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Friday, 26 August 2016

Pauline Barclay’s New Book: The Wendy House

I have been a friend of Pauline Barclay ever since I was part of Famous Five Plus which she organised and managed. That group is no longer operational but we have remained friends ever since. She now runs the fabulous blog Chill With a Book it’s worth taking a look at it because she recommends great books. So when she told me she was publishing her new book The Wendy House on 3 September, I begged her to let me see the cover, and now I’m sharing it with you.

So, here it is:

Cover Reveal: The Wendy House by Pauline Barclay

When Nicola changes overnight from a bright, happy young child into a sullen, rebellious girl, ceasing to show interest in anything or anyone around her, her parents struggle to understand why. As she develops into a difficult, troubled, hostile teenager they put it down to hormones, believing it will pass. Yet Nicola goes from bad to worse and no matter how much her mother tries to reach out to her, it seems she is hell bent on self-destruction. When she leaves home at seventeen, rushing into the arms of a man ten years her senior and quickly becoming pregnant, her despairing mother almost gives up on her. A decade later, the events that stole Nicola’s childhood and changed the course of her life threaten finally to destroy her. She knows if she is to cling on to her sanity she must tell her mother the dreadful secret she has carried all these years, but her fear that she will be met with disbelief, hostility and branded an evil liar drives her to the edge.

A heart-rending story of betrayal, secrets and gripping fear.

Publication Date: Saturday 3rd September
Genre: Women’s Fiction / Family-Noir

The Wendy House is available in Kindle for pre-order on all Amazon sites including

A little about Pauline

I am from Yorkshire, but have lived in several different locations including, Suffolk, Surrey and Holland.  Today, I live on one of the beautiful volcanic islands of the Canary Isles with my husband and our two gorgeous rescue doggies.

Years ago I gained a BA (Hons) degree from the Open University, today I spend my time writing fiction. I have five books published, plus a 20 minute short festive story.

My passion is to write about events that happen in life and change everything for those involved as well as those caught up in the maelstrom. I want my characters to sit at your side, steal your attention and sweep you up in their story. Stories that will bring tears to your eyes, have you laughing out loud and sometimes, what they share with you, will stay  in your hearts for a very long time.

Twitter: @paulinembarclay
Instagram: @paulinebarclay

Monday, 22 August 2016

Devil’s Porridge & Gretna Munitions Factory

Illustration of part of Gretna Munitions Factory snapped at the Devil's Porridge Museum, Eastriggs
I’ve set my new murder mystery book, Devil’s Porridge, in Gretna and I thought you might want to know a little about the munitions factory where two of the murders (fictional) take place.
In August 1916, 100 years ago this month, H.M. Factory, Gretna, Britain’s largest First World War cordite producing factory, became fully operational. It was a highly secret facility, codenamed Moorside, situated in a remote area which, it was thought, would prove difficult for German planes and Zeppelins to reach.
The site chosen for Gretna Munitions Factory was a large, sparsely populated, green field area, on the shores of the Solway Firth. The land was acquired by the Ministry of Munitions at the start of the First World War, and various farms situated there were taken over by compulsory purchase orders.
The first surveys of the site were completed in early 1915. Construction work commenced in August 1915, with work going on around the clock. Several thousand Irish navvies were drafted in as construction workers, 600 rail trucks loaded with building materials arrived daily, and there were approximately 30,000 people working on the site at any one time. Production in some areas started in June 1916, and the factory became fully operational in August 1916, producing over 800 tons of ammunition each week. The women and girls responsible for producing this ammunition were nicknamed munitionettes by the newspapers.
The factory was two miles wide and over nine miles in length, beginning at Dornock/Eastriggs in Scotland, and following the coast of the Solway Estuary to Mossband near Longtown, in England. It had 30 miles of road, 125 miles of railway track, 34 railway engines, 100 miles of water main, a water treatment plant handling 10 million gallons of water every day, a power station, a telephone exchange, bakeries producing 13,000 loaves and 14,000 meals daily, and a laundry for approximately 6,000 items on a daily basis.
There were thirty Paste Mixing Houses – six to each nitroglycerine section – where nitroglycerine and guncotton were mixed together into cordite paste at the Dornock end of the factory. To make the paste, the munitionettes kneaded the guncotton and nitroglycerine together with their bare hands in large lead tubs, the result resembled dough or thick porridge, and earned the name Devil’s Porridge. The end product, the paste, was then transferred to the Mossband area to make into cordite, a propellant which had been in short supply prior to the construction of Gretna Munitions factory.

The factory was self-sufficient with its own water mains, steam boilers, a hydraulic plant, a refrigerating plant, a power house for generating electricity, and a railway system within the site which also connected up with the main North British and Caledonian Railways. In addition, two new towns, Gretna and Eastriggs, were built. I will talk about them in my next blog post.
Most of the action in my new book Devil’s Porridge, takes place in Gretna township, one of the new towns built to service the factory workers, and in a mixing station at the Eastriggs end of the site, hence the name, Devil’s Porridge. I have incorporated munitionettes, Irish navvies, the women police who patrolled the factory, and I’ve thrown in a German spy for good measure. Naturally the sabotage, assassination, and murder elements of the plot are solely fictional, but quite a lot of factual information has been woven in, and I hope you won’t see the join between fact and fiction.
My next post will cover the two new townships, Gretna and Eastriggs. Following that I will do a post covering the involvement of the newly formed Women’s Police Service, and the ‘lady police’, at Gretna Munitions Factory.

Chris Longmuir
You can buy Devil’s Porridge here:

Friday, 5 August 2016

Murder, Mystery, and Munitions: Devil’s Porridge hit Amazon’s shelves this week

This book has been nagging me to write it for a long time now, but I kept putting it off to write other books. However, it’s been niggling at me, and nagging me, demanding to be written.

I suppose one of the reasons I kept putting it on the back burner was the simple one, that it wasn’t one of my Dundee crime books. All my previous murder, mysteries have been set in Dundee, either in the present day, or in the past. But this one is set in Gretna, where the government built a massive munitions factory in 1916.

My main character is Kirsty Campbell, you might remember her from The Death Game as Dundee’s first policewoman in 1919. This time I’ve taken Kirsty back two years to 1917, and based her in Gretna as one of the lady police who were based there during the First World War. Ever since I read about these policewomen providing a service in Britain’s munitions factories, I’ve been fascinated by them, and that’s one of the reasons this book nagged me to write it.

Devil’s Porridge is a complex story with quite a lot of characters, and I write in my usual multi-viewpoint style. It’s about my pioneering policewoman, Kirsty Campbell, who teams up with Beatrice Jacobs, a Belgian refugee, who is on a spying mission at Gretna for MI5. They come together to protect Sally, a young munitionette, who has witnessed the aftermath of a crime when the Silverwood Munitions Factory, in East London, explodes. Sally, who lost her home and all her possessions in the explosion, which flattened most of Silvertown, is sent to work at Gretna. But the killer, the man she can identify, is at Gretna as well. In the process of protecting Sally, Kirsty and Beatrice become embroiled with saboteurs, Irish revolutionaries, a German spy, and a killer without a conscience.

I’m not telling you any more about the story because I don’t want to spoil it for you. But Chill with a Book described it as ‘a criminally good read’.

Chris Longmuir

You can buy Devil’s Porridge as an ebook or a paperback:

UK – ebook      – paperback
US – ebook      - paperback

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Devil's Porridge coming soon

Murder Mystery and Munitions

East London, January 1917:

"He pulled her into his arms and kissed her long and hard before he strangled her. With a last glance at the fire, he turned and ran for the door to escape the inevitable explosion."

Sixteen-year-old munitionette, Sally, witnesses the saboteur escaping from the explosion at Silvertown Munitions Factory. When their paths cross again at Gretna Munitions Factory, he knows she can identify him, and that he dare not hesitate to kill again.

The explosion has set off a lethal chain of events, and when policewoman Kirsty Campbell, and MI6 agent Beatrice, join forces to protect Sally, they find themselves following a murderous trail that entangles them with saboteurs, Irish revolutionaries, a German spy, and a plot to assassinate the King.

The body count is rising. The clock is ticking. And the stakes are higher than Kirsty could ever have imagined.

Read the first chapter here.

Chris Longmuir

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Tarting up Night Watcher

Night Watcher was not my first book, but it was the first one I published on Kindle as an ebook. Initially, I did what we are not supposed to do, I designed my own cover. You see, publishing to Kindle was a new venture for me and I had no idea how it would work out. I might not even sell a single book.

However, to my astonishment, it sold quite well, and before long I decided to invest in a professional cover, and I found the amazing Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics. I was pleased with that cover, but as I went on to publish more books in the Dundee Crime Series, there was a subtle change in the covers I commissioned. The covers of the later books were moodier, and darker, to suit the kind of stories I tell. Night Watcher no longer fitted the mould and stood out as different from the others. The image was still all right, but the fonts had changed and there was a substantial difference to the overall look.
Dundee Crime Series

This difference niggled at me for a while, and then I decided to commission a completely new cover. The theme would be much the same, but the fonts and layout would be tailored to fit in with the other covers in the series.

Cathy Helms worked her magic again and produced a stunning cover as well as a poster for the series which I could use on the web. I hope you like the result.

Chris Longmuir

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Scottish Art’s Hidden Treasure – Hospitalfield House: A visit by the Society of Authors in Scotland

Society of Authors' members on the visit

Hospitalfield House has often been described as Scottish art’s hidden treasure and thought by many to be one of the finest country houses in Scotland. I was lucky enough to be asked to arrange a visit there for members of the Society of Authors in Scotland.
Hospitalfield House
The organisation of the visit was a fairly smooth process due to the helpfulness of the staff. Scott Byrne, in particular, was instrumental in ensuring the visit went smoothly. He arranged the guide, the coffee and cake before the tour, and lunch afterwards. Thanks to him the visit was an outstanding success.
I couldn't resist this view of the first-floor landing leading to the rooms

Twelve members of the Society of Authors booked for the visit and we gathered outside the house before the commencement of the tour. Most of us were strangers to each other but we soon gelled into a friendly group over coffee and cake. Then the tour guide, who said he was a volunteer, provided an in-depth talk on the history of the house and its artefacts as he guided us through the various rooms.
A few of the wonderful tapestries on display

You will find Hospitalfield House in the seaside town of Arbroath which is also known for its abbey where the Declaration of Independence, officially known as the Declaration of Arbroath, was signed in 1320. The house was founded, in 1260, by the monks of the abbey as a leprosy and plague hospice. By 1325 the building and land was leased, by the Church, to two farmers, a provision being that they build a byre and a barn. But the Reformation in the 16th century spelled the end of the ownership of Hospitalfield by the Church.

The Fraser family assumed ownership of the house and lands in 1664 when the Reverend James Fraser, of Arbroath parish, bought Hospitalfield and made it his home. The house remained in the Fraser Family until the death of Patrick Allan Fraser in 1890.

Patrick Allan Fraser was a renowned artist, curator and collector, and a philanthropist who supported and encouraged the arts. He and his wife were childless and on his death Hospitalfield was left in trust to support and encourage young artists. The trust still carries the original name The Patrick Allan-Fraser of Hospitalfield Trust, and the aims are the same  - to run Hospitalfield as a cultural organisation for artists and for education in the arts. This aim is met by a variety of programmes.
Where else would you find writers but in the library
But, enough of the history, the house is magnificent. It certainly lives up to its name as one of the finest country houses in Scotland, and I was fascinated by the number of heads and faces carved into the stone facade of the house. Inside we were conducted through room after room containing statues, oil paintings, antique furniture, tapestries and lots more. Words cannot express the magnificence of what we viewed and the photos I’ve included here only show a very small selection of the treasures we saw. I can only advise you go to Hospitalfield and look for yourself.
One of the carved heads overlooking the front door
At the end of the tour a lovely buffet lunch awaited us. Healthy salads quiche and meats, followed by less healthy scones with spread with strawberries and cream. I think it safe to say a good time was had by all.
The lunch must have been good, the plates are empty
After lunch a visit to the fernery

Thank you, Hospitalfield for a lovely experience.

Links to Hospitalfield House

I can strongly recommend a visit to Hospitalfield.

Chris Longmuir

Monday, 21 March 2016

The Dundee Mafia and the Year Chris Went Hybrid

I quote directly from Caro Ramsay’s talk at the Scottish Association of Writers conference where she was Keynote Speaker. After I picked myself up off the floor, where I’d landed when I fell off my chair convulsed with laughter, I wondered what on earth I had done to Caro to deserve such treatment. But it was all in good fun and she drew a brilliant mind picture of a Dundee filled with zombies after ‘Chris went hybrid’. So, if you find any zombies in Dundee, just remember, it’s all my fault.

Top Table waiting for adjudication
But to get back to the conference, it was a brilliant weekend, which started on Friday night with a special reception for the adjudicators and speakers to get to know each other. And guess who I met there? None other than the legendary Frances Gay (in his most recent incarnation), from the Sunday Post. He’s been writing as long as I’ve been living, and probably longer. In addition, I chatted to Catherine Czerkawska, Helen Forbes, Linda Strachan, Douglas Skelton, Alex Gray, Alanna Knight, and a host of others.

Adjudicating the self-published book
My first task came after a lovely dinner when all I wanted to do was put my head down and have a nap. But it was the first of the adjudications, and because I’d adjudicated the self-published book competition I had to stand up and talk about it before announcing the winners. My turn came all too soon, and the irrepressible Marc Sherland introduced me, including in his introduction that 2011 was ‘the year that Chris went hybrid’, and that was where Caro got some of the fuel for her keynote talk the next evening.

Saturday was a day off for me, so I could mingle, chat to old friends (in the sense of people I have known for a long time), and make many new ones. The variety of workshops always poses a problem as to which of them would be of most value, but Al Guthrie had a couple of workshops on Self Editing for Novelist, so I popped along to those. Al has a wicked sense of humour, and it made us think twice before sticking our heads over the parapet to voice an opinion, but there was nothing nasty about it, in fact it was the direct opposite. It was all good fun.

We had already had a full breakfast, followed by elevenses with delicious pasties and fruit, and a full lunch, when the time for the gala dinner rolled round. You would think we wouldn’t have been hungry enough to tackle the meal that followed, but it’s surprising the amount you can eat at these conferences, and I’m sure I returned home a couple of stones heavier, and I still haven’t found my waistline! Anyway, the room for the gala dinner was a treat for the eyes. We sat at round tables, with immaculate white tablecloths, there was a Hogwarts style candelabra in the middle of each table, and the blue ceiling lights gave it an atmospheric feel.

Stuffed with food we settled back in our chairs, promising ourselves we wouldn’t nod off during the keynote speech. Well, there was no danger of that. Caro Ramsay is noted for her sense of humour and she had us all in stitches. She poked fun at quite a few of us in the audience (it’s dangerous to be a friend of Caro), but she started off with the Dundee Mafia, and zombies taking over the city, and it all happened the year ‘Chris went hybrid’. Dundee, you have been warned. The zombies are coming!

Suzanne hitting the high notes
I meant to go to bed after that because I had a workshop to think about for the next day. But, somehow or other, I found myself in the clubroom for the talent Show & Poetry Penthouse. What a brilliant evening, some great singers, funny poetry, and a hilarious monologue. I stumbled into bed several hours later, but I wouldn’t have missed that evening for the world.

Sunday dawned, and I was quaking in my shoes. I’d agreed to do a workshop on ‘The Nuts and Bolts of Self-Publishing’. Now, if you’ve ever been to a writers’ conference you will know that by the last day your brains can be pretty well scrambled, so I was hoping I wouldn’t make a fool of myself or that I would be stuck for something to say before the hour was up. I needn’t have feared, because once the adrenalin kicked in, I was off and running, and we actually overran by 15 minutes because the audience were so interested. I could have talked for another hour!

The prizewinners - self-published prizewinner on the right of photo

With the workshop done and dusted I could now relax, chat and enjoy myself. The weekend was finished off with a Dragons’ Pen event, where writers pitched their book to a panel of judges. And then it was off home, exhausted, bloated, and several inches fatter. I reckon it’s going to have to be toast and tea all this week, or I’ll have to widen the doors.
Chris Longmuir