Today I’m delighted to feature Jonathan Whitelaw who is an author, award-winning journalist and broadcaster. Jonathan has published two books in his devilish Hellcorp series, the latest of which The Man in the Dark was published last month. His next book The Bingo Hall Detectives will be published by HarperCollins later this year.
After working on the frontline of Scottish politics, he moved into journalism. Subjects he has covered have varied from breaking news, the arts, culture and sport to fashion, music and even radioactive waste — with everything in between. His work has appeared in The Sun, Daily Mail, Scotsman, STV and The Scots Magazine as well as numerous international newspapers and websites.
He’s also a regular reviewer on the BBC – specifically for arts reviews on The Afternoon Show on BBC Radio Scotland.
Jonathan also regularly contributes to book events and festivals, with appearances on the Blood Brothers podcast and the Bloody Scotland Book Club.
And for the last two years he has presented the Desert Island Crooks panel at the Bloody Scotland crime writing festival.
Over to Jonathan:
Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
This is really tough as I absolutely LOVE music. It’s been such a prominent part of my life pretty much for as long as I can remember. So here goes.
Whitney Houston – I Want to Dance With Somebody. I can’t profess to be the world’s biggest Whitney fan. However, this is genuinely the first song I can ever remember hearing on the radio. As a child of the 1980s, it’s no real surprise given how big a star she was at the time. Interesting, if slightly morbid fact, I have stayed at the hotel she died in – The Beverly Hilton Hotel.
Stars – Les Miserables. Easy one this – I’m a huge musical theatre fan. My wife and I went to see Les Mis on our honeymoon and I’ve always enjoyed it. But it wasn’t until I saw it live in the West End, on stage, in full voice that I appreciated this particular song. It’s often overlooked by fans and casual listeners alike. But if you listen to the lyrics, the determination, the whole concept of Javert as a single-purpose man, it’s spine tingling.
Back in Black – AC/DC. As a 14 year old, first hearing this song and the album as a whole, I was completely blown away. Suddenly all that pent up, pubescent rebellion had an outlet. It was the start of a lifelong love affair with both the band and rock/heavy metal music. And I still count it as one of the very best pieces of music ever to be recorded.
Lyin’ Eyes – The Eagles. When it comes to storytelling, I wager that there won’t be many people who would say The Eagles aren’t among the very best in the business. And Lyin’ Eyes is among their finest musical achievements. The heartbreak, the angst, the anger and ultimately the tragedy of the characters and, as a whole, society, are so perfectly blended together and delivered here that it’s almost perfect. As a writer, you long for that ability. And when it comes along you can’t help but slow clap.
Count Duckula theme. What a song, what a show, what a whole load of memories. I’ve always loved TV theme songs, they have that indefatigable knack to perfectly sum up not only a time period in your life but also the world as a whole. Dallas – oozing late 70s/80s glam. game of Thrones – morose yet spiriting and so on. But for me Count Duckula is the best and it still makes me smile when I hear it today.
What 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.
My laptop/computer – Seems like an obvious choice I know. But it’s my window to the rest of the world, not to mention where I do all of my writing. I do occasionally scribble some things down using a hammer and chisel.. sorry pen and paper. But it’s incredible how utterly reliant I’ve become.
Everton Football Club – I’m aware that this may divide my fanbase (if I even have a fanbase that is). But for the past thirty-odd years The Toffees have been the source and solution to most of my problems and triumphs. It’s a passion I share with my father and, hopefully, something my newborn son can engage with too.
Only Connect – bar none, the single best show on TV. It could, possibly, be the best show EVER.
The writing community – Yes, I know this is completely corny. But I don’t know how many times I’ve said before that for a professional that’s known for being ‘lonely’ – I’ve never felt more included and welcomed. Bloggers, readers and fellow writers have a strong bond and they’re always happy to help each other out. That’s not just over the past 20 months of a pandemic, but in all the time I’ve been a professional writer. And I’m so very grateful for it.
Rich tea biscuits – I don’t think they get nearly enough credit when it comes to the biscuit praise game. Sure, Jammy Dodgers and Penguins are more flashy. The humble rich tea, however, is the steady constant in the background. I feel SO passionate about this I even included them in my HellCorp novels – getting the seal of approval from The Devil no less.
Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?
As of the age of 35, you’ll never use trigonometry or algebra
On the first date with your future wife, don’t stop both of you in the middle of a busy road to ask if you’ve paid the bill in the bar
Education and knowledge is the key to all things
There’s no such thing as a stupid question, only the one you don’t ask
You can’t edit a blank page
Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you
I’m allergic to peas – yes, really!
I once covered the ‘Olympics of radioactive waste – It was a four-yearly conference being held in Glasgow and I was the ONLY reporter who was at it. Really fascinating to speak with some of the greatest scientists and minds on the planet.
I was given a yellow card during a charity football game – Perfectly warranted, it was a late challenge on ex Motherwell, Chelsea, Celtic and Scotland international Tom Boyd.
Ex-Everton captain Richard Gough once bought me a pint in a nightclub – I was very drunk and he was very nice and patient.
I was once accused of having ‘no moral compass’ – It was a very strange story about bigoted singing at a theatre show. And the owners/operators of the theatre took umbrage with my reporting of the story – despite it painting them in a very positive light.
Tell us 5 things you’d like to do or achieve.
To be a good dad – Again with the corny answers, sorry. My wife and I welcomed our firstborn in January 2021. And no amount of prep and research you can do can ever prepare you for the complete culture shock of the little bundle of joy. Almost a year on and we’re still flabbergasted. But I hope that in the coming years and decades I do my son proud and that he knows I’m always there for him.
To have a piece of Goodison Park to call my own – Again with the football – there’s a theme developing here. Everton will be moving to new digs in the next few years. And that means the historic Goodison Park will be getting left behind. I’d absolutely love to have a piece of the stadium – seat, turnstyle, the whole Gwladys Street Stand etc as a memento.
To create characters and stories that people enjoy – This is probably what every writers wants to achieve. It’s an honour to be a writer and a very humbling experience. We are, at heart, just storytellers. And to know that our work has created some joy in what can be a bloody horrible world, is truly special.
To see the Pyramids – Fulfill a schoolboy ambition with this one. I remember being barely older than five when I first saw these incredible structures. And while the world is getting smaller in terms of travel and it seems like less of an odyssey to get to Egypt, it’s still very much on my To Do list.
To write a James Bond novel – This is the ultimate writing dream. I’ve said before that I would find writing other people’s characters to be so intimidating that I wouldn’t go near it. However, for 007 of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, I would make a VERY big exception.
Many thanks for joining me today Jonathan, and can I say congratulations on having something to celebrate in 2021 and, wish junior Whitelaw a very happy 1st Birthday. I loved your eclectic music choices and Count Duckula had a suitably hellish, Vincent Price vibe! You’ve probably set off a whole favourite biscuit debate with your Rich Tea claim, but who are we I to argue with the Lord of Darkness! Any chance he could help secure a little bit of the Gwladys Street stadium for you? Here’s hoping you get to see the Pyramids, I’m sure that would be a magical journey to undertake with your son.
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The Man in the Dark (Hellcorp 2)
THE DEVIL’S BACK — AND HE’S STILL NOT HAD A HOLIDAY.
There’s another mystery to solve — a woman kidnapped by terrorists and the world trying to find her. While he hates doing God’s bidding, The Devil can’t resist trying to put one over on Him. But nothing is EVER that simple.
While The Devil helps the London cops crack the case, there’s trouble in the Underworld. And two of humanity’s greatest backstabbers—Brutus and Cassius—are sharpening their knives with an eye on stealing his crown.
It’s a race against time to find the girl, be the bad guy and maybe, just maybe, stop the apocalypse.
Hellcorp sparkles like a blood-black diamond. Satan’s got his work cut out in this darkly comic crime tale. A cracking read! – Mark Leggatt
Life is hard for The Devil and he desperately wants to take a holiday. Growing weary from playing the cosmic bad guy, he resolves to set up a company that will do his job for him so the sins of the world will tick over while he takes a vacation. God tells him he can have his vacation just as soon as he solves an ancient crime.
But nothing is ever easy and before long he is up to his pitchfork in solving murders, desperate to crack the case so he can finally take the holiday he so badly needs…This is a perfectly-pitched darkly comic crime novel that is ideal for fans of Christopher Fowler and Ben Aaranovitch.
Morbid Relations is the story of Rob Argyll, an unsuccessful stand up comedian. Following his mother’s death he returns for the first time in years to his family in their Glasgow home. Rob struggles to relate to his somewhat dysfunctional family, seeming to bounce from one mistake to another while simultaneously trying to make amends for his long absence. The narrative is a darkly comic take on modern Scottish life, family relationships, and finally trying to grow up.
Coming in April
The Bingo Hall Detectives
Eyes down to find a killer who’s playing to win…
An irresistible slice of murder and mystery – there’s a killer on the loose in the Lake District, and the members of the Penrith Bingo Club have decided they’re the ones to catch the culprit…
Jason Brazel is an out of work journalist who lives in Penrith with his family and mother-in-law, Amita. She knows everyone and everything that’s going on in this corner of the Lakes.
So when it’s discovered that Madeline Forbisher, one of Amita’s fellow regulars at the bingo club has died, found by the postman outside her crumbling country home close to Ullswater Lake, she senses immediately this is no accident. The trouble is, no one else seems to take her suspicions seriously.
That is, until she enlists the help of her friends at the Penrith Bingo Club. Dismissed by many as eccentric, over the hill or out of touch, it turns out that it’s unlucky for some that these amateur sleuths are on the case…