It is with great delight that I announce my debut novel, The Paper Cell, will be published by Contraband Books in June 2017 (launch details to be revealed soon).
From the publisher of Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project, The Paper Cell is the first in the new Pocket Crime Collection, an occasional series of quality crime novellas with a decidedly retro feel.
In 1950s London, a literary agent finds fame when he secretly steals a young woman’s brilliant novel manuscript and publishes it under his own name, Lewis Carson. Two days after their meeting, the woman is found strangled on Peckham Rye Common: did Lewis purloin the manuscript as an act of callous opportunism, or as the spoils of a calculated murder?
I began writing this story back in 2012, whilst working as an editor at an independent publisher in Edinburgh. Among my duties was to analyse the ‘slush pile’, either rejecting manuscripts outright or passing them to the publishing director for further consideration. I loved this aspect of my job, for it exposed me to an incredibly diverse range of ideas and voices. During one such ‘slush’ session, amidst the detritus of much tea and biscuits, I handed a manuscript to my colleague and said, ‘This one is just fantastic. I’m tempted to steal it for myself.’
It was an offhand joke, but thinking about it later, I wondered if I’d stumbled upon a nifty, perhaps even deliciously meta, idea.
It took me another four years to finish the book, and then another year to nail the details of its publication. It’s difficult to describe my excitement and gratitude without falling back on hyperbole. That said, I’ve spent the majority of my adult life writing about, promoting and even helping to produce Scottish books: as an editor, a library assistant, and as a graduate of a Scottish Literature PhD at the University of Glasgow. Books are so much a part of my identity that I can say this novel is, without exaggeration, among the greatest joys of my life. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.