Guest Post: Written by William Meikle
The origins of Derek Adams, The Midnight Eye
I read widely, both in the crime and horror genres, but my crime fiction in particular keeps returning to older, pulpier, bases. My series character, Glasgow PI Derek Adams, is a Bogart and Chandler fan, and it is the movies and Americana of the ’40s that I find a lot of my inspiration for him, rather than in the modern procedural.
That, and the old city, are the two main drivers for the Midnight Eye stories.
When I was a lad, back in the early 1960s, we lived in a town 20 miles south of Glasgow, and it was an adventure to the big city when I went with my family on shopping trips. Back then the city was a Victorian giant going slowly to seed. It is often said that the British Empire was built in Glasgow on the banks of the river Clyde. Back when I was young, the shipyards were still going strong, and the city centre itself still held on to some of its past glories. It was a warren of tall sandstone buildings and narrow streets, with Edwardian trams still running through them. The big stores still had pneumatic delivery systems for billing, every man wore a hat, collar and tie, and steam trains ran into grand vaulted railway stations filled with smoke. To a young boy from the sticks it seemed like a grand place. It was only later that I learned about the knife gangs that terrorized the dance halls, and the serial killer, Bible John, who frequented the same dance floors, quoting scripture as he lured teenage girls to a violent end.
Fast forward fifteen years, and I was at University in the city, and getting an education into the real heart of the place. I learned about bars, and religious divides. Glasgow is split along tribal royalties. Back in the Victorian era, shiploads of Irishmen came to Glasgow for work. The protestants went to one side of the city, the catholics to the other. There they set up homes… and football teams. Now these teams are the biggest sporting giants in Scotland, two behemoths that attract bigots like bees to honey. As a student I soon learned how to avoid giving away my religion in bars, and which ones to stay out of on match days.
Also by the time I was a student, a lot of the tall sandstone buildings had been pulled down to make way for tower blocks. Back then they were the new shiny future, taking the people out of the Victorian ghettos and into the present day.
Fast forward to the present day and there are all new ghettos. The tower blocks are ruled by drug gangs and pimps. Meanwhile there have been many attempts to gentrify the city centre, with designer shops being built in old warehouses, with docklands developments building expensive apartments where sailors used to get services from hard faced girls, and with shiny, trendy bars full of glossy expensively dressed bankers.
And underneath it all, the old Glasgow still lies, slumbering, a dreaming god waiting for the stars to be right again.
Derek Adams, The Midnight Eye, knows the ways of the old city. And, if truth be told, he prefers them to the new.
Plus, there are antecedents – occult detectives who may seem to use the trappings of crime solvers, but get involved in the supernatural. William Hjortsberg’s Falling Angel (the book that led to the movie Angel Heart) is a fine example, an expert blending of gumshoe and deviltry that is one of my favorite books. Likewise, in the movies, we have cops facing a demon in Denzel Washington’s Fallen that plays like a police procedural taken to a very dark place.
But I think it’s the people that influence me most. Everybody in Scotland’s got stories to tell, and once you get them going, you can’t stop them. I love chatting to people, (usually in pubs) and finding out the -weird- shit they’ve experienced. Derek is mainly based on a bloke I met years ago in a bar in Partick, and quite a few of the characters that turn up and talk too much in my books can be found in real life in bars in Glasgow, Edinburgh and St Andrews.
He’s turned up in three novels so far, THE AMULET, THE SIRENS and THE SKIN GAME. The first two are out now in print and ebook at all the usual online stores, and THE SKIN GAME will be along in the next week or so. There’s also a film company looking for funding to bring him to life, several short stories, and an anthology appearance in the forthcoming CTHULHU 2012 anthology from Mythos Books.
Links to Derek’s appearances can be found at my website at http://www.williammeikle.com/
Derek has developed a life of his own, and I’m along for the ride.