Thursday, 7 April 2016

The Special Dead : Witchcraft and Forensics - a deadly combination

A couple of years ago, I was having dinner with the Producer (Eddie Dick of Makar Productions) and the prospective Director (Jim Gillespie of I Know what you did Last Summer) of a filmscript of mine called Dead Close. We had been researching underground locations in Edinburgh which feature in the paranormal detective story inspired by my long short story of the same name.

Jim was reminiscing about his early days as a young filmmaker, and how after making his first short film, he and his fellow filmmaker went out on the town to celebrate, where they met two girls who professed to be witches, which they found pretty exciting.

I immediately thought, 'beware what you wish for' and in that moment the idea for The Special Dead was born. In my novel, two young men go out on the pull in Glasgow, keeping this a secret from their girlfriends. Mark hooks up with the enticing Leila. Waking up after a strange sexual magick encounter, he discovers her dead body in a room of swinging Barbie dolls. Unsure what part he played if any in this, he runs and doesn’t report the body.

I had endless fun researching the world of Wicca and was impressed by many facets of this ancient set of beliefs (especially the equality of men and women in that religion).  University of Glasgow and its world-renowned collection of books and manuscripts on witchcraft and the paranormal (the Feguson Collection) play a role in the story. I became aware of these through a lecture by my former Professor of Astronomy there, Archie Roy.

Professor Roy became a leading authority on the paranormal in Scotland, and cited his discovery of the Ferguson Collection while he was a young lecturer at University of Glasgow as a reason he became interested in ‘the things we cannot as yet explain’.

On the cover of my book are nine words: ‘If you are reading this, then I am dead’. The number nine is significant in Wicca as it is in many religions. It refers also to Leila’s personal spell book, which no one has access to until after her death.

Combining Rhona MacLeod’s knowledge of forensics (which in some parts of the world would still be regarded as witchcraft) with the practice of Wicca was both fascinating and revealing. Perhaps the only thing we truly know, is that we don’t know. Or, at least, not yet.

I’m delighted to say that after many rewrites, and reimaginings,  Dead Close (the film), retitled as  Sometime Did Me Seek with Eddie Dick as Producer and Graeme Maley as Director and should be shot sometime later this year.


The Special Dead
(Rhona MacLeod series Book 10) was a longlisted book for Scottish Crime book of the year 2016 and is on sale in bookshops and is available in hardback, paperback, and on Kindle from Amazon.