During October North Lanarkshire are running the Encounters Festival. This is a cultural festival with over 100 events bringing together the best of literature, art, music, drama, dance and a whole lot more – these events are showcased all over North Lanarkshire.
North Lanarkshire is my home and it is a joy to me that events such as Encounters take place here – we are not generally considered to be the most glamorous of areas!
Today I was delighted to be able to attend an evening with James Oswald, author of the Inspector McLean novels and the fantasy saga The Ballad of Sir Benfro. Hosted at Coatbridge Library on a cold dark night (we all agreed on this point) Mr Oswald entertained with readings and stories of his long road to publication.
Despite his concerns that he had been waffling, James Oswald tells a fascinating story. It transpires that he is good friends with fellow crime writer Stuart MacBride and the pair forged an early working partnership writing comic books (partly illustrated by MacBride) which sadly did not catapult them to the success they had envisaged. Although this was clearly a great loss to the Graphic Novel industry it has been to crime fiction’s gain.
The evening opened with James Oswald reading from The Hangman’s Song. When your opening gambit includes a corpse, purification and the phrase ‘diarrhoea bursting’ you know you have captured your audience’s attention. I was captivated for the next hour as we learned how the character of Tony McLean evolved prior to his full debut in Natural Causes and it is exciting to think there are other Inspector McLean cameos out there waiting to be found.
Mr Oswald also outlined how his writing career suffered peaks and troughs building up to the whirlwind of publications that began with Natural Causes hitting Amazon (as a self-published novel) in 2012; and has since seen 7 published books in just a 2 year period. I got the impression on more than one occasion that even the author was a little startled by the speed at which new books were hitting the shelves.
Dividing his time between writing and farming James Oswald seems to have a busy schedule ahead. He indicated that his writing commitments are fully booked until 2017, however, he is keen to rework some of his early writing which he believes will appeal to the YA readers. Patience may be required for those stories though.
A highlight was the second reading of the evening – a debut reading from the not-yet-published 5th McLean novel which I hope I correctly recall to be Prayer for the Dead. As the final draft was only confirmed today we were treated to the first public reading of the opening chapter. I already want to read what comes next.
Sadly the evening ended too soon and I had to head home (with arms full of signed paperbacks). I had a great night in good company and am already thumbing through the Encounters brochure to book my next event….Back to Coatbridge for Magic Den with my 4 year old!
You can follow James Oswald on Twitter where he is @sirbenfro