Wasp Latitudes by Allan Watson #BlogTour #GuestPost

I am delighted to share a fab guest post by Allan Watson with you today on Wasp Latitudes Blog Tour

The Book 

Against a background of brutal attacks on people and property by a rag-tag group of homeless men whom the media quickly dub Berserkers, DI Will Harlan is juggling with a head-in-a-bucket patricide, a lethal wife-swapping session, a sex-tape scandal involving the Royal Scottish National Orchestra – and perhaps most discomfiting of all – a spate of late night phone calls from his favourite serial killer, Howie Danks.

As the wife-swapping investigation spirals into a glut of cold-blooded slayings carried out by a mysterious pair of killers known as the Wasp Queen and the Priest, Harlan has to look into the past where a cold case may contain uncomfortable answers. But it’s in the present where the real danger lies as he follows a twisted path of mind control and madness leading to a cruel land some call the Wasp Latitudes.  

Hats Off to Halloween

As I’m writing this, Halloween is fast approaching. The time of year when you can’t not think of reading a ghost story or two. It may well be that Halloween is to blame for my life-long obsession with all things dark and creepy. It was where I cut my teeth as a fledgling story-teller, usually with a bunch of pre-adolescent friends in a candle-lit stair-well (we had regular power cuts back then), taking turns to frighten each other with tales of ghosts, witches, haunted houses, creaking coffins, screaming skeletons, and moonlit graveyards full of unquiet spirits. 

These fright-night sessions became a regular thing, especially through the long dark winter evenings. Maybe I enjoyed them so much because I was much better than anyone else at doling out bad dreams and nervous dispositions. I had an instinctive grasp of what caused a shiver of deep unease as opposed to what was simply laughable. Being honest, I wasn’t always particularly original. I’d happily filch ideas from the Armada Books of Ghost Stories and shape-shift them into a new form. As an eleven-year-old, plagiarism held no shame for me. Is it too late to say sorry, Mary Danby?

Later, as we got older the stories became more visceral and slicked with gore. That’s when I discovered that while gross-out horror stories are effective at creating shock and pleasurable disgust, they aren’t actually truly scary. If you want to evoke dread and the sort of residual fear that keeps people awake at night you definitely need a good old-fashioned evil spirit or two to chill the blood to the correct temperature (12 degrees centigrade if you’re really interested).

The shift towards the horror spectrum, while cementing my reputation among my peer group as a creative literary powerhouse (a relative term – if you ever met some of my childhood friends you’d understand), it did sound the death knell for our regular story-telling sessions. The terror had gone. Worse, it encouraged some of my friends to once more have a go at challenging my position as story-teller supreme. Let’s face it, any idiot can make up some old rubbish about a blood-soaked dead woman with no arms stumbling about with hatchet embedded in her head. I had to take drastic measures to bring ghosts back into the mix by buying a Ouija board. Now that shit really did scare them (and me) half to death. Believe me, impressionable children and Ouija boards are a bad combination. I still have the scars to prove it.

One of my most cherished ghost story writers back then was Sorche Nic Leodhas who specialised in traditional creepy Scottish graveyard tales. The Battle of the Bogles is still one of my favourite ever ghost stories. In my young mind, Sorch Nic Leodhas was a wizened old man with a long grey beard who lived on a remote island in the North Sea and spent all day churning out all these amazing ghost stories. I’ve still got some of his collected works in books with titles such as ‘Heather and Broom’, ‘Thistle and Thyme’ and ‘Claymore and Kilt’. It wasn’t until I was in my forties and researching Leodhas for a book I was writing that I discovered he was actually a middle-aged American woman called LeClaire Gowans Alger who had never actually visited Scotland. Ever felt you’ve been had?

So what are the ingredients for a proper spine-tingling hair-raising ghost story? Goes without saying that dead people are always a good starting point. (Note:- zombies don’t qualify as ghosts as they can’t walk through walls and generally smell awful) Ghost stories are at their most effective when you don’t even see the ghost. Loud unexplained noises, flickering lights, weird shadows on the wall, quiet laughter in empty rooms, cobwebs trailing over your face in the dark – No, hang on, that last one’s the Ghost Train I’m thinking of. But you get the idea. It’s the layering of slowly accumulated fear and the realisation that you’re basically helpless if the guy in the big white sheet does make an appearance.

For some reason ghost stories work even better with a heavy Gothic slant. Think of the way M.R. James, H.H. Munro (Saki), and even Charles Dickens manipulated the days of gaslight and terrible public transport to twang your over-strung nerve endings. Some novels placed in more contemporary settings such as ‘Hell House’ by Richard Matheson, ‘The Elementals’ by Michael McDowell and Adam Nevill’s ‘Apartment 16’ all did a real heavy number on me when it came to turning off the light and attempting to go to sleep.

Anyway, never mind that by the time you read this piece Halloween will be dead and buried for another year. Go treat yourself to a suitable scary book and read it when you have the house to yourself, preferably after midnight with a low fire burning in the grate and large glass of your favourite tipple on the arm of your chair. And if your cat starts tracking something on the other side of the room, don’t worry, it’s probably just a bit of stray ectoplasm.

Author Bio:

Allan Watson is a writer whose work leans towards the dark end of the fiction spectrum. He is the author of seven novels – Dreaming in the Snakepark, Carapace, The Garden of Remembrance, 1-2-3-4, Monochrome, Heart Swarm and Wasp Latitudes.
In between the books, Allan wrote extensively for BBC Radio Scotland, churning out hundreds of comedy sketches, in addition to being a regular contributor for the world famous ‘Herald Diary’.
He occasionally masquerades as a composer/musician, collaborating with crime writer Phil Rickman in a band called Lol Robinson with Hazey Jane II whose albums have sold on four different continents (Antarctica was a hard one to crack)
Allan lives and works in Glasgow, Scotland, but has never worn the kilt or eaten a deep fried Mars Bar. He also once spent three days as a stand-in guitarist for the Bay City Rollers, but he rarely talks much about that…


Twitter – @allanwatson12

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