Thursday 27 May 2010

Karen Campbell - SHADOWPLAY Launch

Bizarrely, Amazon have sent me an e-mail saying that I might like to get a book called OLD DOGS. On which note I was well chuffed to go into Waterstones last night for Karen Campbell's event, and discover that OLD DOGS is on their Favourite Books shelf. Woohoo! Of course, it might just mean that they have to try anything they can to shift them because no-one's buying...

So, talking of Karen Campbell, her event was excellent and really well attended. She was there to launch the third book in the Anna Cameron series, SHADOWPLAY. Since her Mum was there she said that she would be editing herself as she read. Why did I find myself nodding my head in heartfelt agreement?

Karen said that one of the main themes of SHADOWPLAY is women in power. She has left 2-3 year gaps between each of the books and in this one, Anna has just been promoted to chief Inspector. Karen wanted to look at what it felt like to be a boss rather than be one of the gang. As a police officer, Anna is already set apart from the rest of society, now she's also set apart from her colleagues. She wanted to look at what sort of boss Anna would be - especially as she is already not a very touchy-feely person, someone who wants to be in control and not show any weakness.

She gives Anna a role model who no-one would want - the boss from hell, who just happens to be a woman - Karen did stress that not all women in charge in Strathclyde police force are bullies, but this character has her roots in reality and is an amalgam of several people Karen worked for. This character's catchphrase is "You're on ma bus, or you're under ma wheels."

The plot involves gangs, old ladies going missing, the death of a young man, and Anna's relationship with her mother.

Karen read out a couple of passages. One, in particular, was extremely powerful and evocative writing.

The book was originally called FADE TO GREY. SHADOWPLAY was Karen's second choice (after the brilliant Joy Division song about people using other people for their own nefarious purposes).

There were numerous questions from the audience. One related to the fact that in THE TWILIGHT TIME Anna does something that is morally ambiguous. Karen said that she thought when it came out that more people would comment that at the end Anna takes some things into her own hands to some extent. She said that she is trying to write about what kind of police the public want and that the temptation is to think that you know best, so what would the character do in those circumstances?

She was asked why she thought crime novels are so popular. She said that part of it is that people like to be taken into worlds they are not familiar with, and that it's a safe way to get a scare. She also commented that she would let a bad guy get away with it as that's what happens in real life.

Karen has just finished a fourth book about Anna, and that's probably the last one. She has lots of other stories to tell and will always write novels with some sort of social element in.

It was an excellent event. I bought a copy of SHADOWPLAY and am very much looking forward to reading it.

And, finally, it looks as though Scottish MSPs are going to vote on whether to ban Buckfast - Scotland's favourite brain-rotting drink. Apparently, it's the fact that it makes you a wide-awake drunk which is the most troubling bit.


  1. Thanks for this post, Donna, a great read. I very much liked Karen Campbell's first two books and look forward to her third (and, it seems, fourth!). Anna is an interesting character and the author does not go for easy answers or plots, or two-dimensional good/bad guys. Very interesting author.

  2. Maxine - I totally agree - her plots are fascinating and thought-provoking, and I think her writing is superb.

  3. Karen is an ace writer. I met her at the Scottish Association of Writers annual do - and she's awfy nice.

    as for the buckfast - they'll just get something else.

  4. This is a great write-up, thanks! I always enjoy hearing authors comment on their own work.

    I got my copy of Old Dogs yesterday and I can't wait to read it!

  5. Michael - She is indeed awfy nice. As for the Buckie, I'm sure you're right. I was at a party last night and heard the hilarious tale of someone's elderly mother who went to a tupperware party and didn't arrive home until 4am and tried to put her daughter's electric blanket on the bed (which had her daughter actually in it at the time) because someone at the party had given her a bottle of MD 20-20 aka MadDog.

  6. Helen - thank you! And I hope you enjoy OLD DOGS :o)