Chris Brookmyre has a packed main tent at the Edinburgh Book Festival hanging on his every colourful word as he reads from Dead Girl Walking, the new novel featuring the return of his investigative journalist antihero Jack Parlabane.
In Dead Girl Walking, the author explores “both sides of journalism” and its duty to “speak truth to power”. Though in this post-Leveson world, Brookmyre is quick to point out that the boundaries – and those of his protagonist – have changed. “It’s the most emotionally-engaging Parlabane novel yet,” he says. “I’ve made him something of a scapegoat. It’s the first time you may feel sorry for him.”
Brookmyre goes on to speak about his work writing for videogames, treating the audience to a clip of the forthcoming Bedlam, the game based on his 2013 novel of the same name. Featuring voice talent from TV sketch show Burnistoun, Brookmyre has had a huge amount of fun being involved in the videogame industry, taking tropes of the genre and subverting them as deftly as he does in his fiction.
Fielding questions from the audience, Brookmyre explains why he is reluctant to ever set one of his novels in the world of football, explaining the difficulty of fictionalising something so real. He puts forward Douglas Henshall as his favoured actor to ever play Parlabane in a Hollywood adaptation, then goes on to recount his first experiences of writing.
“From the age I could write sentences,” he says, “I was always writing stories,” going on to recall how he used to turn in expletive-laden compositions at school, only to have them warmly received by his teacher.
This early encouragement is to readers’ great benefit, as is evidenced by Brookmyre’s spirited reading of Puck Knows, a chaotically hilarious short story written for an event held during the Commonwealth Games and set in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Bandstand.
As his chaotically hilarious tale of delinquent neds being taught good manners in unique fashion unfolds, we are reminded yet again why Brookmyre’s voice is one of the most orginal – and popular – in contemporary Scottish fiction.