Saturday 16 December 2023

Justice finally for Caroline Glachan, aged 14

Caroline was a vibrant young girl with her whole life ahead of her

When 14 year old Caroline Glachan set out one night to meet her friends in West Dunbartonshire, she wasn't to know that would be her last night alive.

She was found later face down in a burn with horrific injuries. She had at least ten head injuries and her skull was fractured in several places. It was described as a 'horrific and violent attack' by the prosecutor. Mercifully, experts think she was unconscious when she was put in the water. She drowned. 

Police investigation found that Caroline had been besotted with a boy named Robert O'Brien. He was a few years older than her and she'd gone to meet him on a bridge that fateful night. She left her home just before midnight.

She was never seen alive again. At least not by anyone who loved her. The last person to see her were her killers. 

It took 27 long, heartbreaking years but when Caroline's mum Margaret McKeich stood outside the High Court in Glasgow and announced that her daughter could finally rest in peace, it was a day she worried she would never see. 

For 27 years, her wee girl's savage killers had been free to enjoy their lives. To enjoy family events and special occasions like birthdays, weddings and Christmases. Caroline's mum couldn't even enjoy her birthday. Not when her daughter had been brutally murdered and the date on her death certificate was her 40th birthday. 

Unknown to the 3 monsters who'd killed her - all teenagers when they murdered Caroline - the clock was already ticking. It took nearly 3 decades but the countdown to them being punished for their evil crime had begun.

It was police re-interviewing witnesses in 2009 that snared Caroline's killers. 

The testimony of a 4 year old boy helped convict the evil trio. He didn't testify at the trial but there was a police recording of the captivating little boy being interviewed 27 years ago where he spoke of seeing a 'lassie get battered' and fall in the water helped convict the vile trio.

The killers had been babysitting both him and his brother when they'd taken them to the spot where they'd met Caroline. 

Robert O'Brien was 17 when he murdered 14 year old Caroline
It was a brutal, unprovoked attack.

It would end with Robert O'Brien* who was 4 years older than the dead girl, Andrew Kelly and Donna Marie Brand being found guilty by a jury of their peers. Their motives for attacking the 14 year old were never fully established.

Now that countdown is over and Caroline finally has her justice that was denied for so long.

*Thug and heroin addict O'Brien had been sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2006 for the attempted murder of a stranger near his home. He had a lengthy criminal record. 

Monday 29 May 2023

Keeping track of your novel's characters

Writing a novel series is a balancing act

One of the most important and time consuming parts of writing a series of books based on one character can be keeping track of the continuity. I discovered that to my cost when writing my Detective In A Coma series of books featuring Detective Inspector Duncan Waddell and his comatose sidekick DC Stevie Campbell. 

Unfortunately I hadn't prepared myself for making sure I maintained contiuity in my characters, which often led to me having to trudge through hundreds of pages of text to make sure everything I'd written was consistent. 

I've just finished writing book 4 Vigilante City and with the weird way that publishing works book 2 in the series Cannibal City will be published soon.
Keeping track of the characters and what's happened to then in previous books is tricky when you don't have a system in place.  

That's why I have my trusty notebook - an old fashioned one you write in - with pages devoted to every one of my main characters and plenty of space left to add in new details.

I'm using a notebook because I can carry it around with me, but I also back up the details online using file storage service Dropbox, my email and I have it in a Word document. 

Hey, as writers we can never back up too much, can we?

What should be in your notebook

1. Name and brief outline of the character.
Include full name of your characters including middle names and nicknames if any, age, general appearance.

2. Personality - What are they like as a person?
What do they like, what interests them, how do they treat others, what makes them laugh, have they any phobias/hang ups, are they dour or do that have a good sense of humour etc...

3. Personal details - are they married, divorced or single, do they have kids (if so what ages are they?), do they cheat on their partner, do they have any health problems etc...

4. Major events they've gone through. This would usually be things that happened to them in your books or that you've referenced in your books. 

For example, my sidekick detective DI Waddell has been able to have two-way conversations with his best pal and colleague Stevie Campbell, but nobody else can hear him. I had to establish in my notes when Stevie first spoke to him.

It might seem like you're spending too much time doing this, but trust me, it will turn out to be a major timesaver later on when you're not having to trawl through hundreds of pages of text just to find out what colour of hair a character has.

Tip - Have a photo of each character - some writers find it easier if they have a photograph of how their characters look pasted into a notebook, or pinned to a noticeboard on the wall or on their computer desktop. 

It can be a picture of anyone including of a celebrity or a generic photo cut out of a magazine.

If you find yourself losing your character you can look at it and it might put you back on track.

Tuesday 16 May 2023

True Crime Provides Inspiration

When it comes to writing it's frequently said that we should draw inspiration from our surroundings, but often that isn't true of crime writers. On the whole those of us who haven't worked as police officers, prison guards, parole officers or crime reporters tend to have lived a much more sheltered life. The closest we get to real crime is watching a documentary on the TV or reading true crime.

At least that was the case with me until I moved to be closer to my elderly mum after my dad died following a long battle with cancer.

It seemed like the right thing to do at the time but its fast turned into a nightmare, but on the plus side I now have plenty of material for countless crime novels thanks to events that have happened since I moved.

The first week at our new flat the police came to our door looking for a flasher. Apparently some degenerate was going around with his penis hanging out and hiding it behind a newspaper before assailing the eyes of women going about their daily business. My OH was questioned as were other men in the areas, but he was cleared very quickly because the police were looking for was someone well over six feet.

They never did catch this flasher, but it gave me an idea for a short story that might turn into a novella.

Round two came when my partner who had never been the victim of a crime before unless you count the mullet he had in his teenage years (I blame Kevin Keegan), was targeted by two muggers with one spitting on him and the other punching his head when he refused to let go of the bags he was carrying. Whilst this was happening, in blood daylight, several cars were stuck at the traffic lights and not one single person though to so much as toot their horn.

That made me conduct some research into why many people who witness crime do nothing, and why others intervene. That became the basis of what will be my fourth Detective in a Coma book, Vigilante City. Publication date TBD as the second and third book haven’t been published yet due to unforeseen delays.

Being in such a crime hotbed means I've leant some new skills too that I’ve used in my recent work. After my mobile phone was stolen out of my pocket whilst I was out walking the dog with my partner, I discovered exactly how to track it down and I managed to pinpoint it to less than a mile from where it was stolen using the Find My Phone function on my mobile. Handily, I also found out how to remotely access the phone's contents and transfer them to my other phone as well as how to delete them once they're no longer useful.

Best of all, I could lock the phone remotely and render its pre-payment SIM card totally useless so the thief wouldn't be able to make so much as a call or a text, effectively turning it into a lump of useless plastic.

This knowledge I've acquired will come in handy in years to come as I write my crime novels.

As well as the frustration of having my pocket picked in what I'm now calling The Incident, the lost phone inspired me to come up with the idea of a novelized Phone Booth for the year 2018.

In case you've never seen it, in Phone Booth (2002) Colin Farrell's character is passing a phone box when it rings. Foolishly he answers it and that's when the menacing voice of Kiefer Sutherland comes over the line and tells the unlucky guy he's got a sniper's rifle aimed at him. Oh, and he knows all about him.

Phone boxes are disappearing faster than sugar in soft drinks, so in this case my lead character would find a mobile phone and being such a good Samaritan, he decides to hand it into the local police station. Before he can make it, the phone rings and he answers it and it soon becomes obvious that someone is watching him and they threaten to hurt his family if he doesn't shut up and follow orders. They don't care that he's not the man they hired. They just want whatever clandestine task they have in mind for him done. Then he'll be off the hook.

But are you ever off the hook with these kinds of people? As every crime novelist knows, the answer's a resounding no.

A few months ago a man was arrested on my street for dangerous driving, whilst drunk and found with a cache of weapons straight out of a horror flick, including a machete and no, he didn't work in a nearby restaurant or a butchers.

What should my next book be about? How about a main character who gets their phone stolen during a mugging, who then goes around the city in his car looking for his attackers. This vigilante's weapon of choice - clearly a machete.

Inspiration as they say is everywhere and I've now got more than my fair share.

Note - this piece first appeared in Red Herrings the magazine of the Crime Writers Association 

Tuesday 7 February 2023

How Kirsty Gets Her Kicks gets the review treatment over at the fantastic Mystery People

 Kirsty Gets Her Kicks gets the review treatment over at the fantastic Mystery People. 

Here's what Dot Marshall-Gent had to say - 

‘How Kirsty Gets Her Kicks’ by Jennifer Lee Thomson

Published by Shotgun Honey,
13 June 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-6439-6005-0

'Wow.  You took out one of McPhee’s boys with one bloody leg.  Awesome.'

Kirsty explodes onto the opening page of this outrageous thriller as a thug makes the mistake of getting too fresh with her. She’s not the sort of woman who takes kindly to such behaviour.  She is the sort of woman who deals out her own justice.  Kirsty may be a below-knee amputee, but whatever anger she feels about her disability, she channels into her overwhelming desire to succeed in a life that has dealt her some cruel blows.  Having stopped the would-be attacker in his tracks, she allows herself a moment of self-congratulation.  Then, as she considers her next move, Kirsty makes the unwelcome discovery that Jamie, another member of the bar staff, saw everything.  The annoying voyeur reveals that the guy she just flattened is an “enforcer” employed by their boss, Jimmy McPhee. 

McPhee is a career criminal who controls much of the illegal activity in this area of Glasgow.  He has friends in high places, including the local constabulary, and enough dirt on the city’s bigwigs to ensure that his nefarious endeavours are kept well below the law’s radar.  As if Jamie’s presence at the scene of her crime was not enough, it then turns out that the hapless-looking witness seems to want to join forces.  This is the first of many conundrums that our anti-heroine faces in the novel but, rest assured, she’s rarely out of ideas to deal with the most impossible of situations.

The pace of the narrative is fast and gets faster as Kirsty uses her quick mind and laudable resilience to face and overcome countless challenges that confront her as the story progresses.  Her true north may be slightly off when compared with that of the average citizen, but Kirsty’s backstory is harrowing, and she can be forgiven the odd offence.  Her proclivity to inflict grievous bodily harm is restricted to those who have done far, far worse.  Kirsty does have a softer side which, when it shows, elicits empathy.  The writing has humour too, but it’s never cosy.

How Kirsty Gets Her Kicks is a tongue-in-cheek thriller with an unbreakable and unstoppable hard-boiled protagonist taking a rip-roaring ride in a wild and wind-blown tide.  If you like tough and gritty this is for you.  Expect the unexpected in this adults-only novel and you’ll still be shocked.  Enjoy it, I did!

Reviewer: Dot Marshall-Gent

Note - review is copyright (c) of Mystery People.

click on cover to find out more:)

What's it about then?

A tale of skullduggery that plays out on the mean streets of Glasgow…

One-legged barmaid Kirsty is in a shit-load of trouble after she kills one of gangster Jimmy McPhee’s enforcers with a stiletto heel to the head after he gets a bit too handsie.

Now she’s on the run from the gang boss who loves to torture his victims before he kills them, with a safe-load of cash she stole from him and a hot gun. And she has company—a choirboy barman Jamie who just happens to be the only witness.

She needs to survive long enough to spend the cash.

How difficult can it be to catch a “daft wee lassie with one leg?” Glasgow hardman Jimmy McPhee is about to find out. Kirsty’s made a laughing stock out of him and he doesn’t like that one wee bit.

Bring together a one-legged barmaid who’s legged it with a safe load of dirty cash, a spurned gangster’s wife who wants a walking womb for her mail order sperm, a giant birthday cake and a mad chase to the end, and you’ve got 
How Kirsty Gets Her Kicks: one freaking minute at a time.


“A high-kicking, double-barrelled, blast of grindhouse pulp.” —Paul D. Brazill, author of 
Last Year’s Man

How Kirsty Gets Her Kicks hits the ground running and does not let up for a single breathless second. I tore through this in one sitting, and it’s a hell of a ride filled with colourful characters and casual violence—everything I look for in crime fiction—not to mention a lead character that takes everything thrown at her and just keeps on coming. This is a great story, and Jennifer Lee Thomson is a great story-teller.” —Paul Heatley, author of FatboyGuillotine, and the Eye for an Eye series


You can find out more about Mystery People here -