I’m over the moon to be hosting Allan Watson’s WASP LATITUDES blog tour today. Massive thanks to the ever-so-awesome Sarah Hardy of Book on the Bright Side Publicity for the invite on this tour. I have a fantabulous guest post to share with you all, but first let’s find out more about the author and this book!
About the Author
Allan Watson is a writer whose work leans towards the dark end of the fiction spectrum. He is the author of seven novels – Dreaming in the Snakepark, Carapace, The Garden of Remembrance, 1-2-3-4, Monochrome, Heart Swarm and Wasp Latitudes.
In between the books, Allan wrote extensively for BBC Radio Scotland, churning out hundreds of comedy sketches, in addition to being a regular contributor for the world famous ‘Herald Diary’.
He occasionally masquerades as a composer/musician, collaborating with crime writer Phil Rickman in a band called Lol Robinson with Hazey Jane II whose albums have sold on four different continents (Antarctica was a hard one to crack)
Allan lives and works in Glasgow, Scotland, but has never worn the kilt or eaten a deep fried Mars Bar. He also once spent three days as a stand-in guitarist for the Bay City Rollers, but he rarely talks much about that…
Twitter – @allanwatson12
Facebook – Heart Swarm Page
About the Book
Against a background of brutal attacks on people and property by a rag-tag group of homeless men whom the media quickly dub Berserkers, DI Will Harlan is juggling with a head-in-a-bucket patricide, a lethal wife-swapping session, a sex-tape scandal involving the Royal Scottish National Orchestra – and perhaps most discomfiting of all – a spate of late night phone calls from his favourite serial killer, Howie Danks.
As the wife-swapping investigation spirals into a glut of cold-blooded slayings carried out by a mysterious pair of killers known as the Wasp Queen and the Priest, Harlan has to look into the past where a cold case may contain uncomfortable answers. But it’s in the present where the real danger lies as he follows a twisted path of mind control and madness leading to a cruel land some call the Wasp Latitudes.
There’s very few vocations that call for the necessity of changing your identity on a regular basis. Actors spring immediately to mind. Then we have (thinks hard) …undercover cops, and (struggling now) certain types of roving benefits cheats. The one very few people ever remember is the poor humble writers. We’re below the parapet. Invisible most of the time. A bit unfair as we have the added chore of switching genders while juggling with interchanging personalities. Not many actors are asked to cope with that aspect of the job. Undercover cops even less so, I imagine. And as I’ve no hard empirical data of gender reassessment within the ranks of roving benefits cheats, I really can’t comment but it’s always possible.
It can be weird at times, climbing into that second skin. Pushing your real self into a quiet corner and taking the new model for a spin around the block. That’s probably the wrong turn of phrase as it conjures up the image of a fast, sleek and sporty sex machine with zero mileage gleaming under the showroom spotlights. Might be true if I were writing Jackie Collins fan fiction, but the skins I slip into are mostly crumpled around the edges and have a wide assortment of dents and faulty parts. It takes a while before you get comfortable, but once you relax and go with the flow it becomes easy to let this new persona take the wheel and follow their own path. Usually to a bad end if I have anything to do with it.
Obviously there are risks when constantly rotating through a wide swathe of different characters. There’s always a small amount of residue to rinse away before once more snuggling into your own familiar skin. If you don’t decompress properly stray idiosyncrasies can linger on and cause acute social embarrassment. Wouldn’t be the first time I spent the evening dining out with friends unaware I had a leftover facial tic from a character I was writing about, or halting halfway through the starter course to finish The Times crossword, or worse, wearing glitzy drop earrings and a beehive wig.
But that’s not where the real danger lies. No crime novel worth its salt could function properly without its bad guys. Serial killers are still pretty much in vogue and channelling the mind-set of a cold-blooded psychopath should come with a government health warning. Perhaps the problem lies with reaching into your own inner darkness to find a suitable persona. You rummage around down there in the sub-basement like a child discovering a chest full of old clothes, not realising that some of the shadows you bring back to the surface can wholly be attributed to creative invention. You might think it’s all part of the make-believe scenario, but some of the predators that lurk deep in the unconscious are hard-wired into the old limbic cortex, better known as the Lizard Brain. This shit is for real.
Sure, it can be fun swaggering through the pages of your novel pretending to be a serial killer, much in the same way as dressing up as Dracula or the Mummy at Halloween. When you’re done you simply wipe away the make-up, spit out the plastic fangs, or in the case of the Mummy – spend three hours unwrapping dirty old linen bandages. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work that way for writers. Once something gets loose it’s hard to stuff it back into the box.
Even worse is that you don’t realise at first that your inner serial killer is still hanging around. These guys are sneaky. They might sulk a little at being discarded like a freshly flensed layer of epidermis when you’re done writing and preparing to send them back below decks. They pout and drag their heels but eventually slope off with no small amount of bad grace. But it’s all a trick. They enjoy being up here in the light. So while they distract you with the old I-don’t-wanna-go-to-bed-yet routine, they’re busy picking your pocket for the cellar door key and sneak back up when you’re not looking.
I only realised they could do that when I was sitting on a train one night and found myself calmly checking out my fellow passengers, wondering which of them I should follow home and amuse myself with ligatures and sharp steel. It felt like every ounce of empathy had been stripped away, replaced by a sense of complete emotional detachment. Scarier still, it felt good. It only lasted for a few minutes but it scared the life out of me. Suddenly being laughed at for wearing glitzy drop earrings and a beehive wig didn’t seem such a bad thing.
I asked a few other writers if they’d ever experienced the same thing and was met with brusque shakes of the head and outright denials, but I couldn’t help notice the way their eyes shifted away and the speed at which they changed the subject. So I’m guessing I’m not the only one to encounter this phenomenon.
It’s happened a few times since. You don’t get any warning. There’s no cold tingle on the back of your neck or dull headache or feeling of nausea. It’s just there. I’m worried I might wake up one morning surrounded by neatly wrapped brown paper parcels leaking red around the edges. Or open the boot of my car and find a decomposing body trussed up like a Christmas turkey. It couldn’t really happen? Could it?
So for now I’ve given up on crime fiction. The risks are too great. I’ve decided historical romance is a much safer bet. That’s why I’m sitting at my dressing table dressed up as Barbara Cartland. My face caked thick with white foundation. Lipstick carefully applied. False eyelashes fluttering coquettishly. Boning knife honed to a keen edge… Whoa, hang on. Where did that come from? Ah, who cares? At least my drop earrings no longer look out of place.
Like I said. Writing about serial killers can be dangerous. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Brilliant guest post from Allan Watson – thanks for stopping by my blog today, Allan! Make sure you follow the rest of the tour here: