Lanarkshire teacher Alan Gillespie has told how a whisky tasting gave him the thirst to write a new book.
The 35-year-old was at the Belladrum music festival several years ago when he attended the masterclass for Scotland’s national drink.
And it sparked some creative ideas in Alan – an English teacher at Fernhill school in Rutherglen – who has just released his first novel.
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He told Lanarkshire Live : “Some of the stories we were told about the distillery really got me thinking about some of the connections that people had to the place.
“It seemed a good setting for a story, something that could be a magnet for trouble for various characters.”
That forms the backdrop to ‘The Mash House ‘, Alan’s first book which was released this year.
In it, a whisky distillery in the fictional Highland town of Cullrothes is under threat by a hostile takeover from America.
The distillery owner, Donald , is known as a Highland gangster and when his son goes missing, it sparks off a chain of disastrous events – from affairs and gambling, to killing, drinking too much, burying bodies and lies.
The tale has already been praised by both literary critics and fellow Scottish authors like Kirstin Innes and Claire Askew – and for Alan, it’s all the more satisfying being able to realise a long-time dream.
He added: “I’ve wanted to do this since I was a kid, so I guess it like the impossible childhood dream.
“I grew up in Fife and thought that authors all lived in mansions and didn’t come from towns like where I grew up.
“The older I got, the more I realised that it was just ordinary people who wrote books and that it might be possible. So I tried writing one in my 20s, but I wasn’t ready for that then. Then a few years ago I started again.”
After submitting just three chapters of the book, Alan was offered a contract by publishers Unbound, and was able to craft The Mash House .
He’s happy that it’s been tagged with the Tartan Noir label, indicating a darkness underneath the ordinary surface.
“I like that it’s a recognisable tone and it’s something that Scottish readers gravitate towards,” he told us. “It feels natural to have that darkness when you’re Scottish.
“There’s all the long winters and dark mornings – these things get into your soul. But it’s also escapism, because everyone knows Scots are sociable and good natured most of the time; but underneath the surface there can be more.
“I teach Jekyll & Hyde at Fernhill and it’s obviously all about duality – it comes with Scottish nature. “
Already Alan is working on his second novel, Belter , about a school teacher who carries on using the belt after the practice was outlawed in the 1980s, and makes the mistake on using it on the child of a Glasgow gangster.
In contrast, his own work at Fernhill has been nothing but positive.
He added: “The whole school have been brilliant, a few of the kids have asked me to sign a few copies and both the head teachers here have been really supportive.
“I actually wrote a few chapters when away on a school retreat and showed it to the senior pupils, so that was a tough crowd. But they seemed to like it!”
The Mash House is available now from Waterstones, Amazon and independent booksellers.
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