Today the lovely Michael J Malone is stopping by the CTG blog as part of his A SUITABLE LIE Blog Tour to talk about pleasures, guilty pleasures to be precise.

Over to Michael …

Heard the phrase “Guilty pleasures” recently? Used it yourself? The meaning of the phrase is fairly easy to compute, yeah? Something you enjoy buy feel “guilty” for doing so.

But I have a problem with that. Any guilt is apparently to do with being caught participating in an activity which is thought to be deeply un-cool by your peers.

The more I hear this phrase, the more it annoys me. One the one hand I can understand that at our deepest level we are social creatures and anything that puts us at a remove from our social group is largely to be avoided. On the other hand, we are individuals and if whatever I am doing doesn’t harm anyone else why should I care what other people think?

And who gets to decide what is cool or un-cool? Is there some arbitrary notion that hypnotises en masse? Or is it all influenced by a media that browbeats us every minute of every waking day with their choices?

The media is run my people just like us. Why do they get to decide what we should and shouldn’t watch/ read/ think/ buy? Someone gives them a job on a newspaper, magazine or TV programme and we should suddenly listen to them like they are the Great Collective Guru of Taste?

I caught and stopped myself using the GP phrase just recently when I was talking about books. I almost said Wilbur Smith was a (hangs head in shame) guilty pleasure. For the briefest of moments – I was talking to someone I wanted to impress –I worried that enjoying Smith’s books might make me look less of whatever mask I was trying to inhabit.

As I said, I caught myself and noted that I was a fan.

Are you a literary snob? Do you only read the classics? Are your shelves filled only with the likes of Atwood, Conrad, Austen and the latest Man Booker/ Pulitzer prizewinner? Do you rush to hide the latest Stephen King or James Patterson when you hear a knock at the door?

Why is popular fiction derided as somehow being unworthy?

Every year when our political leaders go on holiday it seems like they are rushing to tell the newspapers what their holiday reading will be, and it’s all very earnest. Just a couple of years back David Cameron tried to excuse his “poor judgement” in one such article by writing off his holiday reading as “trashy novels”. Which made me almost want to dig up Guy Fawkes’ grave. How dare he write off someone’s hard work as trash?!

My feeling is that there is only good writing and bad writing. If the book grips or entertains me why should I worry if the taste police look down on me?

I say, down with that all of that sort of thing. Let’s erase the phrase from our lexicon. If you find yourself kow-towing to this needless waste of energy, stand tall and announce your preference with pride and offer a biblical pox on the decision-makers of “good” taste.

Sounds like good advice!

A SUITABLE LIE is out now. Here’s the blurb: “Some secrets should never be kept … Andy Boyd thinks he is the luckiest man alive. Widowed with a young child, after his wife dies in childbirth, he is certain that he will never again experience true love. Then he meets Anna. Feisty, fun and beautiful, she’s his perfect match … and she loves his son like he is her own. When Andy ends up in hospital on his wedding night, he receives his first clue that Anna is not all that she seems. Desperate for that happy-ever-after, he ignores it. A dangerous mistake that could cost him everything. A brave, deeply moving, page-turning psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie marks a stunning departure for one of Scotland’s finest crime writers, exploring the lengths people will go to hid their deepest secrets, even if it kills them …”

You can buy A SUITABLE LIE from Amazon here

And to find out more about Michael, check out his website here and follow him on Twitter @michaelJmalone1

Also, be sure to visit all the other fantastic stops along the A SUITABLE LIE Blog Tour …


Guest Blog: Douglas Skelton, author of DEVIL’S KNOCK, talks about why he writes Crime Fiction



Today I’m handing over the controls of the CTG blog to crime writer Douglas Skelton. To mark the publication of DEVIL’S KNOCK – the third book in his Glasgow-based crime series – I asked Douglas to tell us about what attracted him to writing crime fiction …

The memories come in fragments…

I’m maybe 7 or 8, sitting on the floor of our flat in Springburn in Glasgow, writing. It’s a story called ‘Who Killed Cock Robin?’ – hey, I was a kid, cut me some slack – and it dealt with the murder of a TV personality. And no, I can’t remember whodunit…

I’m about 10 or 11, living in what was then the new town of Cumbernauld, when I pick up ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ and read it. I don’t understood it all – it was a simpler age – but I finish it…

Two or three years later, I’m in another former new town, East Kilbride, and being sent to the library by my mother with the instruction, “Get me a murder story.” Naturally, I read a few…

Is that why I write crime?


Or, given my age when writing ‘Cock Robin, which I thought at the time was a book but was really a short story, was there something buried in the genes?

As a whippersnapper I also read westerns and a smattering of science fiction but soon I was sucked into the world of horror and the supernatural.

Now, though, apart from the occasional John Connolly or James Oswald, it’s straight-up crime all the way.

Although it was fiction I had my eye on, my introduction to publication was true crime. It seemed a natural progression from newspaper reporting although my approach was always as a storyteller rather than a journalist. That had its limits, of course, and I was always very much aware that I was dealing with real people with real feelings.

That was why, about halfway through my true crime period – which stretched to 11 books – I became more interested in historical cases.

Around this time I was also involved in investigation work for a couple of Glasgow solicitors. They were very thorough in their approach so this saw me not just taking statements from prosecution witnesses – what we call in Scotland a precognition – but also finding fresh witnesses and evidence.

I was, to all intents and purposes, a private eye, a gumshoe, a shamus. I even had a trench coat.

This introduced me to real crime and criminals in a way that my limited journalistic experience never had.


So when it came time to make the leap from crime fact to crime fiction, I suppose it was only natural that I’d put what I’d learned into my writing – and approach the genre from the point of view of the criminals.

My anti-hero, Davie McCall, is a tough guy. He’s a crook and he’s hard and he can look after himself. But he has a code – he doesn’t hurt women, children or animals. He tries to keep civilians – straight arrows – out of it.

In short, he’s an idealised version of the classic Glasgow hard man.

I gave him a tragic past and a vulnerability that only the reader can see because it was important to me that he be sympathetic.

And I surround him with a cast of characters who are good and bad and downright evil. Hopefully, though, even the worst of them has a touch of humanity.

I’m going for believability rather than absolute realism for these are thrillers. I’m telling tales not exposing the reality of Glasgow’s underworld. I want the reader to be thrilled, to laugh now and then, even cry, for I have a melancholy turn to my own nature and that comes out in the writing.

There are three in the series so far. The final one is due out next year.

Davie’s already been through hell.

I hope you’ll join his journey, see how it turns out.

Douglas Skelton is the author of BLOOD CITY, CROW BAIT, and DEVIL’S KNOCK, all published by Luath Press.

DEVIL’S KNOCK is out now. Here’s the blurb: “The brutal Jarvis clan clawed their way out of their council house by way of the veins and noses of the city’s drug users’ and gained notoriety throughout Glasgow for their violence and fierce family loyalty. Their power is uncontested but when “Scrapper” Jarvis stabs Dickie Himes to death outside a nightclub, all hell breaks loose and Davie is pulled back into the fray.”

To find out more about Douglas Skelton and his books hop on over to his website at www.douglasskelton.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter @DouglasSkelton1

To check out DEVIL’S KNOCK on Amazon click on the book cover below:



CTG Reviews: Beyond the Rage by Michael J. Malone

Beyond the Rage cover image

Beyond the Rage cover image

What the blurb says: “Kenny O’Neill is a criminal with a touch of class about him, a self-made man who’s always one step ahead. But right now he’s raging. His high-class escort girlfriend has been viciously attacked and his father is reaching out from the past – despite abandoning Kenny as a child after his mother’s suicide. Kenny embarks on a dual mission to hunt down his girl’s attacker and find out the truth about his dad … but instead he unravels disturbing family secrets and finds that revenge is not always sweet.”

Kenny O’Neill might be a criminal, but you can’t help but root for him in this pacey thriller. Never one to back away from a fight, and with a highly developed sense of justice (just not necessarily the legal kind) he’s determined to find out who’s behind the vicious attack on Alexis, his escort girlfriend. But when unresolved questions from his past start resurfacing, and those he cares for start getting hurt, he realises that Alexis is not the only target. As the body count rises, Kenny has to call on his friends from both sides of the law if he’s going to find those responsible, and get out alive.

This is a gritty, brutal crime thriller, with plenty of salty language and a nice touch of dark humour. It throws you into Kenny’s (criminal) world and gets you up-close-and-personal with some violent and conniving people. There are loads of fabulous characters, from the elderly mixed martial arts gym owner, to the retired cop who’s never forgotten Kenny’s mothers’ death and his fathers’ disappearance, to Kenny’s mysterious and unpredictable girlfriend, Alexis, and her larger-than-life mother. There’s also a lot of heart.

An atmospheric, compelling, rollercoaster of a read, BEYOND THE RAGE is a fabulous piece of tartan noir.

Highly Recommended.

[with thanks to CONTRABAND for my copy of Beyond the Rage]


CTG Reviews: Crow Bait by Douglas Skelton

Crow Bait cover image

Crow Bait cover image

What the blurb says: “Jail was hell for Davie McCall. Ten years down the line, freedom’s no picnic either. It’s 1990, there are new kings in the West of Scotland underworld, and Glasgow is awash with drugs.

David can handle himself. What he can’t handle is the memory of his mother’s death at the hand of his sadistic father. Or the darkness his father implanted deep in his own psyche. Or the nightmares …

Now his father is back in town and after blood, ready to waste anyone who stops him hacking out a piece of the action. There are people in his way. And Davie is one of them.”

CROW BAIT puts the reader up close and personal into the world of criminal gangs in Scotland back in the 1990s. It’s a tense, dangerous and often brutal world where trust is fragile, alliances between criminals and police are made and broken, and the rise of the drug trade is causing rising friction between gang members.

Davie McCall is a compelling narrator – his strong sense of justice, inner conflicts, and loyalty to his friends giving an interesting counterpoint with his capability for extreme violence. Fresh out of prison, he’s soon drawn back into his old criminal activities. But things are different – he’s convinced someone close to him is responsible for killing his old mentor, and he wants to find out who. Then the strange phone calls start, and the murders mimicking that of his mother, and Davie knows his father is back and coming for him. As the story twists and turns towards the final brutal showdown, Davie discovers who his friends and allies really are – on both sides of the law.

This dark, gritty crime thriller is packed with brooding, menacing atmosphere, up-close action and brilliantly drawn characters. It’s a must-read for fans of Tartan Noir.