Auntie M is a huge fan of Alex Gray’s DCI Lorimer series, so with the advent of Keep the Midnight Out publishing here in the US, she jumped at the chance to throw a few questions to Gray about her process:

Auntie M:How much of a story arc for Lorimer and his Maggie have you thought out ahead of whatever book you’re writing? Do you throw wobbles in their path as you write each book; have a plan devised or a combination of both?

Alex Gray: Well, I don’t have a story arc at all. I begin with an idea and perhaps a theme in mind and see the opening scene and simply write what I see in my head, then take it from there. My focus is normally on Maggie and Lorimer supporting each other in different ways, although in a few books they have problems that need to be resolved. In Keep The Midnight Out, Maggie is stricken when their favourite holiday island becomes a place of danger following the discovery of a body on their very own beach. I rarely have any plan in mind, just vague ideas that gather momentum as I write.

AM: How do you keep a series character fresh?

AG:I am not really sure, except that my mind is so full of different ideas that Lorimer has a lot to do and works in different places. I tend to throw problems at him to solve, not just crimes but domestic situations too, the sorts of things that everyday ordinary folks will face during a lifetime. Getting to know Lorimer as I have done over the years helps a lot as I now have the confidence to let him tackle some pretty scary stuff!

AM: It sounds like you don’t do a lot of outlining then for a new book before plunging in!

AG: Um, well, hardly anything! Just enough to keep my publisher happy and confident that I know what I am writing about! Never do a synopsis, hopefully never will.

AM: Who were your early influences who made you turn to crime fiction?

AG: Probably the earliest writer who made me think I wanted to write crime fiction was William McIlvanney, the ‘godfather of tartan noir’ (as he hated being called!) I adore Willie’s work and was proud to call him a friend before he died. I was delighted that my suggestion to rename the Scottish Crime Book of the Year be renamed the McIlvanney prize in his honour was taken up.

AM: Who are some of your favorite crime fiction authors to read right now? Who’s on Alex Gray’s nightstand waiting to be read?

AG: Ah, Louise Penny is definitely one of my favourite writers at the moment, as well as Alexander McCall Smith. I love Chris Brookmyre’s writing too.
On my nightstand are two teetering piles of crime books! Next on the list to read is TF Muir’s The Killing Connection.

Thank you, Alex! And now let’s push on to the new book. This one takes Lorimer out of hometown Glasgow and into his holiday with Maggie. Readers of the series have heard them talk about the holiday home they like to escape to Isle of Mull, and finally have a chance to visit the area during a case.

It’s meant to be a happy time for the couple, a tranquil holiday, until early on the body of a red-haired young man washes up on the shore in front of their cottage.

The bound body has an unnatural position that reminds Lorimer of an unsolved case from 20 before, when he was a young detective constable. That bound man was also red-haired. Is it possible their is a link in these cases?

Having found the body places Lorimer in an awkward position with the local SIO, DI Stevie Crozier, who makes it clear to him that this is her case and she does not want him interfering.

With chapters reflecting on the older case, readers get a sense of the Lorimer’s at the start of their marriage and now, and the personal tragedy they carry with them.

Could it be possible a killer has been on the loose for two decades without being caught?

The Isle of Mull and its environs come alive under Grey’s skillful pen, as Lorimer tries to stay at the fringes of the case while casting his eye back on the older one.

It’s a complex dance and a twisted case, and this one will try all of Lorimer’s skills while he tries to keep the place he and Maggie consider a santuary from being forever tainted.

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