IT’S HARD to put my finger on an exact moment of inspiration for GUTTED, there was no light-bulb flashing above my head where I said, ‘I know, I want to write about a savage mauling by a pit bull’. Didn’t happen.

GUTTED, my second book in the series featuring my reluctant PI Gus Dury, follows on pretty much where PAYING FOR IT left off. Gus is still drinking. He’s still falling foul of the law. Still fixing his problems with his fists. Still estranged from his wife…though she’s upped the ante by dating a cop!

After Gus stumbles on the gutted corpse of a local villain on an Edinburgh hill one night, it just so happens his ex’s new flame is sent to investigate…and finds the ideal excuse to frame Gus for murder. Well, Gus was covered in the geezer’s claret after all.

In the true tradition of making life difficult for the protagonist, Gus also inherits a pub. Oh yes, like putting a pyromaniac in charge of a fireworks factory. As his life gets even trickier than usual, he has the fuel on tap to make things worse.

So, from what sprung from the small idea of Gus stumbling across a corpse on a hill, spiralled a bigger tale. I soon found myself adding in new layers of corruption, revenge and double-crossing. The story took off.

If there was any point of inspiration it came from my day job as a hack. I had been reading a lot of copy about dog fighting being on the rise. There’d been some grisly coverage of this utterly sickening activity and I, consciously or unconsciously, found myself putting it in my fiction.

The more I looked into the subject of the pit fights, the more it churned my stomach and fed my imagination…I knew just how Gus would react to this sort of thing – he’d go postal. And so he did.

I’ve never been a fan of those books that are heavily researched, where you can see the author crowbaring in their learning, but looking at contemporary trends and expanding on, or adapting, them is something that I think works.

At the core of this story there’s an attack on a child by a pit bull; I didn’t base this on any real event but I think I’ve counted about three or four such incidents in the press since I wrote about it. It’s something that makes you stop and think as a writer – when you see the impact of crime in the real world; making it all up seems almost churlish by comparison.

The second novel is always a tricky nut to crack, there’s more pressure than the first. I knew I had to make Gutted a bigger, bolder book that PAYING FOR IT and by all accounts – well, going on the say of people who know much more about this than me – I’ve managed to do just that. There’s nothing worse than a series that treads water, they have to grow with each new outing for the character. Gus certainly goes through the mill in this book, you could say, by the end of it, he’s more than a bit, er, … GUTTED.

Gutted is published by Preface

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