Fully Engaged


The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson is a story of rare impact. As with Catch 22, the phrase Jekyll and Hyde has transcended the book and become part of our everyday language.

Although Jekyll and Hyde is not my favourite Stevenson story (that plaudit goes to The Bottle Imp), I have recently been dwelling upon it as the duality at the heart of the tale seems to me to reflect the contemporary existential struggle.

We are living at a time of incredible change and innovation. Knowledge, opportunities, and the possibility of interacting with people across the world are only a device away. Young people especially, have the chance to learn and connect with the world in a way that was unthinkable during my formative years before the internet existed and the main job of the local librarian was to keep knowledge-hungry kids out of the adult section lest they stumble upon something more challenging than Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven.

But with the positive comes the correlating negative. The ability to engage has become a fear of ever switching off and life is lived at an intensity previously unknown. Long gone are the days when school with all its trials and tribulations was left behind with the ring of the final bell. Now there is no respite; the good, the bad, and the intensity of knowing what everyone thinks about everything all the time shadows you home.

Sinatra sang Saturday Night Is the Loneliest Night of the Week; before the advent of the internet you might have thought so but with the rise of social media don’t you just know it. It’s right there on Facebook, everyone is at the party and you weren’t invited.

There is no escape, no let-up. So-called banter gets grotesquely out of hand in group chats. People flounce after being roasted, but being roasted is better than not being included in the first place. Opinions become fact, rumours mutate into truth, while in her bedroom a naïve girl takes an intimate photograph to send to some guy she doesn’t know and who most likely isn’t who he says he is.

Child exploitation didn’t start with the internet and if the web disintegrated overnight it wouldn’t end, but the gaping maw of the web, ever hungry for more and more images has made the cynical corruption of our children increasingly profitable.

The internet doesn’t just make the gratification of sexual voyeurs easier to achieve; it seems to make everything easier but what we are being fed is the illusion of choice.

Everything on the internet is a click, a swipe, a tap of the keyboard away. Instant gratification followed by more instant gratification leading to a dulling of the senses. Maybe that’s why so many young people self-harm – because feeling something is better than feeling nothing. Or maybe it’s because they read about it online and they want to be as tortured and sensitive as everyone else.

No wonder so many of them turn to drugs, which are also only a text or a click away. They know the dangers, sure they do – they get told about them at school. But health warnings don’t work, the kids either feel so young and invincible that the thought of losing a few brain cells doesn’t matter, or they are on such a nihilistic mind trip that death by drugs seems like an acceptable option.

The ones who survive this stage of their lives will come out at the other end to face a Brave New World, for the internet and all that comes with it, is in its infancy. We haven’t begun to tap into what is possible; depending on your point of view this is either an exhilarating thought or one which terrifies.

Perhaps instead of the device being hand-held and never out of grasp, it will become corporeal. The screen will be absorbed into the body and everyone barcoded at birth so that they may purchase what they will with the blink of an eye or a flicker of a thought.

We will be 100% engaged and Hyde, as he does in Stevenson’s tale, will have won.

Everybody hates clowns

alternative christmas

The idea of a midwinter festival has a lot going for it, particularly here in the North West of Scotland where the time between sunrise and sunset can be less than six and a half hours long, but Christmas is out of control.

If the pressure to join in with the yuletide festivities is getting too much for you, give yourself a break and listen in as I cut through the Christmas bloat on Losing The Plot’s Alternative Christmas.

There are some cool tunes too.

Thrillers With Attitude Literary Smorgasbord: Jon Miller

If you have ever been anywhere near a writing group or book festival of any kind, you will know that writers come in all shapes and sizes, from big robust circles, to tiny stabby stars. They come in different flavours too, from cool, classic vanilla, to eyeball-exploding, triple-hot chilli sauce.

Thrillers With Attitude is on a mission to find out what makes these weirdly-shaped and strangely-flavoured writers tick.

My guest this week is poet, musician, teacher, and fellow presenter on Lochbroom FM, Jon Miller.

Hi Jon, welcome to the Literary Smorgasbord.

Tell me a little about yourself – where did you grow up?

 I spent the first seven years of my life in India and Africa: Mumbai and Kenya though there was also about a year spent in Zanzibar. My father was a banker; my mother busied herself being a mother. We lived the colonial life in the dying days of Empire. We had live-in servants, nannies, large cars. My father appears to have fought the Mau Mau during the Uprising but no-one seems to want to talk about this in the family. He had some strange scars and his regiment did not have a good reputation. We had holidays in the Seychelles and there are old 8mm reels of film of us cavorting on white beaches our hair bleached by years in the sun. I have the moles and the skin damage to prove it.

When we came back to Glasgow, I grew up in and around Broomhill and Partick in the West End. I also grew up inside my body and my mind as they tried to make sense of each other. Most of the time was spent up trees, on bikes, playing football, exploring disused railway tunnels and discovering pornographic magazines discarded in hedgerows beside the allotments.

 What were you like at school?

 I watched myself attend school without much purpose or understanding as to why I was there. It was something that was happening to me, like body hair or the burgeoning notion of a future. I was good at football but average at everything else apart from English which I was also rather good at. Once I discovered books I read voraciously and the football faded into the background.

 What are you passionate about?

 I get passionate about playing music, politics.

 Tell me about your route into teaching.

 I had spent as long as I possibly could avoiding a proper job. I was writing – poetry and fiction – getting published but not really earning anything (I didn’t realise then that it takes a very long time for this to happen). I was eventually officially declared ‘destitute’ – perhaps my highest accolade – but by this time I had a young family. Teaching was something I knew I’d be good at so it suggested itself as a way of finding money (which you don’t find as a writer).

 Was it something you wanted to do?

 ‘Wanting’ is as strange word. I found myself doing it and found it was energising and involving and rewarding although I was not aware that this would be the case before I started. Is ‘wanting’ unconscious? Are you impelled towards things that are good for you even if you are not fully aware of the reason for your choices? Teaching was not something I intended doing yet here I am still doing it so something must have worked out okay.

 How did your expectations of the job match up to the reality?

 Perfectly – I knew what to expect, had few expectations and they were all fulfilled. I realise now that I have helped a hell of a lot of kids get to a place that has done them a lot of good and that was something I hadn’t considered.

 Do you ever get frustrated by the books or poems you have to cover in class?

There are many different ways to be frustrated with books/poems. We choose most of the texts we teach: these are selected for varying reasons, not all of them literary. There are very few texts we ‘have’ to cover by diktat. Those that we have to are of varying degrees of success in their composition. Some barely qualify as literature, some are deemed ‘classics’ – that might be the same thing. If you teach a particular text for many years you gain an intimate understanding of its flaws and successes.

 Are there any you personally don’t rate or actively dislike?

 Yes – but it would be churlish of me to mention them and I lack churl.

If it was up to you, what books or poems would you like your students to read?

 I might like them to read them but they might not like to read them. Anything by Don de Lillo, Samuel Beckett, Les Murray, Czeslow Milosz. The Bible. Lao Tzu. As long as they keep away from Jackie Kay and Benjamin Zephaniah.

 There is a scene in the classic 1980s film Ferris Buellers Day Off where a teacher drones painfully on in front of a catatonic class – “ Anyone?  Anyone? Anyone?   Have you ever felt like that teacher?

 Yes. Today in fact. But part of the variety of teaching includes times when no-one wants to be there. I include myself in that.

 How do you keep it fresh?

 Generally, I keep it in the fridge. On other days, I rely on energy and the desire to take on what most people ignore. It comes from creativity and thinking up new ways of approaching an idea, character or poem. That’s the best bit.

 Report cards aside, how much time do you spend producing your own creative writing?

 Reports are less and less creative these days as they are often compiled from computerised banks of comments. The days of elegantly handwritten irony are long gone. I produce creative writing in fits and starts – usually I have a wee fit of remembering that I once did it and start something. I have lots of poems no-one has ever seen or have not been published at all (some of them are even quite good). I am wryly fond of Christopher Hitchens’ statement that “Most people have a book inside them – and that’s where it should stay”. I doubt if the world needs another minor poet cluttering up the shelves.

 What advice would you give to the young Jon Miller?

 He still is quite young – but I’ve no idea who he is and I doubt if I would recognise him if I did, apart from his mass of curly hair which I would envy. The young Jon Miller is still going to be the way he was so he probably would still be bewildered by the huge range of competing voices in his head so it would not make any difference. There is an assumption in the question that the current Jon Miller knows something about something worth passing on which is highly dubious.They both exist much like a hollow wind down a long corridor.

 What’s next?

 Bed, I think.

 A few short questions to finish.   What is your favourite book?



 Samuel Beckett. Don deLillo. Les Murray


 Probably toast. Anything cooked by my wife.


 The first one of the day.


 The films of Michael Haneke and Steve McQueen (except Twelve Years a Slave which is terrible.

 Television programme…

I don’t watch television. Although I will watch football online when I can because it induces a delicious mindlessness, emptying me of all thought because football has a wonderful capacity to seem brimful of meaning but is finally and completely vacuous. It leaves me in a blissful state of benign Buddhist emptiness.

 Radio programme…

 Most mainstream radio is pretty predictable – apart from some Radio 4 programmes where they are given space to discuss ideas and culture. I prefer podcasts such as RadioLab or Welcome to Nightvale. The best ones are more inventive, imaginative and experimental in their use of sound and deal with a kind of life that mainstream radio ignores.


 The Phantom Band. Bukka White. R L Burnside. Mark E Smith. Nick Cave. Henryk Gorecki.

 What are you reading right now?

 The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud. It is based on Camus’ LEtranger but told from the point of view of the brother of the Algerian Meursault killed. It is a neat conceit that redresses some of the psychological and imperial ideas the original did not deal with.

Where can people find out more about you?  

 Why on earth would they want to do that? Call round to the house. Bring cake.

Alternatively: Some poetry I produced in collaboration with Peter White, artist.

There is also a short poetry collection entitled ‘Still Life’ which can be purchased from the American Amazon site for $345.48. Obviously rare and collectible.

I have some wee interviews and local documentaries for Lochbroom FM.

There are also various videos and EPs of bands I have been in on Youtube: Naked Strangers, Mojo Walk. EPs also available.

It’s been a real pleasure having you on the Thrillers With Attitude blog, Jon.

twitter thing

Jon Miller

LG Thomson is the author of Boyle’s Law, Erosion, and Each New Morn.


Book Week Scotland 2015

B&W banner

Book Week Scotland 2015 runs from 23 – 29 November, with hundreds of book-related events taking place across the country.

I have been invited to speak at Ullapool Library on Wednesday 25, and I’ve got to tell you – I’m really looking forward to it.

Expect readings, revelations, and a sneak preview of Boiling Point.  Should be a lively night.

If you live in – or are visiting – Scotland, check out the list of events on the Scottish Book Trust website.  Chances are there’s something great going on near you.  Why not go along and show your support.

LG Thomson is the author of Boyle’s Law, Each New Morn, and Erosion.



Thrillers With Attitude Literary Smorgasbord: Linda Gillard

If you have ever been anywhere near a writing group or book festival of any kind, you will know that writers come in all shapes and sizes, from big robust circles, to tiny stabby stars. They come in different flavours too, from cool, classic vanilla, to eyeball-exploding, triple-hot chilli sauce.

Thrillers With Attitude is on a mission to find out what makes these weirdly-shaped and strangely-flavoured writers tick.

My guest this week is bestselling author, Linda Gillard.

Welcome to the Smorgasbord, Linda.  What were you like at school?

A swot. I was academic, deeply religious and starred in school plays. I couldn’t decide whether to become a nun or an actress when I left school. I chose the latter.

Tell me something about the evolution of Linda Gillard the author.

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t make up stories in my head. The first time I dared to think, “Maybe I could do this” was as a teenager in the ‘60s when I read the romantic suspense novels of Mary Stewart. She was a big influence and I still re-read her with pleasure.

After I abandoned acting, I worked for some years as a freelance journalist, but I didn’t start writing fiction until I had a nervous breakdown and had to quit teaching. As I convalesced, I started writing a novel for something to do. That was Emotional Geology. I became addicted to writing and kept writing novels – seven so far and the eighth should be out next year.

When did you first describe yourself as a writer?

After I got my first publishing deal in 2004. I’d been writing fiction for some years, but didn’t think I could describe myself as “a writer” until someone actually paid me for it. But I knew in my heart that I was a writer, even if I didn’t earn money doing it.

What is your style of writing?

I’ve no idea. Accessible literary fiction?… I certainly don’t write in any particular genre. But I think the journalism background shows. I cut savagely and like to think every single word earns its keep. I can’t bear waffle.

Are you inspired by any writers in particular?

I’m not sure I’m inspired by them – it’s more a question of bow down and worship – but these writers (in alphabetical order) have been influential: the Brontës, Dickens, Georgette Heyer, Daphne du Maurier, Dorothy Dunnett, Margaret Forster, Shakespeare & Mary Stewart. I would also cite Bruce Springsteen’s songs as a literary influence.

What are you working on right now?

My eighth novel which has the working title, The Trysting Tree. It has two interweaving story lines – one set in 1914 and one in 2014. It’s about memory and trauma. Most of my books are.

How much research do you do?

Enough to get started on the book, then I research as I go, looking up whatever I need to know. I’m wary of the distractions of research. It takes so much time, even with the internet. I prefer to make stuff up, then check later to see if I got it right.

How long does it take you to write a book?

It varies. I took a two-year break in the middle of writing Emotional Geology when I was getting my kids off to university and moving house. Now I write full-time and hope to complete a book in little more than a year, but life intervenes. I was treated for cancer in 2012 and subsequent disability has really slowed me down, physically and mentally. This year my first grandchild was born and that’s proved a delightful distraction from writing. I’m definitely getting slower and now I self-publish there’s so much more to do.

What is your writing routine – do you have a favourite time of day for writing?

I don’t have a routine. I write whenever I can make the time and find the energy, but mornings are best.

Do you have any particular writing habits?

I draft on lined A4 using disposable propelling pencils from WHS. I try to write as fast as I can without thinking too much about the quality. The editing starts when I type it up.

I can write straight onto the screen but I write better longhand. Chemotherapy damaged the nerves in my fingers so I’m no longer a very fast or accurate typist.

What inspires you to write?

Landscape. People. Problems. People with big problems, isolated in a real or interior landscape. The characters always come first, then a sense of place. I don’t actually need a story to start writing, just a situation that gets me thinking, “What if…?”

Any advice for aspiring authors?

Write for writing’s sake. Don’t expect publication or financial reward. You’re very unlikely to get either unless you go down the indie route. Writing is its own reward anyway. When you feel angry about your unsolicited manuscript being rejected, remember: nobody asked you to submit it!

If you’re thinking of going indie, write the best book you possibly can and make sure it’s properly edited. Ideally, wait until you have several books ready to publish. It’s hard to make an impact with just one.

I also recommend that any would-be indie author joins the professional body, The Alliance of Independent Authors. They offer advice, support and friendship. Their closed Facebook group is a mine of information, generously shared.

What are you reading right now?

The Singing Sands by Jospehine Tey.

Is there any one book you would like to have written?

The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett.

Who would play Linda Gillard in a film adaptation of your life?

Young or old Linda? Old Linda would be played by Helen Mirren.

What advice would you give to the young Linda Gillard?

Travel more. Get more exercise. Make more friends. Live as if you only have 10 years left, because you never know…

A few quick questions to finish – favourite book?

The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett, her six-book series of historical novels set in the 16thC.


Dorothy Dunnett.


Gin & tonic – with lime please.




Field of Dreams

Television programme…

I don’t watch TV but I tend to binge on DVD series. My favourite so far has been Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom.


I love all kinds of music and couldn’t live without it. I’d rather go blind than deaf. It’s really hard to choose a favourite composer, but today (and most days) my choice would be Haydn.

Where can readers find out more about you? 

On my website and Facebook.

Linda Gillard

Linda Gillard

LG Thomson is the author of Boyle’s Law, Each New Morn, and Erosion.

Tales of Terror for Hallowe’en


A thousand years, give or take, before Einstein predicted the fourth dimension the Celts were already celebrating the night when the past, the future and the present became one.

Samhuinn (SAH-vin) was the day when the Celts brought their animals into the winter fold. It was a time of thanksgiving to the gods for the return of safe cattle and a plea for a bountiful food supply in the following year. In this season of the earth’s decay, Samhuinn was also a feast of the dead.

Early Christians in Scotland transplanted the Feast of All Saints onto the existing Celtic festival and so Samhuinn became Hallowe’en, a night for guising, when people dressed in disguise so that they would not be recognised by the spirits of the dead and trapped by them in the limbo between this world and the next.  When imported to the United States by Scots and Irish immigrants, the tradition evolved into trick or treating.

As a Scot, I’m a stickler for referring to this tradition as guising, but when it comes to making a Hallowe’en lantern, carving a pumpkin is a much more enticing prospect than spending hours scraping, gouging and hacking at the traditional Scottish turnip – a medium as yielding as your average boulder.

I went out guising every year when I was growing up in the 1970s.  There were a few glamourous wee fairies and the occasional witch roaming the streets, but mostly it was hordes of wee tramps going from door to door dressed in their dad’s old gear.  I was channeling Laurel and Hardy, the piece de resistance of my ensemble being a plastic bowler hat – a souvenir from a weekend trip to Blackpool.

This Hallowe’en I’ll be staying at home, cosied up by the stove, a glass of red wine to hand as I read a few of my favourite tales of terror.

Check out my list and please feel free to make a few recommendations of your own.

Happy haunting.

Classic shorts:

  • The Tell-tale Heart, Edgar Allan Poe
  • The Monkey’s Paw, W.W. Jacobs
  • The Bottle Imp, Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Lottery, Shirley Jackson

Creepy collections:

  • Zombiesque, published by Daw Books Inc
  • Zippered Flesh: Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad, edited by Weldon Burge
  • Night Shift, Stephen King
  • Books of Blood, Clive Barker

Long scares:

  1. Under The Skin, Michel Faber
  2. Dracula, Bram Stoker
  3. The Road, Cormac McCarthy
  4. The Stepford Wives, Ira Levin

LG Thomson is the author of Boyle’s Law, Each New Morn, and Erosion.

Thrillers With Attitude Literary Smorgasbord; Emma Hamilton

If you have ever been anywhere near a writing group or book festival of any kind, you will know that writers come in all shapes and sizes, from big robust circles, to tiny stabby stars. They come in different flavours too, from cool, classic vanilla, to eyeball-exploding, triple-hot chilli sauce.

Thrillers With Attitude is on a mission to find out what makes these weirdly-shaped and strangely-flavoured writers tick.

My guest this week is emerging children’s author, Emma Hamilton.

Hi Emma, thank you for taking part in the Literary Smorgasbord. Please, tell me a little bit about yourself.

Thanks very much for inviting me.  I married very young, straight out of school, and was mother to four gorgeous little boys by the time I was twenty-five. As you might imagine, life was extremely busy. Now that they are growing up (and now I am no longer married) I find myself with more time to devote to the things I want to do- like writing.  I still spend a lot of time with children through my job as a nanny and find myself naturally drawn towards writing for pre-schoolers. I also write poetry (the kind that’s definitely not suitable for children) and short stories.

What were you like at school?

I absolutely loved everything about school.The learning, hanging out with my friends, even the tests and exams. Okay… I might have been a swot.

When did you start writing?

I began writing as soon as I could form the words on the page. I remember coming home from school in primary one and writing notes to my mum detailing my day, instead of just telling her about it. She still has one, I believe.

As a teenager, most of my writing was in the form of letters to my London pen friend, Jeremy. We would send massive wads of heavily scribbled A4 up and down the country to each another, occasionally accompanied by a mix tape or two.

I plucked up the courage to go to my first creative writing course (run by the Workers Educational Association – WEA) around 12 years ago. They put on a crèche so that my boys would be looked after and I was lucky enough to have the late Highland poet and writer Angus Dunn as my tutor. I can confidently say that that was the point where I began to take my writing more seriously and to devote as much time to it as I could – which still wasn’t very much. The breakdown of my marriage two years ago made me really examine what was important to me. I realised then that I must prioritise my writing and so embraced it with a new fervour.

Have you ever kept a diary?

Absolutely. As a teenager, I had one of those locking ones with the flimsy wee keys which I updated religiously every night. It was full of rambling angst about whichever boy was filling my thoughts at that particular time. I don’t keep a diary now, though I still find it useful to vent onto the page when I have things to work through. It’s still mostly about teenage boys- this time, my sons.

How would you describe your style of writing?

My childrens’ stories are written in rhyme, taking a joy in rhythm. I like to write in this style simply because this is the form of story I most enjoy reading aloud. I like to use Scottish words where I can to give a hint of a sense of place.

Are you inspired by any writers in particular?

Julia Donaldson and Linley Dodds are my inspiration for my childrens’ stories.  Who doesn’t love The Gruffalo or Hairy MacLary? I aspire to produce something that is as enchanting to children as those stories.

What are you working on just now?

At the moment, I’m working on a series of rhyming stories about a wee girl called Maggie, and the challenges that being four years old can bring. The first two are called Maggie’s Screamy Day and Maggie’s Green-eyed Day. You get the gist!

What has been your best writing moment so far?

Seeing the first illustration for Maggie’s Screamy Day, drawn by Phoebe Jones.It felt amazing to see the characters brought to life by her, and seeing her interpretation of them. She really caught the feeling of the moment she was portraying, I just thought, yes – someone else gets Maggie completely!  It was a great feeling.

Is there any one book you would like to have written?

Fifty Shades, because I’d never have released the horror of it into the world.

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading Black Roses by Jane Thynne as my bookgroup chosen text. It’s not something I would have picked up myself, but I’m really enjoying it. This is exactly why it’s great to be part of a bookgroup.

If there was one person – contemporary or historical – you could spend a day with, who would you choose and why? How would you spend the day?

I would love to spend the day with Audrey Hepburn. She was such a clever, remarkable woman with a rare level of empathy. I’d like to speak to her about her time spent in Holland as a teenager through WWII and the role she played in the Dutch resistance. I’d also like to hear about her UNICEF work in later life. And of course, get a lesson in eyeliner application!

A few quick questions to finish with. Favourite book?

The Secret History by Donna Tartt


Haruki Murakami, Ali Smith, Michel Faber, Sarah Waters, A.L. Kennedy… I can’t pick just one.


The Botanist Gin, COFFEE!


Anything that someone else cooks for me.



Television programme…

Orange is the New Black

Radio programme…

Radio 4’s Bookclub


I like the local Highland music scene and support it whenever I can. Spring Break, The Leonard Jones Potential, Lionel, Ashley and the Cosmonauts and Sara Bills and the Hasbeens are among my favourites.

Good luck with your Maggie books, Emma, and thanks for taking part in the Literary Smorgasbord.

Emma Hamilton

Emma Hamilton

LG Thomson is the author of Boyle’s Law, Each New Morn, and Erosion.