Thursday, November 28, 2013

My Guest: Seumas Gallacher

He's back! Yes, That Man is back! (cue massed bagpipes soundtrack). This time talking about violence in novels. Ladies and Gentlemen...

Seumas Gallacher

Bluddy Savage

…I wonder how often and how many of yeez have the same thoughts that bang around in my little grey cells from time to time… today’s epiphany jumped in a wee while ago… ‘…God save us from those that want to save us from ourselves…’ …it starts when ye’re still an infant, still in yer short trousers… the ‘savers’ raise the alarm about how much violence gets peddled in the movie theatre cartoons… ‘…it’ll warp their minds… create
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monsters out of them… psychologically damage them forever…’
…well, I don’t know about how yeez all handled that stuff, but watching the likes of Tom and Jerry and the Road Racer invent thirty thousand different ways of bodily annihilation never ever put me off my mince… fast forward to the modern day and the birth of the eBook phenomenon… everybody and his cat wants to write a novel… the favourite literary poison of the day is crime thrillers… which generally means violence and killing on a scale seldom seen outside of World Wars… with the flick of a quill or a tap on a laptop keyboard, victims pile up for the bin men to collect… my ol’ Mama said yeez can never get enough of a good thing… but from a scribbler’s perspective, just how much violence is a ‘good thing’?… the writing clich├ęs abound on how to make characters become ex-persons… all the way from size 10 concrete footwear to ‘pluggin’ ‘em’ with three kilos of best cordite-smellin’ lead… ‘fess up time… I’m a crime thriller author… and, yes, there’s more than a tad of violence in my masterpieces…(I’m from docklands Govan in Glasgow, what do yeez expect?)… however, there’s a huge difference in the novelist’s use or abuse of violence… (… ‘gentle’ violence? …surely not?)… readers are not dumb… okay, they’re well-adjusted to the concept of ‘suspending disbelief’ in the interests of story
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plot flows… but we’re not talking horror genre here… so creating gallons and gallons of gore doesn’t make for good crime stories… neither does a mild tap on the back of the skull to induce corpses… yeez have to keep it real and credible… most authors will tell yeez that they’d like to have a ‘grab-‘em-by–the–throat-and-pull-‘em-in’ beginning… violence is fair game for that… startle ‘em a wee bit… but there’s the risk of ‘over-selling’ it… once yer character’s dead, leave him dead… don’t overkill him… if ye’re trying to provide descriptive evidence that a bad dude or dude-ess is really bad, he or she doesn’t have to strangle somebody to show that… a well-placed sneer fits the bill just as well… once a reader has made an early judgment on the evil protagonist, it sticks, don’t worry about that… instead, use the impending threat of violence as the tension-builder… oh, and by the way, if the baddies get taken out on the ‘live by the sword, die by the sword’ ethos, then it’s perfectly acceptable to visit every kind of savagery on them… the only baddies I ever consistently rooted for back in the old days was whatever criminal characters Jimmy Cagney or Edward G. Robinson portrayed… but by and large, yer readers want the villains to ‘get theirs’… some writers create havoc in the body count and violence while others get by with perhaps a single mortality… it depends on the story context… just don’t make any of it gratuitously violent… there has to be a purpose, even if it’s merely retribution by
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killing the bad guy, or sculpting sympathy for the killing of an innocent character… it has to resonate with the reader… evoke some reaction… yeez don’t want the reader to actually feel pain, but it’s good writing to have them feel the emotional pain of the those close to a ‘goodie’ ye’ve just topped… and nothing beats the reader’s inner cheer when the ‘baddie’ finally gets huge dollops of his own violent medicine… yeez want them saying, ‘…Yes! Yes! Got the s-o-b…’ …by the way, counterbalancing the violence with some ‘touchy-feely’ emotional passages is not only acceptable, but desirable… in the absence of outright humour, a lighter piece gives the reader a breathing space… lets them catch their second wind… believe me, they’ll be grateful and thank yeez for it… so, with all that in mind, go kill ‘em!…

Brief Synopsis of Seumas' latest thriller Savage Payback - the third of the Jack Calder novels:

A series of coordinated lethal bomb attacks on a dozen jewelry stores in London’s West End drag former SAS officer, Jack Calder and his specialist security firm, International Security Partners, into a deadly mesh of murder and international drug running.

A black ops explosives expert, an ex-colleague turned renegade mercenary with a twisted lust for revenge, emerges from the past to join forces with a powerful and dangerous drug baron from Eastern Europe. A major cocaine trafficker from South America compounds the threats as competitive turf issues straddle international territories.

Attacks close to home heighten the urgency for Calder and his team to find and deal with each of the three sinister adversaries in a final savage payback.


Seumas Gallacher was born in the cradle of the Govan shipyards in Glasgow in the so-called "bad old days" which were in reality the greatest of days, where everybody was a real character of note.

An early career as a trainee Scottish banker led to a spell in London, where his pretence to be a missionary converting the English locals fell on deaf ears. Escape to the Far East in 1980 opened up access to cultures and societies on a global scale, eventually bringing the realisation that the world is quite simply one large extended village.

The lifelong desire to write resulted in "The Violin Man's Legacy", the first in the Jack Calder series of crime thrillers. Seumas says that finishing that novel was one of the best feelings he has ever experienced in a life full of rich emotions.

When he's not writing the next installment in the Jack Calder series, Seumas can be found here:


Thank you, Seumas, for an interesting insight into the use of violence as a writer's tool in fiction.

Eric @

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