Wednesday has rolled around again and this week I’m delighted to welcome debut crime author Jackie Baldwin, whose novel was released the week after mine! Over to you, Jackie, and the Scottish town of Dumfries…
Book title: Dead Man’s Prayer
Author: Jackie Baldwin
Setting: Dumfries, Scotland
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My crime novel, Dead Man’s Prayer is set in the bustling market town of Dumfries in wild and beautiful Dumfries and Galloway, SW Scotland. Admittedly, I was rather swimming against the tide by not setting it in a Scottish city but I have lived in this area most of my life and I speak its language, both literally and in the wider sense.
I went to the local Benedictine Convent School. The nuns were lovely but back in those days, the religious education was fairly extreme which is why I often seem to explore themes such as guilt and redemption in my work and why I chose a former practising RC priest as my main character. After the Convent closed the building became a temporary home for Dumfries Sheriff Court. I can’t tell you how surreal it felt when I rose to my feet as a young defence solicitor in one of my old classrooms. It is perhaps not surprising that the very same building features in one of the scenes of my novel.
I had always wanted to write a novel but would put family, work, in fact just about everything, ahead of realising that dream. Fate stepped in when Jules Horne, a writer in residence was appointed to the Region and invited applications for mentoring. Once accepted, I couldn’t possibly let her down so this novel, started so tentatively with a blurb, was dragged kicking and screaming into the world.
One piece of advice was to try and get a photograph of someone who captures the image in your head of what your main character looks like. This caused great hilarity one summer as I effectively stalked a German tourist by positioning the children in front of him trying to get a good shot of his face in the background.
Jules also got me into Dumfries Police Station for the day where I was shown everything including the armoury (very exciting!) I also learned a lot of detail about police procedures which is the kind of texture needed for authenticity.
The main difficulty I found in writing about Dumfries was that I didn’t want to give offence by mentioning real names if my character was saying or thinking something disparaging about it. Accordingly, I have taken a bit of licence and renamed a few areas or roads as well as the Church where a murder takes place. Funnily, enough, I was contacted by a Frank Farrell to say that as far as he is aware he is the only Frank Farrell in Dumfries! Fortunately, he was charming and saw the funny side although his family have been giving him some stick about it.
Dumfries and Galloway has such a great range of potential characters ranging from the landed Gentry to artists and poets. There are many towns and villages, all with their own unique character. We also have castles, islands, beaches and forests. In short, 1001 places to dump a body!
Jackie Baldwin is a former solicitor specializing in family and criminal law. She now practices as a hypnotherapist in Dumfries. Married, with two grown up children and two dogs, she is an active member of Moffat Crime Writers’ Group. When she is not writing she loves to walk her two dogs in one of the local forests. She also loves all things sci-fi. Her debut crime novel, ‘Dead Man’s Prayer,’ was published by Killer Reads on 2nd September 2016.
You can find Dead Man’s Prayer here.