(Photography by CJ Monk)
The Accident on the A35 - new book by Graeme, to be launched Waterstones Argyle Street, 26 October, 2017
It just gets better and better. Graeme shortlisted for the Man Booker
The Saltire Fiction Book of the Year and is due to published in over 20 countries.
Graeme Macrae Burnet will be reading at Creative Conversations, University of Glasgow Chapel, 1 p.m Monday 12 December, 2016.
Graeme Macrae Burnet comes from Kilmarnock. He studied English Literature at Glasgow University before spending some years teaching in France, the Czech Republic and Portugal. He then took an M.Litt in International Security Studies at St Andrews University and fell into a series of jobs in television. In July 2014 his first book The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau was published by Saraband.
The other day I had a leisurely chat with Graeme at Booly Mardi's in Glasgow's West End, not too far from where he lives. I've been meaning to pin him down since I went along to the launch of his first book, The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau.
I thoroughly enjoyed this very different, stylish psychological thriller set in Saint-Louis, a provincial French town. Graeme definitely delivers on the sense of place, no doubt benefiting from having lived and worked in France, he's produced what many have described as 'an authentic ambience' into which the reader is swiftly absorbed. We also encounter an intriguing set of characters, including, Manfred Baumann, the local bank manager, an awkward outsider, who is a regular at the Restaurant de la Cloche, where Adèle Bedeau was a waitress. When he tells a lie he falls under the suspicion of Georges Gorski, a detective haunted by past failure.
How stupid it had been to lie. The policeman had disconcerted him. It would have been a simple matter to tell him what he had seen on Thursday evening ... Now he had withheld evidence from the investigation. What was more, when his omission came to light, as it inevitably would, he would be sure to fall under suspicion.
Adèle was wearing a short black skirt and white blouse. Around her waist was a little apron with a pocket in which she kept a notebook for taking orders and the cloth she used for wiping tables. She was a dark, heavy-set girl with a wide behind and large, weighty breasts. She had full lips, an olive complexion and brown eyes, which she habitually kept trained on the floor. Her features were too heavy to be described as pretty, but there was an earthy magnetism about her, a magnetism no doubt amplified by the drabness of the surroundings.
Manfred Baumann was thirty-six years old. He was dressed tonight, as he was every night, in a black suit and white shirt with a tie loosened at the neck. His dark hair was neatly cut and parted to one side. He was a good-looking man, but his eyes shifted nervously as if he was trying to avoid eye contact. Consequently, people often felt ill at ease in his company and this served to reinforce his own awkwardness.
Yet for three hundred years Saint-Louis has sustained a population. It is a population somewhat less educated, less well-off and more inclined to the political right than the majority of their countrymen, but this mediocre tribe still requires, now and then, a new pair of shoes or an outfit of clothing, they need their hair cut, their teeth attended to and their ailments cured. They must withdraw and borrow money. They require places to eat, drink, gossip or simply postpone returning home. Their streets must be cleaned, refuse collected, law and order must be kept. Their houses require the attention of plumbers, electricians, joiners and decorators. Their children must be schooled, the aged nursed and the dead buried.
The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau was very well received with excellent reviews and was included in The List’s top Scottish Books of 2014 and unsurprisingly the author has plans for Detective Gorski to feature in a sequel. This will also be published by Saraband – with whom Graeme feels that 'he has found his perfect home.' Prior to this they will publish his next book, also a literary crime novel set in 1869 in Wester Ross, where Graeme's mother comes from. The book, His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae is due to be published in November 2015.
Perhaps his publisher's encouragement has been instrumental as one thing’s for sure – Graeme is very industrious. Since he won a Scottish Book Trust New Writers' Award 2012/2013 , he has established the habit of writing almost daily and has his 'own spot' at The Mitchell Library. That is unless he's off immersing himself in research in the locations where his books are set. His commitment and creativity certainly appear to be paying off. However, apart from writing literary crime novels, he has more going on.
Graeme's writing has been inspired by his knowledge and admiration for the work of George Simenon. This seems to be true not only of his writing but also with regard to his role as a musician, with the very 'noir' The Dirt. Graeme was actually first known to me through his band The Dirt, and I've been at a number of gigs including the launch of their album Bury Me Tomorrow, back in 2010.
On his website he has also compiled a very impressive section Notes on Simenon where he has reviewed a number of books by the writer. The reviews are very well written and absorbing and I've been enjoying reading them. Anyone with a yen to read this author of some 185 novels should definitely check out what Graeme has to say:
'The remarkable thing about Simenon’s output is less the huge number of novels and the speed at which they were written, than the consistently high quality of his prose and his seemingly inexhaustible well of characters and observations. Nevertheless, among 185 novels there is bound to be the odd dud and The Brothers Rico is one of those.'
So having read most of Graeme's brilliant critiques, I've decided to go for Belle – I really love how the book is described.
'Belle represents Simenon at close to his best. It is meticulous in its dissection of Ashby’s character; the minimal narrative unfolds with consummate skill, and the portrait of a small town community too buttoned up to do anything other than subtlety shun a suspected murderer is flawlessly observed.'
Another fascinating project that Graeme is involved in Matchbox Cineclub who will be screening Wedding in Blood at The Old Hairdressers in Glasgow on 20 August, 2015. Graeme will introduce Claude Chabrol's 'classic portrait of an amour fou with deadly consequences in provincial France'. It sounds right up Graeme's street – I hope to make it along.
Pat Byrne, August, 2015.