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LISTEN: Episode 2 of Northern Bibliosphere - Crime writing in the Highlands with author Neil Lancaster who just launched his latest book The Blood Tide

By Federica Stefani

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Neil Lancaster.
Neil Lancaster.

You can listen to the full interview below or on your favourite podcasting platform:

A Black Isle-based detective turned writer has every reason to be excited about the launch of the second book of a successful crime fiction series set between the Highlands and central belt.

Penned by former Met police officer Neil Lancaster (55), The Blood Tide, is now available as an ebook and audiobook and will be published in hardback edition at the end of March.

The novel is the second following the investigations of DS Max Craigie, and comes as a sequel to Dead Man’s Grave, which was was longlisted for the 2021 William McIlvanney Prize for Best Scottish Crime Book of the Year and selected by Waterstones as Scottish Book of the Month.

Mr Lancaster, who moved from England to the Black Isle in 2015 after a career as a Detective Sergeant, is very excited about the new release.

“I am really pleased with the early reactions,” he said. “If you’ve not read Dead Man’s Grave before but you like a good gripping ripper of a thriller then I think you’ll enjoy it – all the feedback I’ve got so far is that it’s at least as good!”

The story follows Max Craigie and the main characters from Dead Man’s Grave as they investigate a line of corruption behind police lines and deal with a major drug smuggling operation.

Mr Lancaster said: “I like to start out with a small town mystery, something that really seems innocuous at first. In this case, it starts out with a fisherman going missing on Loch Torridon, which is a beautiful stunning place, and then is followed by a suicide at Erskine Bridge, Glasgow.

“This is all around the importation of drugs via the west of coast. This came to me because I was reading a report that after Brexit, Customs are really worried about what will happen to drug smuggling. Whereas most drugs very often come through the seaports in cars, in lorries and cargo freights, extra checks at the port are liable to make them a bit more nervous.

“Well, there are 11,000 miles of coastline in Scotland and they’re not patrolled. There is only one Customs Cutter up this far, so really it’s almost a free-for-all.

“That was sort of the motivation for that and then I’ll see what happens. I don’t plan my books; I come up with the basic idea, and I just start writing, so I am discovering the plot in real time.”

His first book, Going Dark, was published in 2019 and two more following the story of former Bosnian refugee and Royal Marine Tom Novak, Going Rogue and Going Back, were released in the following 18 months.

The author, who lives on the Black Isle, said he really wanted this series to be a wholly Scottish one.

He said: “I felt really part of the crime writing scene in Scotland attending festivals such as Bloody Scotland in Stirling and Granite Noir in Aberdeen, so I really wanted to stay part of that.

“Because where we live is so tremendously beautiful and stunning, I really wanted to write about that, I wanted to transport the reader into the Highlands, which is why I do take some time with descriptions of the scene.

“I wanted the landscape to be like a character in the book, because I think when people read Scottish books, they either want to be dark cityscapes that Ian Rankin talks about - he really talks about Edinburgh as if it’s a character. Marion Todd would talk about St Andrews or Dundee, Alan Parks would get under the skin of Glasgow I wanted to do the same with the Highlands but also to have the opportunity to be in the cities as well.”

You can learn more about his work at neillancastercrime.co.uk

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