Today is publication day for Stuart MacBride’s Partners in Crime: Two Logan & Steel Short Stories (‘Stramash’ and ‘DI Steel’s Bad Heir Day’). Perfect to fill in your lunch hour, liven up your commute, or enjoy of an eve over a glass of wine (though a tumbler of whisky might be more appropriate). Last month, Stuart MacBride did a Skype interview with student journalist Alicia Jensen for the Aberdeen University Student Newspaper, The Gaudie. Read on to find out what makes Aberdeen the perfect setting for a murder or three…
If Edinburgh is bipolar; Aberdeen is schizophrenic
Stuart MacBride answers questions on why Aberdeen makes such a good setting for a gory murder mystery
Why set a murder in Aberdeen? This is the first question in my Skype interview with Stuart MacBride, bestselling author of the Logan McRae series, and Birthdays for the Dead.
‘Aberdeen is different from other Scottish cities.’ MacBride begins. This is partly because of its oil industry, and the culture of people spending a lot of time off-shore. But it’s also the weather and the
granite. ‘If consensus is that Edinburgh is bipolar, then I would call Aberdeen schizophrenic’, says MacBride. ‘There is so much granite. Granite isn’t like the sandstone of Edinburgh – it takes its color from the weather. As soon as the weather changes, the mood of the place changes dramatically. This is mirrored in its people.’ Because it is so often rainy in Aberdeen, the weather sets the tone for that constant feeling of impending doom lurking around the city’s corners.
Asking MacBride which places inspire him to write thrillers, he responds that everything does. Being a crime thriller writer ‘twists your perceptions slightly,’ in his words. ‘One Halloween I saw three young women dressed up, one as an angel, one as a devil, and one as a witch. I assumed they were classmates, but I immediately started thinking of a plot.’ His most recent bestseller was inspired by its title ‘Birthdays for the Dead’; the story followed as he imagined what story that title held.
Everywhere in Aberdeen then can be an inspiring setting for a murder story. In his books, MacBride has used all sorts of settings, from farm houses in the country, to the beach, and many more. The spookiest locations are down by the harbor, says MacBride. Take a turn down Marshall Street and there are these tiny alleyways that ‘feel small, feel dark, and feel old’. At the start of a new book, the first thing to do is to take a walk around Aberdeen; MacBride often finds himself in the alleyways – though maybe not at night time.
MacBride’s style of writing, which any of his readers could attest to, is quite detailed. ‘I don’t see it as ‘gore’, to be honest. I see it as being honest about what’s happening.’ His readers won’t be spared any of the thoughts that go through the narrator’s mind, even as he sits and watches the autopsy of a child murder. ‘Letting the reader glance over it would be dishonest. A scene with a murdered child should be horrible, because the reality is horrible’ says MacBride. But his books aren’t all gore – he brings in humor by building up his characters, and not portraying them as ‘single focus bastions of justice’. From MacBride, one can expect honesty, a good story, and a chilling feeling of what Aberdeen can inspire.