Denzil Meyrick was educated in Argyll, then after studying politics, joined Strathclyde Police, serving in Glasgow. After being injured and developing back problems, he entered the business world, and has operated in many diverse roles, including director of a large engineering company and distillery manager, as well as owning a number of his own companies, such as a public bar and sales and marketing company. D. A. Meyrick has also worked as a freelance journalist in both print and on radio. His first novel, Whisky from Small Glasses, was published by Ringwood in 2012.
1. The story of Well of the Winds has its roots in historical fact. Was this always the plan or did you discover the history as you were writing?
I think that you always discover things as you write. However, I wanted Well of the Winds to have a sound basis in events of WWII; but the more I dug, the more I uncovered real events that, in some cases, took place not that far from Kintyre. I’m quite sure the reader will be astonished by some of the historical peculiarities I’ve unearthed and managed to weave into a fictitious story. These facts have been in the public domain for years, so I can take no credit for their discovery, rather, just realising they were out there. Without over-egging the pudding, I think we potentially have quite the revelation here. It certainly surprised me.
2. This is now the fifth book in the series. Having spent so much time with the characters, do they now feel like part of the family?
Oh, yes. I’m quite active on social media as you know, and I’m regularly asked about the wellbeing of characters from the books, as though they were my own friends or family. I suppose I spend a lot of time with them one way and another – so, yes, they do seem somehow real. For instance, I definitely swear more when I’m busy writing a Brian Scott passage! A while ago, I was with my wife Fiona in the hotel on Gigha (the real Gairsay in Well of the Winds). An old friend of mine, John Martin was holding court at the bar, much as he’s been doing for the last forty years, or so. He pushed his cap back on his head, fished in his pocket and removed his pipe, which he went on to puff at, unlit, strictly in compliance with smoking regulations. ‘That’s Hamish!’ said Fiona instantly. Maybe a wee bit of him methinks.
3. How important is the sense of place to your stories?
For me, Kintyre is like the fifth Beatle. Ultimately, setting plays a huge part in any fiction. I’m lucky to have the broad, beautiful canvass of Kinloch and its real-life environs on which to paint a picture. Though the events in my books would never happen in the real Campbeltown, in its fictitious counterpart Kinloch I’ve remained pretty faithful to the actual topography of the area. A sense of changing mood is also very important, and it is easy to imagine my characters at work under the lowering skies in Whisky from Small Glasses, or at the mercy of a blizzard in The Rat Stone Serenade. Likewise in Well of the Winds, it was relatively simple to picture Campbeltown during the war. Since childhood, I’ve been regaled by stories about that momentous time, by both my late mother and grandmother. The area made a huge contribution to the war effort, Campbeltown Loch being perfectly positioned for access to the Atlantic, as well as a naturally safe haven. This made joining the dots in fictitious Kinloch of the time very easy.
4. The clash between the rural and the urban is a common thread in the DCI Daley series. Is this something you feel is still resonant in our culture today?
There is little doubt that the gap between the urban and rural way of life has widened over the last fifty years, or so. Cities are now huge, often bewildering places, conforming to a whole new set of rules. I often wonder how a person from as recently as a century ago would react if we could we could simply transport them to the heart of London, New York, Mexico City or Tokyo today. Likewise in the books, characters from Kinloch find themselves out of sorts in Glasgow. My Kinloch has many more problems than the real Campbeltown, but this enables me to bring a little bit of the city to the country. Though it might not be as obvious, crime bedevils the countryside as it does towns and cities. Theft from farms and countryside industry in general is sadly on the rise. However, in Well of the Winds, set as it is on a small island off the coast, Daley and Scott are even further from their urban comfort zone than in Kinloch, with something very much out of the ordinary to cope with. The juxtaposition of urban and non-urban landscapes adds another dimension to the books, in my opinion. I do try not to pigeonhole stories based upon where they happen, though. Surprise at the unexpected is the key.
5. What is it about the crime genre that you find appealing as a writer?
More and more, good crime fiction is holding a mirror up to society – perhaps tackling the more visceral issues that literary fiction shies away from. How much would the man in the street really know about societal problems in Sweden were it not for the great crime fiction from the likes of Henning Mankell, et al? I’m sure, in the way we use the works of Dickens to give us an idea of how people lived in the nineteenth century, people from the twenty-second century will do likewise through the pages of contemporary crime fiction. All of life is there.
6. What keeps you motivated as a writer?
I think it’s wonderful when those who have read my work take the time to contact me and tell me how much they enjoyed it. This certainly spurs me on to keep sitting down at the laptop. Of course, it’s a fundamental question; why do humans want to tell stories from the past, present or future? I have a few books in my head just now that the rest of me is trying to catch up with and actually write. It’s also great to be signed by Polygon, the help, encouragement and advice I’ve received since becoming part of the Birlinn family, is motivation enough to keep going. The thought that my work can be read as widely as possible is a thrill. The story of Well of the Winds has its roots in historical fact. Scotland had an intriguing period in the 1940s, filled with mysterious events and bizarre stories.