Paisley-born, Glasgow resident Alan Parks spent more than 20 years in the music industry, working with a range of artists including The Streets, New Order and CeeLo Green. His 2017 début Bloody January was the first in a planned 12-book 1970s-set series featuring Glaswegian detective Harry McCoy. The recently released The April Dead sees McCoy investigate the detonation of a homemade bomb, which may be linked to the disappearance of a sailor at a nearby US naval base. He answers our questions.
What about Glasgow in the 1970s, in particular, made it a great setting for a crime series?
I think Glasgow in the seventies was in a state of change. The heavy industries had collapsed, housing was being demolished, drugs were starting to make an impact. It seemed like then would be a good time to write about. It seemed things were up for grabs then, anything could happen, from political change to a kind of cultural rebirth.
Are you nostalgic for Harry McCoy’s Glasgow compared to the city of today?
Let’s put it this way: I’d like to visit but I wouldn’t want to stay!
Are there any stereotypes about Glasgow that you have been trying to smash with the McCoy books?
Sadly, no. I quite like reinforcing them! I like the idea of Glasgow hardmen and corrupt cops. I like people drinking too much and smoking, all the things that are bad for you. The only other thing I tried to do was show that that wasn’t all the city consisted of; that its inhabitants have always been more diverse than the stereotypes would have you believe.
Glasgow doesn’t seem to celebrate its great writers in the way Edinburgh does—or use them as a tourist magnet. Why do you think that is?
I think Edinburgh presents itself as a cultured, artistic city to visit, so venerating writers fits in with that. Glasgow seems to be a place more interested in presenting itself as a destination for people who like to go out, meet other people. It also has a visual art scene that punches way above its weight, so maybe we should just celebrate that.
What would you recommend as the definitive Glasgow novel?
That’s a difficult one. Maybe Swing Hammer Swing! by Jeff Torrington, a kind of lost novel of Glasgow. It was acclaimed when it came out in 1992, then fell off the radar. Set in the Sixties during the demolition of the Gorbals’ slums, it’s a portrait of a strange and slightly surreal kind of Glasgow, but one that has a ring of truth about it.