An exciting, evocative first-in-series noir novel set in 1973 Glasgow, a city on the cusp of a heroin epidemic, featuring detective Harry McCoy.
When an 18-year-old boy shoots a young woman dead in the middle of a busy Glasgow street and then commits suicide, McCoy knows it can’t be a random act of violence. With a newbie partner in tow, McCoy uses his underworld network to build a picture of a secret society run by Glasgow’s wealthiest family, the Dunlops. Drugs, sex, incest; every nefarious predilection is catered to, at the expense of the lower echelon of society, an underclass that includes McCoy’s best friend from reformatory school – drug-Tsar Stevie Cooper – and his on-off girlfriend, a prostitute, Janey. But with McCoy’s boss calling off the hounds, and his boss’ boss unleashing their own, the Dunlops are apparently untouchable. McCoy has other ideas.
Fans of McIlvanney’s Laidlaw books and Oliver Harris’ The Hollow Man , Ian Rankin’s and Dennis Lehane’s fiction, and TV shows like Idris Elba’s Luther will find themselves thoroughly satisfied here.
|Publisher:||Europa Editions, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Alan Parks was born in Scotland and attended The University of Glasgow where he was awarded a M.A. in Moral Philosophy. Bloody January is his debut novel.
Read an Excerpt
McCoy headed along the corridor towards the stairs, heels clicking on the metal walkway, breath clouding out in front of him. Never changed, Barlinnie. Freezing in the winter, boiling in the summer. The old Victorian building was on its last legs. Wasn't built for the number of prisoners they had stuffed into it now. Three, sometimes four of them locked up in a cell made for two. No wonder the whole prison stank. The smell of overflowing slop buckets and stale sweat was so thick it caught in the back of your throat soon as the big doors opened; stuck to your clothes when you left.
He'd been coming up here since his first weeks on the beat. Only good thing about Barlinnie was that it saved you going anywhere else. The whole spectrum of Glasgow's wrongdoers ended up in here. From rapists and murderers, nonces and kiddie fiddlers to bewildered old men caught coming out the Co-op with two tins of salmon stuffed up their jumpers and their wives not long in the ground. Barlinnie wasn't fussy, it took them all in.
He leant over the balcony rail, peered through the netting and the fug of tobacco smoke at the rec hall below. Usual crowd milling about in their denims and white plimsolls. Couple of boys whose names he couldn't remember playing ping-pong. Low-level troops from the gangs in the Milton gathered round the pool table, all long hair, moustaches and borstal tattoos. One of them pointed with his cue as Jack Thomson was wheeled in front of the TV, started sniggering. A year ago he would have been too scared to even look at someone like Thomson. Now the poor bastard had a dent in his head so deep it was visible from up here. That's what happens when someone takes a sledgehammer to each knee and then gives you a few whacks on the head for luck. Can't walk and your brain's so scrambled you don't even know where you are.
He buttoned up his trench coat, blew in his hands. Really was fucking freezing in here. A wee fat guy stood up from the card school, looked up, nodded. Steph Andrews. Still kidding himself that no one in here knew he was a tout. McCoy dug in his pocket, took out one of the packets of Regal he'd brought with him and dropped it over the side. Steph had caught it, pocketed it and was off before anyone even noticed. First rule of a visit to Barlinnie: bring fags. McCoy leant over a bit further, still couldn't see the reason he'd come up here.
'Feeding time at the zoo, eh?'
He turned and Tommy Mullen was leaning on the rail next to him. He took his cap off, scratched at his head. When McCoy had first started coming up to Barlinnie, Mullen's hair had been black. It was mostly grey now.
'How much longer you got now, Tommy?' he asked.
'Three more cunting weeks. Counting the days.'
'Not sad you're going then?'
'Joking, aren't you? Cannot fucking wait. Wife's brother's bought a wee caravan down in Girvan. Fresh air. Get the stink of this place out my nose.'
'What is it he wants anyway?' McCoy asked. 'All I got was a call at the station to get up here.'
Mullen shrugged. 'Think he's going to tell me?' He took a roll-up out his baccy tin and lit up. McCoy looked over the balcony again, tried to see him in the crowd.
'You'll no see him down there,' said Mullen. 'He's been moved. He's in the Special Unit now.'
McCoy let out a low whistle. The mysterious Special Unit. Nobody knew much about it or how it was supposed to work. Had been set up last year. Prison Services embracing the sixties far too late. McCoy remembered a news conference on the telly. A grim-faced warden sitting behind a desk flanked by two hippy professor types. The hippies blabbering on about Art Therapy, Positive Custody and Breaking Barriers.
Even though it was early days, any mention of the Special Unit was enough to start the papers frothing at the mouth, most of the polis too. According to them the Special Unit was going to be Sodom and Gomorrah rebuilt on the banks of the Clyde. According to the hippies it was just a small section of the prison where top security prisoners would be treated like human beings. McCoy wasn't too bothered either way, wasn't like the usual stuff was working anyway. Bully squads beating the fuck out of troublesome prisoners, sticking them in cages in freezing wet basements. Far as he could see it just made those nutters worse; all the more determined to stab or batter any screw that looked at them the wrong way.
Mullen and McCoy left the main building and ran across the prison yard, coats over their heads, heading for a red door in the far wall. Weather was getting worse again, icy sleet, wind whipping leaves and rubbish across the yard. Mullen pulled the red door open and they were in.
McCoy just stood there looking, taking it in. Alice through the looking glass.
There were two greenhouses in front of them, full of flowers and tomato plants. Beds had been dug out the concrete, planted with neat rows of vegetables. A fenced-off area at the side was full of huge lumps of stone with half-finished faces or bodies carved into them, granite glistening in the wet. The door of a wee shed beside them opened and a thin bloke stepped out, long blond hair, chisel in his hand, dusty leather apron. He lifted up his safety goggles.
'All right, Tommy?' he asked. 'No seen you for a while.'
Took a couple of seconds for McCoy to realise who he was. Bobby Munro. Couldn't help but smile. Bobby 'Razor' Munro standing in Barlinnie with a chisel in his hand? No wonder the papers were going mental. Must be the first time he'd used one for its real purpose; normally he'd have had it at someone's throat.
'Aye, all good,' said Mullen. 'Looking for Howie.'
'He'll be stuck in front of the TV as per.' He pointed to a door. 'Through there.'
'So you're Tommy now, are you?' asked McCoy, as they went in. 'All best pals. That how it works?'
'Don't fucking start me,' said Mullen, as they walked through the door. 'That took a lot of getting used to, I'll tell you. "The use of surnames is demeaning and depersonalising and must be phased out,"' he recited in a posh voice. 'Load of fucking pish.'
Last time McCoy had been in the washing block it was full of big industrial machines churning away, men standing behind big electric presses, half hidden in the clammy steam. Not now. Now it was almost empty, painted white, framed pictures and posters on the walls, huge iron sculpture in the middle of the floor. As far as McCoy could make out it seemed to be two dogs with human faces fighting each other, or maybe fucking each other, couldn't quite tell. Mullen pointed at a door in the corner.
'Lounge is over there.'
McCoy stepped through. He didn't know what he was expecting, but whatever it was it wasn't this. It was like stepping into your auntie's cosy front room. Geometric wallpaper, two-bar fire going full blast and a three-piece suite with wooden arms positioned round a colour TV. Didn't even smell of slop buckets. Only one thing was spoiling the cheery atmosphere: Howie Nairn. He was sitting slumped on the couch. No denims and white sandshoes for the prisoners in the Special Unit. They got to wear their own clothes. In Nairn's case that wasn't much of an improvement. A dirty Che Guevara T-shirt, a tartan scarf round his neck, flared denims and long, wavy auburn hair tied back in a ponytail. Even had his slippers on. He was a bit thinner but looked much the same as last time McCoy had seen him. Was one thing hadn't changed: still had the raised criss-cross of scars running across his neck, disappearing down into the collar of his T-shirt.
'Get that screw to fuck,' Nairn said, eyes not leaving the TV. 'He's no allowed to be in here.'
'Suit yourself,' said Mullen. 'McCoy?'
He nodded an okay and Mullen backed out the door. 'I'll leave you boys to it, give us a shout when you're done.'
McCoy sat down on the arm of the couch, put a packet of Regal on the wee tile-covered coffee table. Waited. Was sure he could smell dope from somewhere. Wouldn't surprise him. Nothing about here could any more. Nairn didn't say anything, eyes stayed firmly fixed on the TV. Up to him then.
'I got the message. Supposed to be honoured, am I?'
Nairn grunted. 'Don't flatter yourself, McCoy. You were the only fucking polis whose name I could remember.'
McCoy looked at the posters taped up on the wall. Not the usual girls with their legs apart, not in here. A map of Middle Earth, picture of Chairman Mao. Books on the shelf were as bad. The autobiography of Malcolm X. Stranger in a Strange Land. The Bhagavad Gita.
'All this hippie stuff working, is it?' he asked. 'No feeling the need to open the warden's face any more?' No response. He sighed, tried again. 'So is this about Garvie, then?'
Nairn finally looked away from Zebedee and Dougal. 'Who?'
'Stan Garvie. Stuffed in a tea chest and chucked in the Clyde with some iron weights for company. Believe it was your doing. Staying in this holiday home made you want to confess all, that it?'
Nairn smiled, looked very pleased with himself. 'So that was the cunt's name, was it?' He shook his head. 'Naw, don't know nothing about that, Detective McCoy.'
McCoy raised his eyebrows. 'News travels fast.'
Nairn sat up, stuffed his hand down his jeans, scratched at his balls then sniffed his hand. 'Aye well, I've got some more news for you. Someone's gonnae get killed tomorrow.'
'What, you going to knife someone in the showers? Giving me a heads-up?'
Nairn smiled again, revealing a row of small yellow teeth. 'Always think you're the funny cunt, McCoy. About as funny as fucking cancer. Up the town, girl called Lorna.'
McCoy waited but nothing else was forthcoming. He realised he was going to have to play along. 'Who's going to kill this Lorna, then?'
Nairn looked disgusted. 'Fuck off. I'm no a grass.'
McCoy laughed. 'You're no a grass? Fuck am I doing sitting here, then?'
'You're sitting here because I'm stuck in this shitehole. I cannae do anything about it so you're gonnae have to.'
'How am I going to do that, then? Get on the radio and tell every girl called Lorna to stay in her bed all day? Away and shite, Nairn, you're wasting my time.'
He stood up. He'd been on since five this morning, was tired, wasn't in the mood. All he wanted was a pint and to be as far away from this prison and from Howie Nairn and his shite as possible. He leant forward to pick the cigarettes up off the table and Nairn's hand shot out, grabbed his arm. He pulled him close, face leaning into his.
'You start paying attention to what I'm telling you, McCoy, or you're going to make me awful fucking angry. Right?'
McCoy looked down at Nairn's tattooed fingers wrapped round his arm, knuckles white already. He was a prisoner and McCoy was a polis. There were lines and he'd just crossed them. Game was off.
'Get your fucking hand off me, Nairn,' he said quietly. 'Now. And don't you ever fucking touch me again. Got it?'
Nairn held on for another few seconds, then let McCoy's arm go, pushed it back towards him. McCoy sat back down. 'Either you start talking sense or I'm off. Last chance.' He waited. Nairn stared back at him, watery blue eyes fixed on his. If he was trying to intimidate him, it wasn't working. He'd been stared at by far worse than him. He shrugged and stood up. 'Time over.'
He walked over to the door, shouted on Mullen. He heard his boots coming down the corridor, segs clicking against the lino floor. Voice came from behind him.
'She's called Lorna, don't know her second name. Works in town. One of they posh restaurants. Malmaison or Whitehall's. Don't know who, but someone's gonnae do her tomorrow.'
McCoy turned. 'That it?'
Nairn was staring at the TV again. 'That's enough.'
'Just say I believe you and just say I stop it. You'll tell me what the fuck you're playing at?'
Nairn nodded. 'Now get to fuck. You're stinking up my living room.'
* * *
'What was all that about, then?' asked Mullen when they were back in the main building. Lock-up was starting. McCoy had to raise his voice to be heard over the catcalls and clanging cell doors.
'Fuck knows. Telling me someone's going to get murdered tomorrow.'
'No in here?'
McCoy shook his head. 'The town.'
Mullen looked relieved. 'Thank fuck for that. I'm on tomorrow. How come laughing boy knows about it anyway?'
'Christ knows. Think he's just pulling my string.'
They waited as a prisoner with a black eye and a bleeding lip was walked past them; hands cuffed behind his back, officer either side, still shouting the odds.
'That's the funny thing,' continued McCoy. 'I was there when he got done, but it was Brody's deal, no mine. Don't know why he wanted to speak to me.'
'Brody. Christ, nae cunt would want to speak to him. He fit him up?'
He shook his head. 'Nope, whole thing was straight for once. Nairn was as guilty as they come. Caught with a hold-all with three sawn-off shotguns in it.'
Mullen left him at reception, told him he'd let him know where his leaving do was. McCoy liked Mullen well enough but no way was he spending a night in the pub with a load of moaning-faced prison officers telling war stories.
A girl called Lorna. Maybe he would call the restaurants just in case. Couldn't be that many Lornas working there. Still couldn't think why Nairn had told him, he'd barely looked at him when he was arrested, too busy trying to kick out at Brody, calling him every filthy name in the book. His eyes drifted up to the calendar on the back wall of the turnkey's wee office, topless girl draped over a car trying to look like she was fulfilling her life's desire to hold a big spanner. Didn't realise it was Thursday. Maybe he wouldn't bother with Nairn's shite; maybe he'd go and see Janey instead. He was owed after all. The buzzer went and the lock shifted back with a loud clang. The turnkey opened the door, held on to it as the wind rattled it in its runners. McCoy peered out at the trees surrounding the car park whipping back and forth.
Turnkey grimaced. 'Rather you than me, pal. Rather you than me.'
He made a run for it, got in the unmarked Viva and slammed the door. He started the engine up and the radio came on. 'Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep' suddenly filling the steamed-up car. He swore, turned the dial, Rod Stewart, 'Maggie May'. Much better. He jammed the heater to full and pulled out onto Cumbernauld Road, heading for town. If he was going to see Janey, he needed to go and see Robbie first.
How long have we got?' he asked.
She grinned. 'All night. Stevie cleared it with Iris. She wasnae happy about it.'
He went to take a couple of the Tennent's screw tops off the set of drawers and she wagged a finger at him. 'Still have to pay for drink. You know that.'
He shook his head, took out a fifty pence, left it in the porcelain dish by the bottles.
The shebeen was big, one of those huge Victorian flats you got in Glasgow, every room converted to a bedroom apart from the kitchen. That was Iris's domain. She sat on an old kitchen chair in the doorway, crates of bottles and big Chas the bouncer looming behind her. She'd told him once that the shebeen made twice as much money out the drink as it did out the girls, whatever that said about Glasgow. She didn't mess about, Iris. Only sold whisky and beer. Take it or leave it. Tennent's and Red Hackle.
The real money was made after hours and on a Sunday. By midnight on a Friday or three o'clock on a Sunday afternoon, when the real drinkers started to get the shakes, she could pretty much charge what she wanted for it. He'd passed enough shame-faced women and rheumy-eyed men on the stairs to know how well she did. Drinkers always found the money from somewhere. Even if it meant their weans didn't eat the next day.
Janey'd built a joint with the grass he'd brought, good stuff, according to Robbie, taken off some American band playing at Greene's Playhouse the night before. Half of it deposited into the lock-up at Central and half straight into Robbie's pocket. He'd only charged him a quid. By the expression on Janey's face should have been a lot more than that.
She put the thin joint in his mouth, closed her own over the burning end, lips forming a seal, and blew the smoke deep into his lungs. He held his breath as long as he could then let out a cloud of the sweet-smelling smoke. Didn't take long to kick in. He felt a bit woozy, good. Robbie was right. He took it back off her, had a couple more deep puffs and handed it back.
Excerpted from "Bloody January"
Copyright © 2017 Alan Parks.
Excerpted by permission of Europa Editions.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Was a great detective novel. I want #2.
This Scottish Noir takes the reader back to the 1970's in Glasgow. Detective Harry McCoy and his new partner don't just happen to be on the street when a woman is gunned down. McCoy was tipped off by a prisoner that this particular woman was going to be eliminated. He said no more, not a motive, not who the killer would be. The shooter then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. Most police think this was just a random act of violence, but McCoy doesn't believe it for a moment. Called upon to lead the investigation, McCoy runs up against a secret society. When he learns who's behind this society, his boss goes bananas. The Dunlops are the wealthiest family in Glasgow ...and McCoy is ordered under no circumstances to question any of them. But McCoy has other plans ..... and those plans just might cost him his job ...or his life. The story premise is a good one if you like gritty, down to earth cops. These cops may or may not be corrupt. The language comes from the gutter. Most of McCoy's acquaintances live in the steam underbelly and back alleys of Glasgow. The Dunlops are a self-indulgent, unrestrained family who thinks they can buy the law. Many thanks to the author / World Noir / Edelweiss for the advanced digital copy of this compelling crime fiction. Opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own.
Detective Harry McCoy should have listened to his snitch. Now he’s sitting beside the body of a teenager who just killed himself after shooting a waitress in the middle of a busy Glasgow street. Harry doesn’t now it yet but things are about to get much worse. So much so that years from now they’ll still refer to it as Bloody January. This is a dark police procedural that takes us back to 1973. Glasgow is a gritty, violent place with territorial crime bosses, bent cops & an established class system. There are 2 sets of rules…one for those with influence & another for those deemed disposable. Harry falls somewhere in the middle. He’s an old school cop, struggling to adapt to changes within the department & society. While he works hard to put away the guilty, he has a soft spot for those who are down on their luck. He has his own set of rules when it comes to keeping the peace that includes a close relationship with hard man Stevie Cooper. Most of his colleagues figure Harry is in it for the perks but we come to learn it’s much more complex than that. Their history gradually unfolds as the main plot plays out & it gives us heartbreaking insight into Harry’s character. The bodies continue to pile up over the course of a few weeks & everything seems to point toward the wealthiest family in Glasgow. Lord Dunlop is an arrogant, privileged man well known to Harry. His position comes with influence that reaches the highest levels of government & law enforcement. So it’s no surprise when Harry is duly warned: stay away from his Lordship & find another suspect. Ah, but what fun would that be? Besides, Harry has been saddled with a shiny new partner named Wattie & someone has to teach him the ropes. And as Harry drags him down dark allies full of prostitutes, criminals & the homeless, Wattie’s eyes are well & truly opened. I’m astonished this is a debut novel. It’s well paced with a narrative that perfectly evokes the setting. Scenes are full of the clothing, hairstyles & music of the day & that mixed with dialogue full of local vernacular leaves you in no doubt of the time or place. But just a heads up, there is plenty of violence & sexual abuse. It informs the plot lines & fits the story but some may find certain scenes upsetting. This is a well written, atmospheric addition to the genre of tartan noir & if Harry should pop up in a book #2, I’ll be more than happy to go along for the ride.