Photo by Aldo Ferrarello

Theresa Talbot is a Glaswegian author and freelance broadcaster/journalist – as Traffic and Travel on BBC Radio Scotland her voice is familiar to many. I met up with her at BBC, Pacific Quay just after her 2 p.m. radio stint and enjoyed chatting about her blossoming career as a writer.

Theresa could not be more enthusiastic about her writing.  Her first book  ‘This Is What I Look Like’, a humorous non-fiction book, draws on her experiences as a broadcaster. It was published in 2014 and she followed on swiftly with her debut crime novel ‘Penance‘ published just the next year. Her novel is set in Glasgow and is a psychological drama based on real life events relating to the closure of the city’s Magdalene Institution in 1958.  The novel grew out of research Theresa was undertaking into the riots that took place at the Magdalene – home for fallen girls:   ‘I’m a radio journalist and started jotting down notes for a possible programme feature but before long I was gripped and realised there was a bigger story to tell’.

Although, she didn’t start out with the intention of writing a crime novel, the main character, the flawed, fond of a drink, champion of the underdog, Oonagh O’Neill, emerged and became embroiled in a murder inverstigation. There are noticeable similarities between the author and Oonagh, both live and work in Glasgow and have Irish backgrounds and the character in the book is a television journalist looking into events at the Magdalene Home for Girls.

Apart from Oonagh O’Neill, we are introduced to a whole range of characters including her close friend Father Tom Findlay, her lover Jack Cranworth and the Govan policemen DI Alec Davies and his partner DS McVeigh. The story switches between 1958, and the events leading up to the closure of the Magdalene Institute, and the murder investigation in 2000. Michael J. Malone, best selling crime writer, commenting on Penance, explains how the book ‘effortlessly weaves together a powerful, haunting story from 1958 with a gritty investigation set in 2000’.

Theresa’s sparkling personality and love of story telling shines through in her writing, and ‘Penance’ has great tellability. It’s described by none other than Denise Mina as:  ‘A brilliant debut by a writer who spins an unputdownable tale’

Following on from the success of ‘Penance,’ Theresa, has read at various literary events and festivals including The Pitlochry Winter Words Festival, Aye Write and the Tidelines Festival.   When she’s not reading her own work, she’s very comfortable chairing events and writers she’s shared the stage with include: Christopher Brookmyre, Peter May, Denise Mina, David Mitchell and Nick Frost.  She appears to have been swiftly accepted within Scotland’s Tartan Noir coterie and earlier this year she joined three other crime writers Michael J Malone, Cara Ramsay  and Douglas Skelton at Aye Write, Glasgow’s Book Festival when they had great fun playing the cast of a murder mystery at Carry On Sleuthing in Waterstones Book Shop.

Future Plans

I asked about Theresa about her future plans for the future and she has an impressive amount already in hand. She’s completed the first draft of ‘Resurrection’, the second book in the Oonagh O’Neill trilogy and is planning a joint writing venture with a friend in Italy, where they will draw on their correspondence. She also has ambitions to write a radio play.

Theresa has always wanted to write and feels that she has stories to tell – ‘It seemed the way to do that was to write them down.’  Safe to say we have plenty to look forward to from Theresa Talbot.

Pat Byrne, November, 2016.

An Extract from Penance

Glasgow, 1958

‘The body had been wrapped in a piece of torn sheet, then stuffed into the box.

Sally came in from the cold, stopping at the back door to stamp her feet and shake off the wet earth caking her boots. They were miles too big and tied around the ankle with string. Her skinny wee legs were mottled blue with the cold. She caught Irene Connolly watching her from a third floor window, her face and hands pressed hard against the glass. Sally gestured for her to ‘beat it’, hoping to God she’d go back to bed before there was trouble.

Sally’s footsteps sent the rats scurrying for cover as she opened the door. Tiny claws scraped and clicked on the stone floor, tails slithering like big, fat worms.

There were two bundles stored overnight in the pantry. Sally carried them through and laid them on the table beside the third. Each held a similar bundle. Tightly bound. Carefully wrapped. Like tiny Egyptian mummies, so small they could easily fit into one box.

She pushed a strand of hair from her eyes, wiping the sweat from her brow at the same time. Despite the cold, beads of perspiration clustered on her forehead; her thin shirt had become damp and clung to her back from the sheer effort of digging the hardened earth out in the yard. Sally’s small wiry frame concealed a surprising physical stamina. The mental stamina came from knowing no other way of life.

Some said she was simple – ‘There’s a waant wi that yin,’ they’d say. Sally let them think what they liked.

The lid balanced precariously on top of the third bundle, which was still warm. It took all her weight to hold it down. A tiny bone cracked under the pressure, but she carried on regardless. She took a nail from between her teeth and hammered it into the wood. She did this with all six nails before being fully satisfied the lid was secure.

As she wiped the sweat and mucus from her top lip, she stopped dead in her tracks. She pushed her ear against the makeshift coffin and froze.

There was no mistaking the tiny cries from within.’

Books from Scotland

Pat Byrne, 16 November, 2016.

You can buy Theresa’s books online at Amazon.
This Is What I Look Like (Strident Press, 2014)
Penace (Strident Publishing, 2015)

More information about Theresa Talbot and the process of writing Penance


Theresa Talbot on Facebook

Glasgow Writers: Alistair Braidwood – Scots Whay Hae!
Scottish Books Long Weekend

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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