Dearest Ringwood Readers,
With a new season comes a host of exciting new content. In this edition we’re announcing the upcoming launch of Anne Pettigrew’s The Carnelian Tree! Read on to find out which iconic Glasgow institution the event will be held at…
We also caught up with Tom Wood, author of Ruxton, amid his preparations for a podcast series and will be sharing our exclusive interview with Tom here. Finally, we have an interview with children’s author Maisie Chan on identity, children’s literature and the Asian writing community in Scotland.
RINGWOOD IN THE NEWS
Congratulations to A.M. Nicol for his feature in the Scottish Daily Express! Sheila Garvie: Mastermind or Victim has been lauded as one of the most sensational court cases in Scottish legal history.
The article highlights a key question asked by the book: though she was labelled as an infamous femme fatale killer, who really was Sheila Garvie?
Anne Pettigrew is launching her latest book, The Carnelian Tree on 20th October.
We can now announce that the launch event will be heldat The House for an Art Lover at 6.30pm! This building was designed by renowned Scottish architect, designer and artist, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. There will also be a special guest at the event, TV personality Judith Ralston.
The Carnelian Tree features a dead body, a disappearance, and an epic lost in time. Judith Fraser’s Oxford sabbatical quickly takes a sharp turn when she gets tangled in the mysterious murder of a colleague. With a shady glimpse of the Oxford underbelly, this cross-genre novel will appeal to the full range of crime and mystery readers including Cosy Crime fans.
Preorder the book here.
Visit the event page here.
George Barnsley is launching his debut work The Lanarkshire Police Chronicles on 17th November!
The Lanarkshire Police Chronicles is a fascinating collection of true stories involving crimes committed in and around Lanarkshire across the past 150 years of Lanarkshire Police service to the community. This is a wonderfully absorbing read, full of human interest stories.
The launch event will be held at Drumpellier Golf Club at 7pm.
Preorder the book here.
Sheila Garvie in Aberdeen: An Evening with A.M. Nicol
By Raquel Alemán Cruz
On Tuesday 20th September Ringwood held an event in Aberdeen with author A.M. Nicol, who talked about his most recent release, Sheila Garvie: Mastermind or Victim. Following a successful book launch in Glasgow in June, Ringwood decided to take the book up north to Aberdeen, where the Garvie trial took place in the High Court in November 1968. As a result of this, many locals are familiar with the case, and this was indeed one of the most rewarding aspects of the event. In the intimate, cosy atmosphere of Books and Beans, who very graciously hosted us, Allan revealed the aspects of the Sheila Garvie investigation and evidence that drew him to write about this case.
After a reading by his wife, Mirian, there was a dynamic and engaging discussion and Q&A session in which the audience, comprised of both older and younger members, challenged the author’s arguments and asked him questions about Sheila’s defence and how the trial might have been resolved differently nowadays. To the excitement of all, someone even revealed that she once met Sheila Garvie in passing. Towards the end of the event, we let the audience act as jury, as their own peers did in 1968, and vote on whether they thought Sheila was a mastermind, a victim or neither of those. The verdict was definitely more in her favour than it was in the 60s, showing how public perception might be changing over time, even if many unanswered questions remain. Finally, as Allan signed some books, the guests admired newspaper clippings from the News of the World, a publication that constitutes a primary example of how the case was sensationalised by the press.
Watch the whole event on Facebook here.
And, of course, you can get your own copy of the book here.
Aside from attending the brilliant launches we have coming up, why not check out these other events?
3rd October – ‘Why Burns didn’t write a book – but I did?’ Skelmorlie Burns Club, Station Bar, 7pm
6th October – ‘Mastering Menopause’ in association with Inverclyde Libraries, Live Literature & Our Voice, Greenock Central Library, 6.30pm
30th October – Symposium for students on Not the Life Imagined, Edinburgh University Centre for Global Studies
11th November – ‘Writing Novels’, Greenock Philosophical Society, The Watt Library Greenock, 7.30pm
30th September – Talk and Q&A on Ruxton: The First Modern Murder (shortlisted for the Scottish National Book Awards 2021), Judges’ Lodgings Museum, Lancaster, 2.30pm – get tickets to the event here.
28th October – ‘What You Call Free: Historical Research, Historical Fiction and 1680s Scotland’ at The Open History Society, Royal Scots Club, Edinburgh, 7.30pm
5th November – Chairing event with James Robertson, award-winning author, Edinburgh University New College Festival of Books and Belief
Tom Wood Interview – Author of Ruxton: The First Modern Murder
Tom Wood is a well-decorated senior officer who has built a successful career in the Scottish police force, laterally serving as the Deputy Chief Constable of Lothian & Borders Police.
Now retired, Wood has penned three true crime books including the most recent, Ruxton: The First Modern Murder. This book details the pioneering forensic work carried out by forces during the 1930s investigation of a gruesome double murder, and draws upon previously classified documents to build a detailed and engrossing story about criminal investigation and justice.
Hello Tom, it’s great to chat with you!
Since Ruxton was released in 2020, it has been shortlisted for the Saltire Society of Scotland’s National Book Awards. It was also bought by Paperclip Ltd and is now in the process of becoming a podcast series.
After a distinguished career in the police, what inspired your progression into authorship?
I’m really an accidental writer. My last big case in the police was to lead the historical investigation into a series of murders of young women in the 1970s, including the notorious Worlds End Murders. When the first trial of Angus Sinclair collapsed in 2007, I was so incensed that I felt I had to tell the story. I did not want the memory of the young victims and a ground-breaking investigation to be defined by tabloid headlines as a legal bungle. So I set out to write the first of two books about the Worlds End Murders. This was complicated because of legal considerations, but after the second trial and the conviction of Sinclair, I wrote the second edition (2014).
A few years earlier I had come upon the Ruxton papers, which had been handed in by the family of a long dead detective, who had found them in a loft. When I read them I realised that there was much more to the well-known story than had been told. A number of key characters had been airbrushed out by history and I felt strongly that this should be put right. I started to research the case and gathered thousands of documents from across the world. Then I had the difficult job of condensing all the information into a fast-moving readable story. That was the hard bit!
After receiving the case papers from the Edinburgh detective, Lieutenant John Sheed, what were your initial thoughts? And how did you go about creating psychologically astute profiles of all the principal figures in the case?
When I came across the Ruxton papers first I didn’t bother to read them because I thought I knew the story of the famous forensic case. It was only when I read them I discovered there was much more to it. I felt that the true story deserved to be told and since I had something of a shared experience, I knew that I had to tell it. As for the psychological profiles of the characters, they are based on the case papers, their behaviour, and my own background in investigations.
I was particularly struck by your portrayal of Sergeant Robert Sloan, a local policeman and the first to establish the crime scene. Despite his lack of forensic awareness, he acted coolly and was able to secure the scene.
In what ways would Sloan and his contemporaries have drawn on their war-time experiences in their police work?
I think the aftermath of World War One was a key factor in the amazing response to this case. Most of the police and scientists had served on the front line. They were toughened by their experiences and knew the value of working together. There were no jurisdictional squabbles, no grandstanding, no jealousies. They worked seamlessly. They were bound by a shared experience that shaped them for the rest of their lives. Sgt Sloan is a perfect example. Without training or equipment, he carried out a perfect crime scene management exercise (that would be creditable today). He had no training, experience or equipment but he was toughened in a way that this generation cannot really understand. He and the others deserve to be brought back into the light, remembered and celebrated. That is why I am pleased that the book has been a success. It gives me some comfort that I have done some justice to these amazing people.
It’s been fantastic to chat with you. Thanks very much Tom!
Check out Ruxton here.
If you loved Ruxton, Tom Wood has also written an enthralling three-part series for 1919 Magazine called ‘Sheila Anderson: The Murder Which Changed the Policing of the Sex Trade’.
“I am hopeful for Asian writers”: Maisie Chan on Identity and Children’s Literature
By Chang Li
“When people think of ‘Scotland’ they think of a very white literary landscape with lochs and rugged landscapes. They don’t think about South Asians on the Southside of Glasgow and the Scottish Chinese working in takeaways in Nairn.”
This quote from the brilliant Scottish Asian author, Maisie Chan, set me thinking. When I looked out of the window, rainy Glasgow was still displaying its damp charm, with pedestrians weaving quietly and swiftly between the dripping crystals.
I saw white couples holding hands, elderly Asian men waiting for the bus, and a group of girls wrapped in hijabs discussing what was new at school today… but if your eyes touched the row of books by the window, you would find the names of white authors printed in foil lettering on the spine. Unlike the view from the window, there is something monotonous and lost about Scottish book publishing in terms of writers.
As a publisher that consistently promotes diversity and inclusion, Ringwood wants to use interviews to tap into, and reach out to, those who are established minority writers in Scotland or are exploring entering the industry. In our interview for Ringwood we will be focusing on the Asian writer community in Scotland and our first interviewee is the excellent writer, Maisie Chan.
As a children’s author, Maisie Chan is working hard to bring Asian narratives to children’s literature. Her debut novel Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths won the Jhalak Prize and the Branford Boase Award in 2022. Immigrant families, stereotypes, cultural clashes… Maisie focuses on the lives of minority children which traditional children’s literature fails to reach.
Maisie credits her love of literature to reading, recalling in an excited tone, “I think the first way most writers get into literature is through reading! I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing. English was my favourite subject at school, and I think what I was most interested in was the lives of people. I used to have pen pals from all over the world and I would write about my mundane life.”
When talking about why she developed a strong interest in children’s literature, Maisie cites several books that have had a profound impact on her, “I have fond memories of the Ladybird series of books growing up. Most of them were fairy tale retellings. I also loved picture books such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and Mog books by Judith Kerr.”
“I love books by Frank Cottrell-Boyce. I love the humour in his books. I love Jewell Parker Rhodes who wrote Ghost Boys. A.M. Dassu’s book Boy, Everywhere is one of my favourite books for young teens. There are so many good books out there now.”
However, Maisie has her own opinion as to why she chose ethnic minorities for her stories. “I guess I still like stories about underdogs and outsiders to society,” she admits, “one of my favourite reads as a young person was The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I think she wrote that novel aged sixteen.” (She was fifteen).
“I think many of the greatest and most common stories are about orphans and people who come from non-traditional families or who have had to struggle in life. I guess I can relate to some of that.”
These readings gradually coalesced in Maisie’s mind, and she had a strong and clear urge to record the narratives. “The fact that the stories told by Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths, the grandma arriving from China and staying with her British Chinese family is loosely based on something that happened to a school friend of mine. My friend could not speak to her grandma because she spoke a language from a small village that my Cantonese-speaking friend just couldn’t understand.”
I couldn’t help but wonder if such a culture clash existed in every immigrant family? Maisie continues, “I also met my Chinese grandmother and had similar issues, but we communicated by other means when I used to stay with her. I did take inspiration from other older ladies such as my own mum and my Spanish mother-in-law who both over-fed and loved children a lot.”
Many readers with similar experiences have rated the book extremely highly, and they generally believe that Danny Chung is their own version of themselves at a young age. Maisie smiles when she hears such comments, “the book is fiction, though I use my experiences and observations to create fictional worlds that seem real and that are relatable.”
Before our interview, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the growing presence of Asian writers in the Scottish publishing industry. I urgently ask Maisie why their work is becoming increasingly popular with publishers. “In fact, I don’t know if Scottish Asian writers are ‘popular’ yet,” Maisie continues, “I think there has been a push for diversity and inclusion among publishers industry wide and so those Scottish Asian voices may have been heard more in recent times as society as a whole seems to be shifting.
I think also there has been a sense of community by the formation of the Scottish BPOC (Black People and People of Colour) Writers Network which formed soon after I moved to Scotland. Before, I think people were working very much in smaller groups or alone.”
“However,” Maisie pauses for a moment and adds, “I think a lot more can be done to increase opportunities for emerging authors such as long-term mentoring, funding opportunities and investment to help all writers of colour in Scotland. Then we need to reach out to young people and show them that you can be creative and have a voice.”
Read the full interview on our website here.
* Maisie Chan is a British-born Chinese author. Her debut novel Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths won the Branford Boase 2022, the Jhalak Prize 2022 and was shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Awards 2022. She also started the group Bubble Tea Writers Network to support and encourage new British East and Southeast Asian writers in the UK. Her latest novel Keep Dancing, Lizzie Chu is out now and tells a touching intergenerational story about adventure and family. Now she lives in Glasgow with her family.
Learn more about Maisie Chan and her work here.
That’s all from us!
Until next time,
Olivia Jackson (Editor) and the Ringwood Team