Let's give a warm welcome to author, Eric McFarlane, onto the blog to tell us about his latest book.
All that lab technician Daniel Dreghorn wants is a better job, more money, a new flat – oh, and perhaps to meet a few more girls. It’s not much to ask of life, is it? All his dreams are answered with one visit to a faulty cash machine, but is it too good to be true? Yes, Daniel, it is…
Daniel’s life goes from bad to mad as a series of deaths are attributed to him and some very shady characters start to believe he is more than he seems. As Daniel’s colleagues at the university become suspicious of his actions, madcap Professor Farquharson sees him as a way of achieving a long-held desire… Can Daniel avoid being drawn into his boss’s crazy schemes? Can he avoid the attentions of a bent copper? Are Dr Bernini’s doughnuts all they seem to be?
A Clear Solution is a hilarious look at what happens when you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time – complete with homicidal bank managers.
MY: Welcome to the blog ! Could you tell us a little about yourself? Perhaps something not many people know?
EM: My career was as a chemist with a multi-national pharmaceutical company. It was only when I was pushed from that that I took up writing seriously. Perhaps not many people know that I now make my living selling stamps to collectors over the internet. I’ve yet to work out a way of turning that into a fast-paced crime thriller but perhaps someday.
MY: What made you want to become a writer?
EM: I guess I’ve always wanted to be a writer and I’ve always written whether childhood scribbles or teenage meanderings (not for publication!) I recently came across a notebook from my teen years with some comic writing that actually made me laugh – in a good way. It was all put aside for the minor matter of university, job, marriage and family but the urge to write never disappeared and I still jotted thoughts down in notebooks. Eventually I took it up more seriously when redundancy struck and I started on short stories and then novels.
MY: Are you working on another book?
EM: I’m working on too many as always. The sequel to A Clear Solution is already written (The Allotment Society) as is a thriller and an SF thriller and I continue to tinker with these rather than leaving them alone. A new work nearing completion is a first person comic crime novel with a female protagonist who stumbles into a murder mystery plot. My writing group want to call it The Cone of Doom but I’m not convinced.
MY: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
EM: Don’t procrastinate. JUST DO IT. Sorry for shouting but sometimes it helps.
MY: Do you need peace and quiet to write or do you always listen to music - if so what music inspires you?
EM: Peace and quiet as much as is possible. I love all sorts of music and also play an instrument but music in the background I find unbearably distracting probably because I feel a need to listen to it and disengage my mind from the writing.
MY: Do your characters ever hijack your story? If so, what do you do about it?
EM: I must admit to doubts about ‘characters hijacking story’. After all there is only the author; there really aren’t little people running around inside your head telling you what to do. At least I hope not. I wonder if it just differentiates between the planners and the pantsers. A pantser (I must admit I’m one) expects that their characters will do stuff and ‘tell’ them which way the stories going while a planner has their plan and deviating from that plan can be seen as the characters taking over but really it’s the author developing ideas and doing a bit of pantsing (sorry) on the side.
MY: If you could spend time as a character from your book, who would it be? And what would you do during that day?
EM: It would have to be as my favourite character Professor Quentin Farquharson, ‘an elderly academic with the morals of a stoat on steroids’. Totally amoral, living for the moment with no conscience whatsoever. What would I do? Hmm, I couldn’t possibly say.
MY: Are there any authors that you particularly admire? And if so, why?
EM: I’ve blogged about my love for the writing of American crime author Thomas H Cooke. A writer of superb elegant prose. Try Instruments of Night, one of his early novels, spare and chilling and an object lesson in the use of multiple flashbacks or the more recent, The Fate of Katherine Carr, enigmatic and mysterious from the first line, They strike at heat, she said… Give him a try.
MY: Is there a book that you wish you had written?
EM: I know this question is aimed at existing books but for years I’ve wanted to write a novel titled – A Cloudy Damp Affair – subtitle – a story of love and lust at the Met Office. If anyone wants to pinch that go right ahead, I won’t mind. Actually I will, I’ll hate you if you get it published.
MY: Using one word. Describe yourself.
The evening was dim and dismal, which summed up Daniel’s feelings as he trudged home after another run-in with Peabrose. The flash-point this time had been his lack of a tie. He had tried to argue that a tie in a laboratory was a safety hazard. It dipped into things and got caught in things and went on fire and probably contravened Health and Safety legislation and the European Directive on Human Rights, but he might as well have farted in a hurricane for all the effect his arguments had.
He needed money. He paused outside the bank and extracted the new shiny gold card from his wallet. He kissed it, inserted it into the cash machine and typed in his PIN. He made his selection from the menu and typed in £40.
‘Please Wait …’
The machine whirred and clicked.
‘Insufficient information – unable to complete transaction – staff at your branch will assist’.
But before he could swear, the message cleared and was replaced with ‘Please remove card’, followed by a meaningless collection of letters and symbols. Snatching the card from the slot, he pushed his vision of a cap-in-hand visit to the bank in the morning, to retrieve a semi-digested piece of plastic, to one side.
He had turned to leave, when the machine clicked and whirred once more, then spat out a bunch of notes. Thank God, it had worked after all. He grabbed the money. But when he examined the notes in his hand, thanks turned to doubt. Crisp £20 notes, £200 in all, crackled between his fingers. But there was no time to think about the implications of this, as the machine whirred again and disgorged another wad of notes. He looked on blankly as his hand stretched out and took the money. Again the machine whirred, again a wad of notes. He turned guiltily, as if he had been caught stealing sweets from a toddler, but he could see no one on the dark street in either direction. Another wad of notes followed, and another. By now his left hand was full. He stuffed the bundle in his pocket and took the next. It seemed like an eternity as he stood there sweating, heart racing, stuffing bundles of notes into every pocket, but no more than five minutes could have passed before the ‘Machine empty’ notice flashed up and a protective cover descended.
He stood for a few moments, mouth open, like a fish gasping for water. Every pocket bulged with paper. A few notes blew across the street in the breeze. A couple appeared from around the corner, the man with his arm round the girl’s neck. Their giggling and laughing stopped as they approached. The girl looked curiously at him as they passed, and as Daniel turned in the direction off his flat, a renewed burst of laughter followed behind him.
Back at the flat, he emptied his pockets onto the table. The notes lay in a crumpled heap. He would have to see the branch manager tomorrow. Perhaps there was an emergency number he could ring. A ‘You’ve given me too much money’ number. No, he would wait for the morning. But perhaps alarm bells were already ringing. Perhaps, somewhere, a computer was announcing to the world, ‘Excuse me, chaps, but I’ve been a little bit robbed here, you know’. The police might be racing round at this moment, lights flashing and sirens blaring. And wasn’t there always a camera by these machines? He would be on film stuffing notes into his pocket.
Keep calm. He sat down and rubbed at his eyes. It was a mistake. He was innocent. The money would be returned. But he would have to count it. There might be some dispute about the amount. They might accuse him of not returning it all.
Half an hour later he sat down to think. Two thousand £20 notes – forty thousand pounds; it was incredible. A computer hiccup had given him a big headache. It was late and he couldn't think clearly. He would phone the branch in the morning. With that thought, he swept the money into a plastic bag and put it under his bed.
He didn't sleep well that night; disturbed by weird violent dreams interspersed by calm idyllic moments. He dreamt about work and Peabrose and holidays and freedom and a dark medieval pit prison full of writhing naked bodies and he dreamt of Susan Bradshaw.
Where can I purchase this fabulous book?
About the author
Eric McFarlane spent his formative years in Glasgow before de-camping to the wilds of West Lothian via a short spell in Edinburgh. He trained in alchemy and spent most of his working life casting spells in pharmaceutical companies. But writing fiction was his first love and he has done so since facebook was what happened when the latest Stephen King appeared. He has written innumerable short stories, completed four novels (humour, thriller, SF), started, abandoned and re-started several others and even attempted some bad poetry.
His debut novel A Clear Solution, a comic crime caper, was published last year by Accent Press.