An Interview with Gillian Galbraith

Right, readers, pay attention. Rebus has retired from St Leonard’s Police Station, and all the new staff have arrived. There’s DCI Bell, Alistair Watt, and graduate trainee DS Alice Rice. They, like their predecessors, are kept busy on the mean streets of Edinburgh solving the huge crime wave of murders that from time to time break out in the Capital. This time, however, Ian Rankin is not guilty. Alice Rice and her colleagues are the new boys in blue penned by Gillian Galbraith, originally from near Gladsmuir in East Lothian, who comes to novel-writing after a career as an Advocate, specialising in medical negligence cases.

Her first novel BLOOD IN THE WATER was published in March 2007 and introduces us to the rather lonely, hard-working life of Alice Rice, who is new to her job and somewhat cut off from her colleagues by reason of her gender and graduate status. A series of murders in Edinburgh gets the action off to a rattling start. “There is not a dull page from start to finish”, writes Alexander McCall Smith on the book’s cover, and with an endorsement like that Galbraith’s success seems guaranteed.

I spoke to Galbraith just before the launch of her second novel WHERE THE SHADOW FALLS and asked how her writing career had come about. In the late 70’s she started out in the tried and tested way of many successful writers by being a DC Thomson journalist. Patches and Blue Jeans had her as agony aunt and doctor, and in those days she was careful to answer the usually made up questions with replies appropriate to a young teenage readership.

She decided in the early 80’s to study law and was called to the Bar in 1987. She continued writing by being legal correspondent for Scottish Farmer magazine and penning legal reports for The Times. There was certainly a diversity of writing style in her early work.

The birth of her daughter, Daisy, in 1999 changed her priorities. She continued to work full-time until 2002, but was constantly tired, and in fact she was ill with a thyroid complaint. The idea of Alice Rice grew along with her daughter. Galbraith had a good knowledge of police procedure and a good knowledge of Edinburgh. The two came together in BLOOD IN THE WATER. There were only three rejections of the book before Galbraith, on the recommendation of a friend, got herself an agent.

“Publishers just don’t read books, unless they are filtered through an agent,” she observes. “An agent is absolutely vital.”

In fact the agent got her a two book deal, great success for a newcomer.

The new book WHERE THE SHADOW FALLS deals with wind farms, and the developers and protesters who confront each other across an ideological divide with murderous loathing on either side. Galbraith feels her style has matured, become more confident with the new novel. “I feel freer,” she says, “knowing there are people who like my work.”

And is there to be a third book in the series? There certainly is. The subject next time – prostitution.

Where the Shadow FallsWHERE THE SHADOW FALLS is launched at Blackwell Bookshop 53-62 South Bridge, Edinburgh on Thursday 17th April at 6.30.

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You can buy Where the Shadow Falls from Amazon

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