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 Lathams Cutlass Poster


Written by Ian McKinney

When writing, I always try to find inspiration in real places and real things. If you can stand where your character stands or hold an object they would have held, it often provides a way into the scene or a way of unlocking the character.

You would imagine that it would be easier to simply make up all the details of their surroundings in order to fit in with your plot, but I’ve found that not to be the case, and I think that readers see through any contrivance or convenient plot devices. Consequently when writing a scene I use a real place and let the character work out how to deal with any given situation. This gives the scene added realism, as the reader is also involved in the character’s problem solving.

For example, in Chapter 1 of Scouse Gothic (Book 1), Melville is living in an apartment in central Liverpool and discovers a lapse in judgement has left him with an inconvenient corpse to dispose of. At the time I wrote the book, I was staying in the apartment that I used as the template for Melville’s, and like the apartment in the book, it had a 24 hour Concierge and CCTV coverage of the block. It took me quite some time to work out how he could remove the body safely and without detection. I won’t try to explain how he achieved that here, as it’s too involved, and I wouldn’t want to spoil your enjoyment of the book.

Then in Chapter 3, Lathom, the contract killer, comes home and discovers killers waiting to ambush him. For this scene I used a cottage I know well on the Shropshire/Welsh border. Lathom is many things: a retired Policeman and ex-MI5 operative; a collector and antiques dealer; an alcoholic, but most importantly a problem solver. I gave him a few rudimentary aids: Gaffer tape; a yellow reflective jacket and a tyre lever and let him work out what to do next. I also gave him two weapons against four armed thugs: the element of surprise, and a cutlass.

The cutlass in question is actually owned by me, and was given to me when I was a teenager by a relative who had found it doing a house clearance. When I held the cutlass, I could imagine Lathom waiting in the snow, trying to decide what to do next and knowing that his decision could be the matter of his life or death. The cutlass is a real weapon, not a shiny replica, it is scared by the passage of time and has the marks of battle on its rusty blade. As I weighed it in my hand I, like Lathom, wondered about its bloody past, and how many other men had held it and relied on it to save their lives in the heat of battle. In fact, the cutlass not only saves his life, but plays an important part in the other two books in the Scouse Gothic trilogy and is even present at the final showdown in the last chapter of the final book.

While writing the books, I photographed all the locations as an ‘aide-memoir’ and marked them on maps which I included in each book. Once I’d published the trilogy, I also posted photo albums related to the books on Facebook (under SCOUSE GOTHIC BOOKS). If you do read the books, then a quick browse of these images will help you visualise the world my characters inhabit. I also hope that if you read the story you’ll also enjoy the fact that the problems my characters deal with, are as true to life as I was able make them. Although I must admit to a little artistic licence, as I didn’t know any armed thugs and I had no intention of obtaining a corpse. I hope you’ll forgive me that, and enjoy them as fiction – but fiction based firmly on fact.

Horror DNA would like to thank Ian for stopping by and sharing this with us! Please be sure to pick up a copy of Scouse Gothic by clicking one of the links below.

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