Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Dead Man Talking #21 - Graham Smith

Strachan McQuade (deceased) Interviews Graham Smith

Graham Smith is the latest crime author to emerge from the talented stable of writers at Caffeine Nights Publishing. This month sees him unveil two new books, the first being a collection of short stories ‘Major Crimes Team - Vol 1:Lines of Enquiry’ and the second, a full length novel, ‘Snatched From Home’. Graham has been part of the so-called underground writers collective for some time both as a writer and a reviewer.  I first chanced upon him when we shared book space in the charity anthology ‘A Night at the Movies’, after which I noticed his name crop up on a regular basis on various Flash Fiction and Hard Boiled Crime web sites.

We finally met up a few years ago at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival where in between interviewing authors he found time to nip into the bar and buy me a pint. Or maybe he simply swiped one from an unguarded table. The gesture was appreciated anyway. Goes without saying I’m delighted to see him move on to the next level and hope he sells a bucketful of books. In fact, Graham is now so famous I found his mug-shot staring out at me from the Sunday Sun while I tucked into my bacon and eggs at the weekend. Funny thing is, when I looked down, my last rasher of bacon had been nicked and I swear there was a grease stain on his newspaper tanktop where there hadn’t been one before. Spooky, eh?

Strachan McQuade R.I.P
Graham Smith

McQuade: Welcome to Dead Man Talking – and for this interview I’m down at the Scottish borders in the picturesque town of Gretna Green, traditionally famous for its runaway brides. In case you get the wrong idea, no, I’ve not eloped with my old church organist, Mrs Stop (an inappropriate name if there was one) to arrange a clandestine betrothment. I’m at the Mill Forge Hotel (reasonable rates and late night room service) to interview Graham Smith. Not a man to do things by halves, Smith has two new books being published this month.

Just so you know, Smith, as a man of the cloth, I’m still licensed to conduct weddings and if you’re ever stuck for a Minister I’d be more than happy to help out if the money was right.

Smith: Thanks for having me over. It’s always nice to meet men of the cloth who are open to financial inducements. As you’re not the youngest man-of-the-cloth about town I shall conduct all fiscal notifications in shillings. I should also take this opportunity to make it clear that we no longer offer late night room service due to our one-legged roller-skater being absent due to maternity leave with her seventh child.


McQuade: Guests in the Invergallus Ramada were always rather disappointed when they ordered Room Service, and instead of a steak sandwich they got me reading them a sermon and singing a few psalms before handing round the collection plate. Please congratulate One-Stirrup Sally, your pregnant one-legged, roller-skater on her latest delivery. Funnily enough, the plimsoll fixated manager of the Invergallus Chinese Take-Away also had only one leg. We called him Mr Wan San Shu. 
Very well, that’s enough opening banter. Let’s start off with the forthcoming books. One is a novel and the other is a short story collection, and both feature the same characters. Any reason for this casting duplication lark other than simply being too lazy to make up new characters?


Smith: You’ve got me nailed on the lazy aspect. If I could be bothered to mount a defence, it would be that the short story collection introduces the various members of the police team who feature in the novel.

McQuade:  That’s an interesting idea. If only Rankin or Billingham had thought of that it would have saved them the time and trouble of writing half a dozen novels to set the scene properly for their respective detectives, Rebus and Thorne.

Will there be any signing events for the books? And if so, will there be free drink and food? Dancing girls would too much to expect, I suppose. When I published my best-selling book ‘Invergallus’ I held a singing event, complete with a tartan Karaoke machine that only played Kenneth McKellar and Moira Anderson backing tracks. Maybe you should be thinking of a similar crowd-pulling stunt.

Smith: I will be launching the novel with trumpeted fanfare at Waterstones in Carlisle. A shop where I have spent many hours browsing and even more hours buying wonderful books. I’ll be following that up with a signing event at Dumfries Waterstones two days later. While I’m too Scottish to consider free food and drink, there will certainly be a wee drinkathon after the launch. Sadly I do not know any dancing girls, but if any cross my palm with alcoholic beverages I could be persuaded to let them audition. Simon Cowell has filed an injunction which prevents me from going with a half mile of all Karaoke machines, tartan or otherwise.

Snatch the dog
McQuade: Don’t talk to me about Simon Cowell. I auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent last year and planned on simulating a sheep dog trial by having a dancing border collie called Snatch herd some moon-walking sheep into a pen. Unfortunately, on whistling my first command to Snatch, my false teeth flew out and landed in Amanda Holden’s lap. It certainly didn’t help matters when the dog tried to retrieve them. Bloody hell, all I said was, Fetch, Snatch! Cowell disqualified me on the spot and erm… strangely enough, Holden kept the dog.

Anyway, Smith, you were a member of Crimesquad.com, a well-respected book review panel. Did you get to wear a funny uniform and flash a warrant card? And please confirm or deny the rumour you took down Mo Hayder’s particulars.

Mo Hayder
Smith: There isn’t a uniform and all allegations of flashing cannot be commented on due to ongoing legal proceedings. I can confirm the rumour about Mo Hayder and her particulars. After all I started it. My “audition” for Crimesquad.com was a review I did of Mo Hayder’s particularly good Pig Island, in which I particularly commented on the particular particles of her particular talents.


McQuade: That last sentence would definitely pose me problems without my teeth. Now then, from your experience in the hotel trade you must have come across all sorts of odd people on which to base to base your fictional characters. Come to think of it, I used members of my own church congregation to populate my book and didn’t even bother to change the names. In saying that, not many of my congregation could actually read, so no harm done. Sorry, I’m rambling a bit. We were talking your hotel guests. So, do you ever kill any off (in your book) if they are particularly obnoxious and fail to use the brush provided for cleaning the toilet? And please tell us of any hilarious hotel related japes like finding a guest dead in bed and dressing them up in stockings and suspenders before the coroner arrives.

Smith: I have many tales I could tell about the goings on at a hotel, but I cannot share them here out of concern for my solicitor’s blood pressure. I never write anyone directly into fiction as they all know where to find me. Instead I look at traits, mannerisms and general behaviour towards others as research for fleshing out characters. I don’t know (or want to) just what it says about me that the things I pick up on are always the unpleasant ones.

McQuade: Only seeing the bad traits in other people says to me you’re in the wrong job. Perhaps you should be a policeman… or a judge on Britain’s Got Talent.

One last question, Smith. There are two schools of writing where police procedurals are concerned. One group is meticulous and keep the details of police work accurate to reflect the ever-changing processes and hierarchy. The other bunch, simply want to dress up their character as a copper and electrocute criminals with Tasers, uncaring that real police officers get upset that no proper paper-work is taken care of. Which group do you belong to?

Smith: I have splinters in my interesting areas from sitting on this particular fence. While I feel there should be realism and fact at the root of all stories, I don’t want to read or write a police manual. Authentic procedure will fly out of my window at a great rate of knots if it needs to. I’m lucky my lead character DI Harry Evans is pretty much a renegade so I can have him doing the wrong thing whenever I want. Whenever I have him do something totally wrong I counterbalance it with a spot of narrative or have someone call him on it.


Cumbrian kebabs
McQuade: That’s very responsible of you, Smith, as we don’t want the British public to think our coppers can break the rules by planting evidence or pushing suspects down stairs without at least getting some narrative chucked at them. Thank you very much for your time and I wish you the very best of luck with your books. I’m sure you have a long and successful writing career ahead of you. (Editor – that sounds ominous) Look out, Smith! Here comes One-Stirrup Sally roller-skating along the path carrying what looks like a ten foot lance under her arm. (Editor – Told you so) Some idiot must have ordered the extra-large Cumbrian kebab via room service. Crikey, she must be doing at least 40 mph on that roller-skate. I’d get off the path quickly if I were you, Smith, or else…

(Cue sound of skewered hotel manager)

McQuade: Ah, that was messy. Not much that can be done now, except… Quick, someone stick stockings and suspenders on Smith before the coroner arrives.

Visit Graham's web site

'Snatched from Home' on Amazon

'Major Crimes Team' on Amazon


  1. Entertaining and informative at the same time. By jove Strachan, you've done it again. Best of luck to Graham Smith. Going to check him out on Amazon p.d.q. !

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Teri.