Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Great Idea Robbery

Catriona writes: I am on a fortnight's holiday  (US = two weeks' vacation) but with fortunate timing, my friend, writer and Bloody Scotland organiser Gordon Brown, is here in my place, talking about a sequel I'm delighted to be hearing about, an idea decades in the making, and  - you don't see these every day - an actual honest-to-goodness McGuffin.

Take it away, Gordon.

On the 8th of August 1963, the most famous robbery in UK history occurred when a Royal Mail train, running from Glasgow to London, was raided. The robbers got away with £2.6m (worth about $60m in today’s money). The robbery has achieved almost mythical proportions in the intervening years. The audacity and scale of the raid has engraved the episode in the British psyche. For the older generation, the phrase ‘The Great Train Robbery’ conjures up a mixture of emotions and still serves as a go-to phrase when they want to describe any theft that falls short of being spectacular – ‘It’s hardly the Great Train Robbery.’
It was far from the perfect crime. Most of the perpetrators were caught - amazingly some of the crooks decided to play Monopoly with real money while hiding out at a farm – leaving their fingerprints all over the cash – no need for the services of Sherlock Holmes on this one.
Over five decades later you would have thought that every detail about the robbery would have been exposed. Only this isn’t the case. Of the eighteen gang members, the identity of three is still not known. It took until 2014 to identify the insider, nicknamed ‘The Ulsterman’, as a guy called Pat McKenna. Most of the money was never recovered and conspiracies abound as to where it all went. There have been countless books written about the robbery and every so often Hollywood play with making a movie about it.

So why in the hell am I droning on about a crime from the sixties? I was a year old when it happened. I probably sat in front of the TV and watched the news that night, sucking a rusk and drinking my milk. Back then the whole world was open in front of me. I could have been an astronaut. Maybe a stellar entrepreneur? Or what about lion tamer? Truth is I wasn’t clear on what I wanted to do but I knew what I liked – music and books. It never occurred to me that this was any more than a personal interest. Something I indulged in when it was ‘me time’.

Roll forward to 2009 and I’m sitting in a book shop signing copies of my first novel ‘Falling’.
Who knew that I could eke a living from people who wanted to read what’s in my head? Tumble forward to 2010 and I get a chance to be a DJ on a local radio station? Who knew I could subject the masses to my own favourite tunes?  Keep moving in time and we arrive at 2016. Eric Campbell of Down & Out Books, whom I’d met at the Left Coast Crime Festival in Colorado a few years earlier, published Falling for the US market. The following year I’m in the final stages of launching three thrillers, the Craig McIntyre series, in the UK when Eric Skypes me and says, ‘Gordon are you up for a sequel to Falling?’

Falling was never intended to be a series. Set in Scotland, it stars Charlie Wiggs, a quiet, unassuming accountant who falls into the world of crime and is faced with three simple choices – go on the run for the rest of his life, fight back or die. At the end of the book he was supposed to retire to the backwaters of the accountancy world and live happily ever after. But now he’d have to be pulled, kicking and screaming, into the limelight once more.
This is where the Great Train Robbery rears its head. I was walking in the hills above the River Clyde with my wife Lesley. The panorama laid out before us was stunning. The isle of Arran lay in the distance, snow still covering the top of Goat Fell. The Bute ferry was ploughing white foam in front of it as it slid across the river, and the sky was the sort of blue that winter can only bring.

I’m bouncing ideas around for the new Charlie Wiggs book around with Lesley when I mention that Alabama 3, a country/blues/electronic band I like, are on tour. I mention that I had only just found out that Nick Reynolds, the band’s harmonica player, was the son of the Great Train Robbery gang leader Bruce Richard Reynolds (they even have a song named after Bruce). With so much mystery surrounding the robbery I had an idea - what if the real mastermind behind the robbery had never received the credit? What if, after all these years, he now wants to show the world that he was the man behind it all? Next I put a crime lord on the run, a man who claims that he came up with the idea for the robbery. I place his worldly goods on a train as he flees the country, pursued by the police, and I ensure that train will cross the same bridge where the Great Train Robbery took place. Then all I have to do is place a stolen object on the train -  an object that Charlie Wiggs simply has to get back – and the only way he can retrieve it is to be part of the Great Train Robbery 2. And what  ill I call this new book – Falling Too – why not? after all it’s a sequel to Falling. 


Falling Too is published by Down & Out Books and for a limited time Down & Books have reduced Falling to 99 cents for the eBook copy. Click here for both.

You can also find out more about Gordon at 

Bio: Gordon Brown lives in Scotland but splits his time between the UK and Spain. He’s married with two children. He also helped launch Bloody Scotland - Scotland’s International Crime Writing Festival.

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