July 19

In Conversation: Douglas Skelton & Theresa Talbot

Every once in a while my job lands me in an office where I can actually get to attend some book events of an evening.  Lately I have found myself lurking on the fringes of Glasgow launch events and, if you go to a launch event in Glasgow, there is a pretty good chance of bumping into Douglas Skelton or Theresa Talbot (though God forbid you get them both at the same time).

I know that not everybody can make it along to book launches (and even fewer get to the Scottish ones) so it is entirely possible you may not have had the chance to meet Douglas or Theresa in person.  It is an experience like no other. In a good way obviously!

So with slight apprehension as to what I may unleash I invited them to join me for a chat – and there was only one place I could start…


DOUGLAS SKELTONG – Mr Skelton, I cannot help but notice you have been nominated onto the longlist for the McIlvanney prize at this year’s Bloody Scotland festival.  Congratulations!  How does it feel now that you have had a day or two to let the news sink in?  And I am also keen to know how you found out?

DS – Oh, you noticed that, did you? I haven’t really talked about it much (coughs and has the decency to look ashamed).

The simple truth about it is that I am hyper chuffed by the nod and I think that’s a feeling that will remain for quite some time. I mean – look at the names on that list. Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, James Oswald, Stuart McBride, Doug Johnstone, Lin Anderson, Lesley Kelly, ES Thomson, Chris Brookmyre! The words “bloody” and”hell” spring to mind. 

I found out a couple of days before through Luath Press. I was sworn to absolute secrecy, on pain of beng tied to a chair and force fed a diet of reality TV. Naturally, I kept my lips buttoned, zipped and sewn.

TT – Douglas – are you really on the longlist?? OMG, you never mentioned it! (Listen whilst that Skelton chap’s away polishing his halo, can I say he’s never stopped talking about it! )

Seriously….well done, you deserve to be up there with the best of them.

DS – (Blushes)

TT – Oh behave! Has anything changed since the longlist was announced? D’you feel any different…like a proper famous author now? 

DS – Well, no. As I’ve said, I was the only name I had to Google when I saw the list. It’s a great thing – and I am honoured and grateful – but I don’t want to run away with myself. I certainly do hope it will open up new avenues (new worlds, new civilisations…) and yes, I feel a positive change in certain perceptions but in reality, I’ve got another book to write and I’m stuck in the mid-story doldrums. As usual.

2015-10-11 00.55.32TT – You asked me to Google you once and I thought you were being smutty! I’m sure being nominated for this award will be such a positive thing for you.

How d’you get out of this mid-story doldrums you’re in…I’m at the end of my tether with my next one at the moment. I’m almost finished..BUT…It’s as though I have a big bag of Christmas lights which need untangled and the turkey’s already burning in the oven. Does that even make sense??

DS – I WAS being smutty. Was very disappointed when you didn’t. But then I should be used to such disappointment by now.

As for the Christmas lights/Turkey analogy – makes perfect sense. The only way out of it is to write through it. You know what you’re doing isn’t anywhere near right but getting to the end of that first draft is the primary aim. Rewrites can be done. New passages can be added. Bad ones can be cut. Everything can be fixed.

And if I ask another young lady to Google me, so might I.

G – Turkey and Christmas Lights in July! I knew I should have checked my emails more closely today….

Theresa – tell me about Bloody Scotland, I opened the brochure and you were the first familiar face I spotted.

DS – Me, too!

Helluva fright.

TT – Bloody Scotland…I’m thrilled – nae thrice thrilled to be part of the festival this year. When I was asked to take part I have to admit to looking behind me to see who the organiser was talking to! I’m part of a panel of new crime writers made up of Abir Mukherjee, Brooke Magnanti, Martin Cathcart Froden and Me…with the lovely Alex Gray chairing. We’ll be at the Golden Lion Wallace on Saturday 10th September at 2pm…tickets still available! (Which you can book by clicking HERE).

Bloody Scotland is still a relatively new literary festival yet is up there with the big boys. It’s such an exciting, vibrant event to be part of. I went last year as a punter – I also  attended a crime writing masterclass and now I’m back this year as a Baby-Crime-Writer in Training! Fantastic. 

Bloody ScotlandDS – It is a fabulous event and Scotland should be proud of it. I think this is my fourth year up there and it’s always immense fun. 

G – Bloody Scotland has been the highlight of all the bookish events I have made it to thus far, this year will be my third – I may even pluck up the courage to actually TALK to some authors.

So festivals aside, am I allowed to ask what you are both working on at present?  Theresa seems to be a full time wedding guest and Douglas is forever on tour!!!

DS – I’m working on another Dominic Queste book, Tag – You’re Dead. The first, The Dead Don’t Boogie, is due out in paperback in September, although currently available on Kindle.

The Dead Don't BoogieAnd yes, I have been on tour with the Crime Factor boy band of Neil Broadfoot, Gordon ‘G.J.’ Brown, Mark Leggatt and chair Peter Burnett.

TT – At the moment I’m working my way through a box of Terry’s All Gold. 

As soon as news got out that I had not one but TWO decent dresses I was in big demand for all sorts of social occasions, but I seem to have found my niche at weddings. I turn up on time, tell the bride how beautiful she is and basically I know how to work a room. I pass the dresses of as classic vintage, but the truth is they’re just really really old. Thankfully as a writer I don’t make much money so my meager diet ensures even my oldest clothes still fit me. 

Other than that I’m slogging away (between bouts of Facebook) on Resurrection, which is a sort of follow up to Penance. I often call Douglas for advice as I suffer from writer’s block…he’s very good that way and listens to my tales of woe as he settles back on his wing-backed leather arm-chair sipping his 20 year old malt that his butler has just poured. I know almost all of his staff by name now and they’re organising food parcels for me. I’m blessed to have Douglas as a mentor – however he drew the line at me joining his Boy Band! 

DS – I can vouch for the fact that Theresa can work the room. I have witnessed this first hand.

As for knowing my staff by name, pish tosh. There are so many of them here at Skelton Manor than even I don’t know them! 

Theresa was invited to join the boy band but she failed the medical. 

TT – I’ve taken something for that condition and would now like to re-apply for the boy-band! 

G – Okay, dangerous territory here so am nipping this in the bud.  However, just to prove you don’t always wind each other up how about I ask Theresa to say something nice about Douglas (or his books if that’s easier)? And Douglas you have to do the same for Theresa.

Neither of you have to be nice to me, I work for the Banks – my social standing is ruined.

PenanceTT – Say something nice about Douglas? Seriously…oh go on then…seriously…Douglas has helped me more than he’ll ever know in my quest to be a crime writer. He’s always there to offer sound advice and keep me calm. He’s been so encouraging and he’s just a thoroughly lovely all round nice guy. Honest to God! 

His books are bloody good too..but don’t take my word for it, check out the Davie McCall series and The Dead Don’t Boogie. BTW Douglas doesn’t boogie either, but I’m working on that! 

DS – So, Theresa. Or maybe Gordon, I don’t know now. No, Theresa. I’ve only known her for a relatively short period of time but already feel as if I’ve known her all my life. I loved her book, Penance, and am looking forward to her new one immensely. Her new one isn’t called Immensely, by the way. She is also a bundle of energy and has an enthusiasm that is infectious. 

And if anyone can make me boogie, it’s her. 

G – I know how hard that last bit was for you both so I would just like to offer my most sincere thanks – this is why I love attending events with you two, it is always such great fun.


Douglas Skelton has published 11 books on true crime and history. He has been a bank clerk, tax officer, shelf stacker, meat porter, taxi driver (for two days), wine waiter (for two hours), reporter, investigator and editor. His first thriller BLOOD CITY was published by Luath Press in 2013. The gritty thriller was the first in a quartet set on the tough streets of Glasgow from 1980 onwards. It was followed by CROW BAIT, DEVIL’S KNOCK and finally OPEN WOUNDS, which has been longlisted for the first McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year.

You can find Douglas’s books on the following link:



Theresa Talbot is a freelance writer, journalist and radio presenter, perhaps best known as the voice of Traffic and Travel on BBC Radio Scotland and as the host of The Beechgrove Potting Shed. Prior to working with the BBC she was with Radio Clyde and the AA Roadwatch team. Theresa worked in various roles before entering the media as an assistant in children’s homes, a Pepsi Challenge girl and a library assistant. She ended up at the BBC because of an eavesdropped conversation on a no.66 bus in Glasgow. Her passions include rescuing chickens, gardening, music and yoga.

Theresa’s books can be found here:



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May 16

Carry on Sleuthing – The Inside Poop

Douglas Skelton is back to join me on his ‘not a blog tour’ tour. We are absolutely not talking about his new book Open Wounds (the one I scored 5/5 in the review that you could read if you click on that wee link).

Instead Douglas is sharing the inside scoop (as I am sure that title is meant to read) on the truly amazing spectacle that was Carry on Sleuthing.

Over to Mr Skelton:


author author
Author, Author

‘Madness….madness. Madness.’

The final lines of ‘Bridge Over the River Kwai’ spring instantly to mind when talking about ‘Carry on Sleuthing.’

If you didn’t see it, let me fill you in.

In other words, for all those sitting on the couch, here’s the story sofa…

Last year I was asked to write a mystery play to be performed by staff at Ayr’s Carnegie Library. I’m not known for writing whodunits but I thought, hell, I’ll try anything once. Maybe not sushi. Real Glaswegian don’t eat anything that’s not deep fried.

The magic of mystery is in misdirection. So I chose to make my play a comedy. Wacky humour would be my misdirection.

Carry on Sleuthing was born.

In it, spinster sleuth Lavinia Luvibod investigates the murder of a reviled lawyer on board an ocean liner.

Michael J Malone
Michael J Malone

There were eight characters. Fellow author Michael J. Malone took two of them, I played three, the library staff everybody else.

It was a success, I think.

So much so that I thought it could stand a big city run (for one night only).

Caro Ramsay, Michael J Malone and Theresa Talbot
Caro Ramsay, Michael J Malone and Theresa Talbot

Waterstones in Argyle Street said they were up for it. Bestselling authors Caro Ramsay and Theresa Talbot agreed to lend their talents.

We rehearsed it one and a half times. We only got halfway the second time because we already knew who did it and were bored.

The version seen in Glasgow was different from the one seen in Ayr, where it was very much done as written. For the Glasgow show, the cast members brought their own material.

If you saw it and laughed, then that would be a bit they added.

Among Caro’s contribution were some bits of business (ooh, I’ve got all the thespian polari). There were cards with characters’ pictures on them. There was a boat on a stick. There was an intermission card. For a bestselling author and professional buttock squeezer she has a lot of time on her hands. And a lot of buttocks. (She’s an osteopath, by the way).

We tried to get Michael to go round the audience during the break with a tray of Kia Ora but he refused. Prima donna.

Product Placement! Theresa is 'casually' clutching a copy of her novel Penance.
Product Placement! Theresa is ‘casually’ clutching a copy of her novel Penance.

They all really got into the spirit of it and any success is down to them. Although, Theresa – can I have some mayo with that ham?

The approach was that of a radio play, so there were no lines to learn. Thankfully.

There were costumes, though, which caused some tension backstage (in reality a screen Caro brought from home). Both Theresa and I had quick changes to perform. Don’t worry, there was no nudity. And no Janet Jackson costume mishaps. Although my surgical stockings did prove troublesome.

There was an actual mystery to solve, and not just why the hell we were doing it. The clues are all there in the script. The audience just had to find them among the double – and single – entendres (that’s your actual French), puns, ad-libs, one-liners and rejects from ‘Round the Horne’.

(NOTE – For those of tender years, Round the Horne was a seminal radio show in the 1960s. I loved it then, I love it now. The word polari above and the phrase ‘’that’s your actual French come from there.)

Welcome back. For those of you sitting in palm trees, here’s the story up to date…

A crime author was asked to write a whodunit for a library. The show was later taken on the road. Well, to one other venue. Top named authors took part. Was it a success? Did the audience laugh? Did anyone solve the mystery? Does anyone care? Did little Jimmy get out of the well? Why am I asking these damn silly questions? Why can’t I stop? What the hell’s going on here?

That last question was asked on the night. It was asked A LOT.


It was a bit chaotic but I think we pulled it off. We shouldn’t have given it such a hard tug.

One or two people solved at least half of the mystery. No-one got it completely right. That pleased me. On the other hand, I think everyone was so confused, including the cast.

Would we do it again? Speaking for myself, yes. The script needs a bit of work. (For “a bit”, read “considerable”). We need to rehearse more. We need more bits of business. We need to rehearse those bits of business.

We are, however, available for weddings, christenings, bar mitzvahs.

Here’s some STOP PRESS: Largs Players may well be presenting Carry on Sleuthing during July. Good luck to them.

They’ll need it.


Carry On Sleuthing was brought to you by Douglas Skelton, Michael J Malone, Theresa Talbot and Caro Ramsay.  By the clicking of your thumbs (or by clicking on their names) you can peruse their books on a well known online bookstore.

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December 23

Penance – Theresa Talbot

PenanceOonagh O’Neil has a challenge on her hands – and her head over a toilet bowl. TV journalist and media darling Oonagh O’Neil faces danger and chaos when an elderly priest dies on the altar of his Glasgow church. His death comes as she is about to expose the shocking truth behind the closure of a Magdalene Institution.

The Church has already tried to suppress the story. Is someone also covering their tracks?

DI Alec Davies is appointed to investigate the priest s death. He and Oonagh go way back. But their friendship counts for nothing when Davies suspicions falls on Oonagh s married lover.

Oonagh now faces the biggest decision of her life. But will it be hers to make?

What secrets lie behind the derelict Institution s doors? What sparked the infamous three-day riot that closed it? And what happened to the three Maggies who vowed to stay friends forever?

From Ireland to Scotland. From life to death.


My thanks to Douglas Skelton for giving me his copy of Penance (which he had won when we attended last month’s Noir in the Bar).  Douglas if you need it back I am afraid Theresa wrote in it…will be fine as long as you know someone called Gordon.


I am going to struggle to do Penance justice in this review. It is a fabulous book, it tells a story partly based around historical events which add a layer of heart-breaking tragedy, it is emotive, often funny and frequently shocking. You have to read it!

Central character Oonagh O’Neil is an investigative journalist and she has been looking into the closure of Glasgow’s Magdalene Institution many years prior to events in the main story. Oonagh believes that a local priest can help her uncover what went on behind the Institutions closed doors but before she can get the full story the priest dies during mass.

Oonagh refuses to give up on her investigation but pursuing the story is putting lives in danger (including Oonagh’s own). A rival journalist is digging the dirt on Oonagh and will stop at nothing to suppress her story if the payoff from other ‘interested parties’ makes it worth his while!

Events in Penance are mainly played out in Glasgow in the year 2000 but at times the story drops back to the late 1950’s and we see how girls may have ended up in the Magdalene Institutions and (more alarmingly) what they endured while they were resident. The small time-shifts are handled really well, do not break the flow of the story, and add depth and context to the main plot which makes the endgame so damn effective.

A tricky read at times, the brutal reality is handled with sensitivity by Theresa Talbot. But she does not shirk away from confronting the unsettling subject matter and Penance is a compelling story as a result.  Most definitely a story I am glad I have read – 5/5 review score was guaranteed when I realized that I was frequently thinking back to Penance when I was meant to be working!


Penance is published by Strident Publishing.

You can buy a copy here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Penance-Theresa-Talbot/dp/1910829021/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1450829725&sr=1-1

Theresa Talbot is on Twitter: @Theresa_Talbot







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