The Audience By Douglas Skelton
Three years ago, if you’d asked me to stand in front of an audience and talk, I’d’ve died with my feet in the air. Now, when I go to the fridge and the light comes on, I do a ten minute bit.
I wanted to be an actor when I was a slip of a lad (the lad in question being my father, the slip being me – thank you ‘Round the Horne’). I was never that outgoing – didn’t much like parties or socialising – but get me in front of an audience and I was off.
As I grew older I lost that. During my true crime years I made a number of TV radio appearances – still do – but that’s not the same as being up there with real people looking at you. Then I had my first novel, ‘Blood City’, published and – gulp – I was expected to perform. The first occasion was an event thrown by my publisher during the Edinburgh Festival and I was one of a number of authors asked to give a reading. I was one of the last called and the nervous sweat could’ve refloated the Titanic. The book was as yet unreleased so I was reading from a somewhat soggy typewritten sheet. It didn’t help that I’ forgotten my reading glasses. I worked a little from memory and I think I may even have rewritten a section as I went along. At one point I found myself in a verbal tangle and paraphrased Harrison Ford to George Lucas when shooting the first Star Wars film – you can type this stuff, but you can’t say it. The audience laughed. They were on my side. I liked it.
Now whenever I do an event, as Donald O’Connor once sang, I like to make ‘em laugh.Yes, my books can be dark but that doesn’t mean I have to be, at least in public. I do try to follow the sage advice of a seasoned bookseller to be windswept and interesting but my motto is take the work seriously but not myself. I’m still no good at socialising, though, and in festival bars I’m usually the one trying to merge with the background.
My next appearance will be during Bloody Scotland, which runs in Stirling from Friday September 11 to Sunday September 13. Crime writing festivals are wonderful things and this one is no exception. If you’ve never been I would thoroughly recommend it.This time I’m on a panel with Caro Ramsay and Michael J. Malone on the Sunday, which will be a real blast. I’m not too worried about that, although I will have to work hard to keep up with that pair.That’s not the reason I’ve already got a butterfly farm in full swing in my stomach.
On the Friday night I’m chairing the opening event. Yes, the opening event.And I’ll be interviewing Val McDermid and Peter May. Yes, Val McDermid and Peter May. These are two big-hitters and the hall will be packed to the rafters. I’m a bit of a limelighter now but I think I may have a drink beforehand. Or a Valium. Or both.
DOUGLAS SKELTON began crime writing with true crime but moved into fiction with ‘Blood City’ in 2013. Set in his home town of Glasgow, the series deals with hard man with a heart Davie McCall and the changes in the city’s underworld from 1980 to the new millennium. The third in the quartet, ‘Devil’s Knock’ was published in June.