THERE’S no denying it – Neil Broadfoot likes to make an entrance. At least, he does when it comes to his books.
After massive critical acclaim for his debut, Falling Fast, he knew he had to pack a punch with his second novel in order to live up to his newfound reputation as one of Scotland’s brightest new crime writing talents.
And what better way to do that than by opening the book with a workplace assassination?
The Storm follows the lives and careers of the characters Neil brought to life in Falling Fast, which was shortlisted for the Deanston Crime Book of the Year last year.
The main characters, newshound Doug McGregor and DS Susie Drummond, are thrown into a murky world of corruption, cover-ups and decades-old secrets – all the ingredients of a perfect whodunnit.
“Doug has been promoted on to the news desk,” explains Neil, who as a former journalist at both the Evening News and Scotsman, knows a thing or two about how a newsroom operates.
“He is in conference with his editor, who is brutally assassinated in front of him. There are a few other murders and crimes that take place in and around town, but as a key witness, he can’t investigate what happened.
“An old friend of his who lives on the Isle of Skye invites him to come up and get some perspective on things, but as he leaves, he realises that going to the Isle of Skye isn’t the best thing to be doing.”
Neil admits that even when penning his first novel – obviously completely unaware of the success it would come to enjoy – he was already thinking about the follow-up.
“I always envisaged Doug as a recurring character,” he explains. “I realised there was enough petrol in the tank and started getting ideas for further books.
“I was about half way or three quarters of the way through writing Falling Fast when I came up with the idea for The Storm.”
The idea soon became a reality, and Neil completed his follow-up before his debut was even on the shelves.
But then came a problem he hadn’t anticipated – the success of Falling Fast meant he had to make sure his second novel was befitting of the reputation he had built.
“Because Falling Fast was so well received, I went back and looked at The Storm and thought it wasn’t good enough for a Deanston finalist,” says Neil, a father-of-two. “How do you repeat the success? I went back and tried to be hugely clever and messed it up a bit. I was holding the reveals right to the end and not leaving enough bread crumbs as a trail.”
Luckily Neil’s wife Fiona – also a former Scotsman journalist – was on hand to help him get the book back on track.
“It was changed days from when we first met and I was putting the red pen through her work,” laughs Neil.
Remembering back to his days as a journalist, Neil – who now works as a communications officer for the Scottish Government – explains: “I’ve seen first-hand the way the industry is changing in response to the digital age – and it’s not always for the better. Given the massive stories that are being covered at the moment, this provided perfect dramatic backdrop for The Storm, and allowed me to reflect on some of these changes and ask where next for the press while delivering a typically violent and dark mystery that readers will enjoy.”
He adds: “Being a writer is all I’ve ever wanted to do, so this really is a dream come true. To see The Storm on the shelves next to Falling Fast, and being able to take my work to book festivals and meet readers who enjoy the books, is just indescribable.”
Publisher Sara Hunt says: “Falling Fast was such a hit for Neil – getting your debut shortlisted for the Deanston prize is no mean feat – so he was really under pressure to make his second novel live up to expectations. Well, The Storm certainly does that.
“We didn’t think it was possible, but this second book in the series actually surpasses Falling Fast.
“It’s got everything: a blistering pace, a plot that keeps you guessing to the very end, and you get absolutely sucked in to the will-they-won’t-they? relationship between the two main characters, Doug and Susie.
“Readers really responded to Neil’s electric writing style in Falling Fast. With The Storm, we think he’s well on his way to joining the greats of Scottish crime writing.”
• Neil launched The Storm on Thursday at Blackwell’s