-hearted, with some strong language, violence, and various degrees of sexual content. The first two books also contain a fair smattering of Glasgow slang.
He is one of the few self-published authors to be given a panel at the Bloody Scotland crime fiction festival in Stirling and has done two pop-up book launches at previous festivals. He has spent the last five years researching and writing the Sturmtaucher Trilogy
Over to Alan:
Which piece of music/song would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
The Undertones – Teenage Kicks. Best song ever. Summed up what I thought my teenage years should have been like but very rarely lived up to. More football and drinking down the park than sex, drugs and rock and roll. But reading, always reading.
The Jam – In the City. Not about Glasgow, but it could have been. Not all bad, though. The music, the bars, the dark humour. It would serve me in good stead – my first two books were about the grittier side of the city.
David Bowie – Heroes. The whole cold war thing dominated the first thirty years of my life and this song summed it up. I’ll not say we lived in fear, but it was always there.
Pulp – Common People. I have no time for people who are up themselves. I have friends of every social standing, and I find that, in general, ordinary people are the least likely to stab you in the back, and the most likely to help you.
Johnny Cash – Bridge over Troubled Water, from 2002, not long before he died. I always intensely valued my friends, but if there’s anything Covid taught me, it’s how important it is to stay in touch. And Johnny Cash recorded this as an old man; it’s what I’m fast becoming, but with age comes richness. And maybe incontinence.
What (apart from family and friends) would you find it hard to live without.
My laptop. I have two, one for travel, a larger one on my desk, but I could make do with just one. I need it for writing. And I need to write. Over the last five years, there were few days when I didn’t research, write, or edit, or plan the books. There were times I only managed an hour or two but, occasionally, I’d write from dawn ‘til dusk, but I simply love sitting down and let the words flow from my mind and from my fingers, hoping that, one day, someone will want to read them.
My phone, sadly.
My woodworking tools. I haven’t done as much cabinetmaking since I started writing the trilogy but there are few things more satisfying than working with wood, and seeing a piece of furniture come to life.
Books. Although I’ve read little fiction during the researching and writing of the Sturmtaucher Trilogy, I’m normally an avid reader, but my reading has been confined to non-fiction books and memoirs \ diaries for a long while. I have an enormous TBR because I kept buying books!
My boat. It’s a forty-five year old yacht, with an original engine which smokes a lot and occasionally doesn’t work, but she’s solid with a good turn of pace when she needs it and has got me out of some tight spots when I wondered what the hell I was doing there. Sailing was in part of the inspiration for the Sturmtaucher Trilogy – The leisure sailing scene in those days was exclusive to the very well off but it was also just at the end of working sail, which also features in the books.
Can you offer a piece of advice for your younger self?
Start writing sooner – I was forty before I plucked up the courage to write and I wish I’d done it earlier.
Never take up smoking – I stopped playing football for 10 years because I was a heavy smoker. Giving it up was the best thing I ever did.
Don’t sweat about the small things in life. It’s the big things that matter. Health, friends, love, family, books. Worrying about things you can’t change can only destroy you.
Find something good about each day, even on the shittiest of them.
Don’t underestimate yourself. If you put your mind to it, what you can achieve will surprise you.
Tell us something that most people don’t know about you
I have a birthmark that changes colour with the temperature.
I was brought up in an intensely religious household. My grandfather was a travelling preacher. We had no television, and weren’t allowed out on a Sunday to play with our friends. A big part of me resented it, but it turned me into a prolific reader.
My real name. 😊
I speak Welsh. Not fluently, but when I lived there, I could hold a conversation.
I used to be able to swallow brussel sprouts whole. When I was a child, I hated vegetables. Sprouts were the worst. I started swallowing them whole until my mum stopped giving them to me. Strangely, I now love vegetables, even sprouts! 😊
Tell us something you’d still like to do or achieve.
Sail around Britain and Ireland, including St Kilda and Shetland.
Play the drums at a gig (I just do it for fun, in the house)
Reach a ripe old age and still have all my marbles. And be able to move about, even if it’s at a slow pace. And see to read.
Make the equivalent of a wage from writing. Just for a year, even if it’s just enough to rent a garret, and live on porridge and beer. I’m retired, so it’s purely for pride.
Play football in my 70s. 80’s would be pushing it. Walking football will do.
Thanks so much for joining me today Alan and sharing your Five’s with us. I suspect we’re of a similar vintage, and mindset, given your music choices and reasons – although I’d have been watching football rather than playing it as a teenager. You’re in good company here with the need to read and have access to books. I know I’ve got a tbr pile that will easily outlive me! Great advice to your younger self, I smoked for about a week when I was 14, I gave up less for health reasons and more for the fact I couldn’t afford it. Happily I’ve never been tempted to resume. Swallowing sprouts whole seems a good party trick, (if not a possible recipe for disaster) I can see why your mum stopped giving you them! I really hope you get to achieve your desires, sailing around Britain and Ireland sounds very appealing, but I suspect I’d definitely be a fair weather sailor which wouldn’t really work. Do you think The Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers could be tempted into having a second drummer?
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The Gathering Storm
Kiel, Northern Germany, 1933. A naval city, the base for the German Baltic fleet, and the centre for German sailing, the venue for the upcoming Olympic regatta in 1936.
The Kästners, a prominent Military family, are part of the fabric of the city, and its social, naval and yachting circles. The Nussbaums are the second generation of their family to be in service with the Kästners as domestic staff, but the two households have a closer bond than most.
As Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party claw their way to power in 1933, life has never looked better for families like the Kästners. There is only one problem.
The Nussbaums are Jews.
The Sturmtaucher Trilogy documents the devastating effect on both families of the Nazis’ hateful ideology and the insidious erosion of the rights of Germany’s Jews.
When Germany descends ever deeper into dictatorship, General Erich Kästner tries desperately to protect his employees, and to spirit them to safety.
As the country tears itself apart, the darkness which envelops a nation threatens not only to destroy two families, but to plunge an entire continent into war.
A gritty crime thriller. Glasgow man Bill Ingram waits in the city’s Central Station to meet his daughter, returning home from London for Christmas. When the last train pulls in, and she doesn’t get off it, he makes a desperate overnight dash to find out why. His search for her takes over his life, costing him his job and, as he withdraws from home, family and friends, he finds himself alone, despairing of ever seeing her again.
The tortured corpses of young alcoholics and drug addicts are turning up in Glasgow and only Eddie Henderson seems to know why. When he tries to tell the police, his information is ridiculed and he’s told to stop wasting their time.
One officer, junior detective Catherine Douglas, believes him, and together they set out to discover why the dregs of Glasgow’s underbelly are being found, dead and mutilated.
The Cabinetmaker, Alan Jones’ first novel, tells of one man’s fight for justice when the law fails him. Set in Glasgow from the late nineteen-seventies through to the current day, a cabinetmaker’s only son is brutally murdered by a gang of thugs, who walk free after a bungled prosecution.
It’s young Glasgow detective John McDaid’s first murder case. He forms an unlikely friendship with the cabinetmaker, united by a determination to see the killers punished, their passion for amateur football, and by John’s introduction to a lifelong obsession with fine furniture.
This is the story of their friendship, the cabinetmaker’s quest for justice, and the detective’s search for the truth.