Today, I have awarding winning crime author, Chris Longmuir sitting round my pool and talking about Devil Porridge. It is Chris’s latest book, but do you know the true meaning of Devil’s Porridge? No, then please sit back and Chris will give you an explosive thumbnail account!
Thanks for inviting me to sit round your pool, Pauline. We have had some beautiful sunny days in Scotland this summer, but I must say the heat here is greater and I’m sweating already – sorry, should I have said perspiring (more polite), or glowing (ladies don’t sweat, they glow, or so I‘m told!). Ooh! Is that a cool drink you’re offering me? And very welcome it is too. What’s that you say? You have some questions for me? Just let me get a bit more comfortable and then we can begin.
It is great having you back here and of course do help yourself to the cool drinks. Now whilst you settle down, I’m dying to learn about your latest book, so let’s clink glasses and then you take it away…
Devils Porridge is your latest book, but before we talk about this, how many books have you published.
You do realise that anything to do with numbers is anathema to me, that’s because any counting I have to do depends on my fingers. So let me see, I still have enough fingers to count my books. I’ve got three books in my Dundee Crime Series, plus I made a box set of them. Then I have two books in my Kirsty Campbell Series, plus a historical saga, and a nonfiction book on ePublishing and Indie crime fiction. Let me count, the fingers I’m holding up? Yes, that seems to be seven books in total, eight if you count the box set. Phew! I’m glad that’s over. You’re not going to give me any more counting tasks, are you?
Only because we’ve already downed one bottle of bubbly! Right back to the questions… I believe they are different genres, why is this?
When I was with a traditional publisher they don’t allow you to get out of the box they put you in. So I was firmly nailed into a contemporary crime fiction box. But I like variety, and when the muse hits it doesn’t respect publishers’ genre boxes, so I found traditional publishing very restrictive. In order to escape these restrictions I became an indie publisher, and now I can write what I want in the knowledge my publisher (me) is not going to say you can’t do that.
I really love writing different genres, although it does pose problems in satisfying readers’ expectations. Some of my readers are clamouring for more Bill Murphy books, some want another historical crime, and I do have some who want me to continue with more historical sagas. Over and above that, I provide a lot of advice to indie writers when I’m asked, plus I do workshops on ebooks and self publishing, so I want to do another nonfiction book based on my workshops.
You won a prestigious award back in 2009 / 2010 how did this come about?
That’s right. I won the Dundee International Book Prize, one of the most prestigious prizes for unpublished books. It came with a publishing contract and a fairly sizeable cheque which, at the time, was the largest cash prize for a book competition. Unfortunately they have now cut the value of this prize in half, but it’s still well worth winning. I bought my first Apple Mac computer, and did the Orient Express to Venice, with my prize money.
The book that won the prize was Dead Wood, which is book two in the Dundee Crime Series. Book One was written at this time, but wasn’t published. I had three finished novels in my bottom drawer, otherwise known as my computer’s hard drive, before I won the prize and got my first novel published. So, you could say I was an overnight success, after twenty years of writing!
Devil’s Porridge is a strange title, how did you come by this?
I’ve had that title under wraps since 2008, which was when I first decided to write this book, and I actually came across it in an article Arthur Conan Doyle wrote in 1916, after he visited Gretna Munitions Factory. There is also a museum at Eastriggs called The Devil’s Porridge Museum, easily found through a Google search.
Gretna Munitions Factory was a vast place. Nine miles long and four miles wide, and they built two new towns, Gretna and Eastriggs, to service it. At the Eastriggs end the munitionettes mixed guncotton and nitroglycerine together, with their bare hands, into a paste needed for the manufacture of cordite which was the propellant used in bombs. The paste the munitionettes kneaded in lead drums was likened to a porridge consistency, and it was this that Conan Doyle named Devil’s Porridge. Here is what he said “Those smiling khaki-clad girls who are swirling the stuff round in their hands would be blown to atoms in an instant if certain very small changes occurred. The changes will not occur, and the girls still smile and stir their ‘devil’s porridge’, but it is a narrow margin between life and death.”
This book has been on my back burner for several years, but it’s always been in the back of my mind, nagging me to be written. It’s tied in with my pioneer policewoman character as well, because the early policewomen were sent to service the munitions factories. And what better place to set a murder mystery story than a munitions factory which makes Devil’s Porridge. (I have included a historical endnote in the book for those readers interested in the historical background.)
What era is Devil’s Porridge set in?
It’s set in 1917 during the First World War. There are some historical events which I’ve woven into the fabric of the story. The Silvertown explosion, for example, did take place. Vernon Kell, and William Melville were real people working for MI5. Lloyd George, the Prime Minister of the time has a walk-on part. And the visit by King George V and Queen Mary did take place at Gretna on 18th May 1917, although there is no record of the assassination attempt which takes place in my novel and is purely fictional.
Can we expect more for Kirsty?
Of course. But in the next book she will be back in Dundee as the city’s first policewoman. Kirsty came about when I found out there was a policewoman in Dundee between 1918 to 1921. At that time there were only two policewomen in the entirety of Scotland. The other one was in Glasgow. So, Kirsty just fell into my lap, and what writer could resist writing about such a unique character. It’s writers’ gold. So, watch this space, Kirsty will return.
Absolutely fascinating! Thank you so much for all of this, and also for leaving your beautiful Scotland to sit round my pool. I am already hooked on your latest novel, but then I have read your crime novels and know from experience they are filled with facts and fiction.
Find out more about Chris by visiting her web site and do look at reading her books, they really are page turners… all of them!
This is a criminally good read.
As always thank you for stopping by and now you know what Devil's Porridge is... fascinating!
That's it for today, I hope the sun is shinning on your face and in your heart.
Until next time…