We never seem to get enough time to read books these days but occasionally we turn off the computer and relax with a book. Having enjoyed “Saints & Sinners” earlier in the year we couldn’t wait to get our hands on the “The Hunted” by Glasgow author Paul Cuddihy and it didn’t disappoint with another great story of love, God and murder in the streets of Glasgow. Paul has been kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer some of our questions.
Your second book ‘The Hunted’ has just been released and like your first book ‘Saints and Sinners’ it’s predominantly set in Glasgow. Did you spend a lot of time researching the locations and the events that form the backdrop to your books?
It is important when writing historical fiction to make sure that what you write has an authentic, historical feel to it. So I did do a lot of research before I started writing and also while I was working on the books. Saints and Sinners is set in 1891, mainly within the Irish immigrant community in the East End of Glasgow, and I had the advantage of already knowing quite a bit of what was happening in the city at that time through my work at Celtic. The Hunted is set in 1919, and I read a lot about what was going on in the city at that time. It is a balance, however, between including historical detail and making sure that you still tell your story. I recently read a crime novel set in Glasgow in the late 15th century. I was looking forward to reading it but the author was so keen to prove that she had done her research that every second line had a detail on what the characters wore or ate, or where they were in the city. It slowed the story down and made it quite tedious to read. I feel that if readers knows my book is set in 1891, then unless one of the characters runs out of a pub and jumps into a BMW, they will believe the setting and the story, and you can introduce the historical details over the course of the novel.
The Hunted has some characters and threads continued over from ‘Saints and Sinners’. Do you see this as an ongoing saga or will you just wait until a publisher gives a nod for another book?
I’m hoping that there will be a third book to make it a trilogy, and that’s what I’m working on just now. The third book might be set further afield than Glasgow. My wife keeps thinking of all these exotic locations so that we can go and visit for ‘research’ purposes, so don’t be surprised if the next book is set in the Caribbean!
You have recently been promoting your latest book in shops and libraries around the country, an experience very much removed from the writing of book. How easy have you found this and has their been any interesting tales from your events?
It’s been great. Most of the events have been in libraries although I did go up to the Waterstone’s in Perth – unfortunately, no-one else did, although it didn’t stop me playing a song to the two shop assistants, which was funny for me but embarrassing for them! I also did a talk to a creative writing group at the Glasgow Mail Centre in Springburn which was great – a good bunch of people. I really enjoy doing the events – it’s just me talking about my books and singing a couple of songs. What’s not to enjoy? I’ve had a guy who was once described as ‘Scotland’s most dangerous man’ back in the 1970s come to one of the events – he’s now a fellow writer – while my absolute favourite ‘gig’ was down in Sunderland at a convent. The nuns were just the nicest and friendliest people you could meet and I had a wonderful day. I ended up just sitting playing a few Scottish and Irish songs to them. It was brilliant!
On your promotional tours you have been playing a few songs mentioned in the book. What came first the books or the songs?
The books came first. I wrote the first song, The Ballad of Dan Foley, to put into The Hunted as a way of linking some of the things which happened in Saints and Sinners – Dan Foley is a character in the first book. Originally, I just wrote the lyrics, but then later added the music. And then I wrote Kate’s Song – Kate’s another character in Saints and Sinners. It’s a ballad and I’d really like a female singer to sing it one day. And then, for The Hunted coming out, I decided to try and pioneer a new initiative in literature – a theme song for a novel. So I’ve now got a song called The Hunted as well as a novel. I keep telling myself that, when Hollywood comes calling, I’ve got a ready-made soundtrack!
With the move to digital music almost ubiquitous now, what are you feelings on the increasing popularity of book reading devices like the Kindle, Kobo and iPad?
I think writers and publishers have to embrace e-readers. I’m old-fashioned in that I prefer a hard copy book, and I don’t think that will ever change. I have thousands of books – far too many, if you ask my wife – and I love the feel of a book in my hand. E-reading devices can’t replicate that. But everyone I’ve spoken to who has embraced this new technology falls in love with it, so I’m guessing that I will too! My biggest fear is that when I do, my wife will try and get rid of my book collection! My only other fear is that ebooks will herald the demise of the traditional bookshop, and browsing in a book shop is one of my favourite pastimes. But I do think that anything which encourages people to read is a good thing.
In one of your blogs you talked about your son not reading books, and with Darren Mackie’s recent internet sensation what would you like to see happen that would encourage children to read books. Do you think this is an issue for the Government, Schools or Parents?
It’s a difficult question. I keep thinking that, if my son doesn’t read my book, then he’s not going to read any books! To be fair to him, he reads newspapers and football magazines, so I’m happy with that. For parents, it is important to read to your children and encourage them to appreciate and love books. That’s what my parents did for me, and that’s what we’ve done with our kids. To an extent, I think that some children are just more interested in books than others; my son doesn’t read books, while one of my daughters reads all the time. My oldest daughter is somewhere in between, reading occasionally – and she has read my books!
It’s just as important for schools to promote books. I visited Sacred Heart Primary in Bridgeton last year during their annual Literacy Week. The school invited adults in to speak to different classes about their favourite book from childhood – I chose Master of Morgana by Alan Campbell McLean, a brilliant adventure book set on Skye which I’d read in primary school. The Sacred Heart scheme aimed to show pupils that reading is a positive thing, and the school should be congratulated for it. Obviously, the Scottish Government should be driving such literacy initiatives, and I do think there are certain Scottish books which should be taught in Scottish schools. However, I’m a bit wary of politicians being too involved in education because you’re never sure of their motives.
We’ve recently nailed our colours to the mast and put Lanark forward as our favourite book based in Glasgow. Apart from your own what’s your favourite book based in Glasgow?
Lanark is a great choice – it’s a work of genius – and I also think Alasdair Gray’s novel, Poor Things, is brilliant. But I’m going to choose Buddha Da by Anne Donovan as my favourite book based in Glasgow. Anne Donovan is a wonderful writer and it’s a wonderful book. The book is told in three distinct voices: those of Jimmy, his wife Liz and their 12-year-old daughter Anne-Marie, and the story examines the impact Jimmy’s conversion to Buddhism has on his family, in particular his relationship with his daughter, and his marriage. It’s a beautifully written book, and is a genuinely great Glasgow novel. I once wrote a piece about it for The List’s 100 Best Scottish Novels, and described the book having a lyrical beauty to it which reminded me of my favourite songs. Somewhat pretentiously, I wrote, ‘…and if Buddha Da was a record it would be the Smiths’ self-titled debut album. I can’t say better than that.’
Do you have a favourite Book Shop in Glasgow?
There aren’t too many left in Glasgow now. I used to like the Waterstone’s in Union Street. I spent a lot of lunch hours, and too much money, in there!
Do you have a favourite building / place?
I really like St Mary of the Assumption Church in the Calton. It’s a beautiful old church – one of the oldest in Glasgow – and there’s a real sense of history to it. It also features in my first novel, Saints and Sinners. And it’s a traditional church with a high altar, railings, and separate side altars. To me, it’s how a church should be. When you visit Rome, every church you go into is stunning, and that’s how I feel about St Mary’s. It’s a place I always enjoy going to – it’s a very spiritual and peaceful place.
And finally what would your perfect Glasgow day be?
A good old-fashioned freshly-cooked fry-up. I’ve found a wee place called The Roll Shop in Springfield Road, which is brilliant. Then I’d go and watch my son play football. I remember talking to Andy Walker, the former Celtic striker, and we both agreed that it’s one of life’s great pleasures to watch your son play football. And my son is a lot better at football than me, so I can just sit back – yes, I do take a seat with me to the games! – and enjoy it. Then, after having watched his team win, it’s off to Byres Road for a meal at Tony Macaroni’s – just me and my wife. The kids are old enough to fend for themselves!
We would like to thank Paul again for taking the time to reply to our questions and we would recommend that you try and take some time out and pick up Paul’s books, we certainly enjoyed them.
You can keep in touch Paul at the following places: