From the Booking Desk:
It’s become a tradition for Catriona McPherson to stop by BOLO Books with each of her book releases. Over the years, she has talked to us about topics from the most absurd to the most profound. Today she’s here talking about a serious topic, but as always, in her own unique style. Look for her new novel, Scot in a Trap, at all your favorite retailers, especially those Independent Bookstores that count on our business during the holiday season.
Cheer up, darling. It might never happen.
I love a challenge.
Look at that, I’m lying already. I don’t love a challenge at all. My second least favourite fridge-magnet wisdom is “That which does not kill you makes you stronger”. Au contraire. Lots of things that don’t kill you exhaust you and deplete both your energy and your optimism. (My absolutely least favourite fridge magnet wisdom is “Love hurts”. No. It. Doesn’t. If anyone ever hurts you and calls it love, put prawns in the hems of their curtains and leave.)
Despite not loving a challenge, I followed up Last Ditch Book 4 – the lockdown comedy – with this new one, SCOT IN A TRAP, which is a comedy about misogyny, sexual predation and the #MeToo movement. (For anyone who has trauma triggers in this area, I would say A. nothing happens on the page and B. you’re a poor wee scone and I send you all the hugs.)
Did I pull it off? Well, Kirkus has pronounced and they said “wildly funny, deadly serious”, which I am thrilled about. Did I do it without lapses in taste? I think so, because like every other woman in the world and far too many men as well, I’ve got experience.
I’m not going to talk about the most serious stuff here – the swabs, witness statement, police station stuff – because that’s not what I drew on for the book. Instead, let’s take a walk through some of the so-bad-they’re-funny moments of disrespect, intimidation, and general oafishness that gave me the raw material to write this story.
When I was about twelve or thirteen, a police came to talk to the school about something. I can’t remember what. But, at the end of the presentation, this bloke said “See? It’s so straightforward even the girls can understand it.” And guess what happened. Nothing. Not one of us bolshy teenaged girls, with our crimped hair and our Doc Martens spoke. And neither did any of the teachers. I glanced at Miss Potts, of the English department. She would have fitted in on Easter Island, such was her expression, but she didn’t utter a word. Whenever that incident crosses my mind these days, Miss Potts and I are both considerably more verbal.
Couple of years after that, I started going to boy-girl parties. One day, the host of the next party – let’s call her Aurora – drew me aside and said that one of the boys couldn’t make it, which left the party unbalanced. So she had asked the remaining boys which girl they didn’t want there and they had chosen me. I said . . . “Okay”. And I thought it was okay too. Again, when I re-run it, I compose answers much longer and swearier than “Okay”. Sometimes, in my imagination, I’m using Katie Porter’s wee whiteboard.
Occasionally, I’ve been more effective. For instance, I was walking across a footbridge to get to the other side of a railway line when one of the two boys ahead of me pulled his trousers and underpants down and showed me his bottom. They were only kids and they were having a giggle, egging each other on. But something about their lack of manners, lack of respect, reminded me of the casual contempt shown by that policeman, and the lack of basic kindness shown by those party boys. So, instead of turning away, or hiding my eyes, or crying, I roared ‘NOT TODAY, PAL!’ at the top of my voice and chased after them. It’s hard to sprint when your nether garments are at your knees. When I started laughing at him I wasn’t acting.
And once, just once, I was briefly able to connect with the humanity in one of these gorillas. I was walking home from work on a Friday and noticed a group of workies (US – construction guys) packing up after their week. I got that shrinking feeling in the back of my neck, knowing they were in a larky mood and wouldn’t let me get past without some mockery at least and some hostility at worst. Right enough, as I drew level, one of them said “What’s the rush , sweetheart? We’ve got all day”. The rest of them collapsed with mirth as this brilliance. I looked him in the face and said with unfeigned weariness, “Oh don’t be that guy, eh?”
I saw it in his eyes. He recognised my exhaustion and knew he had made someone’s bad day even worse. There was a flicker of compassion. Then one of the others made that “Ooo-OOO-oooh!” noise (What does that even mean?) and Momentary Compassion Guy shut off like a switch. “Effing Lezzie!” he spat at me.
“Good point,” I said. “Excellent point, and so well-made. You’ve recognised my sexuality and called me out on it. This changes everything. I will hang out with you after all. Let’s go for a drink. First round’s on me.”
Of course, I didn’t actually say that. I composed it during the rest of my walk home, as you do, and delivered it to my cat when the front door was shut behind me
The best things about putting Lexy in horrible and demeaning situations with drawling idiots in this new book? I get to slide the words in her mouth exactly when she needs them. I get to compose perfect put-downs and whisper them in her ear like the Cyrano de Bergerac of feminism. She suffers – there wouldn’t be a plot otherwise – but not in silence.
A mysterious object the size of a suitcase, all wrapped in bacon and smelling of syrup, can mean only one thing: Thanksgiving at the Last Ditch Motel. This year the motel residents are in extra-celebratory mood as the holiday brings a new arrival to the group – a bouncing baby girl.
But as one life enters the Ditch, another leaves it. Menzies Lassiter has only just checked in. When resident counsellor Lexy Campbell tries to deliver his breakfast the next day, she finds him checked out. Permanently. Shocking enough if he were stranger, but Lexy recognises that face. Menzies was her first love until he broke her heart many years ago.
What’s he doing at the Last Ditch? What’s he doing dead? And how can Lexy escape the fact that she alone had the means, the opportunity – and certainly the motive – to kill him?
Catriona McPherson (she/her) was born in Scotland and immigrated to the US in 2010. She writes: preposterous 1930s detective stories, set in the old country and featuring an aristocratic sleuth; modern comedies set in the Last Ditch Motel in fictional (yeah, sure) California; and, darker than both of those (which is not difficult), a strand of contemporary psychological thrillers.
Her books have won or been shortlisted for the Edgar, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Lefty, the Macavity, the Mary Higgins Clark award and the UK Ellery Queen Dagger. She has just introduced a fresh character in IN PLACE OF FEAR, which finally marries her love of historicals with her own working-class roots, but right now, she’s writing the sixth book in what was supposed to be the Last Ditch trilogy.
Catriona is a proud lifetime member and former national president of Sisters in Crime. www.catrionamcpherson.com