Four years after he first thought it would be a good idea to write a book, Parallel Lines has finally made it into the high street bookshops.
Russell Leadbetter discovered the story behind the story.
Picture the scene.
Somewhere in a room at the top of the Pitt Street HQ of Glasgow’s finest is a policeman who doesn’t want anyone to know what he is up to.
He has propped a ladder against the door so that it can’t be opened.
Reaching down into his sock, he pulls out his mobile phone, keys in a number, and within moments is talking to Mike Tyson -- one of the world’s best-known boxers.
“I know it sounds strange,” Bert Mitchell says, “but it’s all true.”
Despite being a policeman at the time, Bert was covering boxing for the Evening Times. The interview with Tyson was a great assignment.
“It was a brilliant interview,” adds Bert. “At one point I asked him if he had ever seen Braveheart and he said he’d seen it 100 times -- and cried at every viewing.
“He also said he believed he’d end up like Wallace ... betrayed and knifed in the back.”
Eleven years after the clandestine interview -- the outsize phone had to be hidden in his sock because employees at Pitt Street weren’t allowed to make personal calls -- Bert is one of the paper’s best-known sportswriters.
He has also just joined the ranks of crime writers, with Parallel Lines, a 300-page, Glasgow-based thriller with a punch Tyson himself would have been proud of.
The main characters are Detective Sergeant Gus Thoroughgood and crime overlord Declan Meechan.
The one person they have in common is a woman, Celine Lynott.
Thoroughgood and Meechan have a history. Meechan put the detective in hospital many years earlier.
And although Thoroughgood has recovered he has set his sights on Meechan, who will stop at nothing to build up his empire.
Apart from one late-night scene set near Loch Ard, the action takes place in Glasgow.
City references abound, from well-known restaurants to the City Chambers -- and even Partick Thistle.
There are bent coppers, double-crossing gang members and brutal action ... and the book doesn’t tie up all the ends. The way has been left open for a sequel.
Bert says: “The book itself is adapted from experiences and people I came across in my 12 years with Strathclyde Police.
I met so many interesting people, and little bits of them stay with you and you log them subconsciously, and that is something that still sticks with me to this day.
“I started to think as far back as 2000, that wouldn’t it be great if there was a crime thriller set in Glasgow that brought the place and the city alive and was a real page turner?
“It dawned on me I had a reservoir of material to draw on but with my career change it wasn’t the right time. Divine intervention in 2007 gave me that time.”
The ‘divine intervention’ was a three-month spell when Bert was off work with a burst appendix.
He wrote the book while recovering at home, but it would take him nearly four long years of publishers’ rejections before Parallel Lines was finally accepted.
“Glasgow is a great place to base a crime thriller in,” he adds, “and I felt with the emphasis on action there was maybe a gap in the market for this type of thriller.
“I’ve based the book on the recent past to allow me to use things that were allowed when I was in the cops in the early 90s that are no longer permitted, but in essence it’s as close to reality as I could make it without spoiling the story.”
Bert graduated from Glasgow University in the summer of 1989 with an MA (Honours) in Medieval History, and joined the police three weeks later.
His first beat duties were in Blackhill.
“This was the old Blackhill, which had a little police station that the local neds used to torch stolen cars and push them down the hill at,” he said.
“The place was full of characters, like a junkie called Felix who got his nickname because he was a cat burglar who was quick on his feet.”
Bert also remembers hearing about a few local people who had gone blind in the 1950s after pilfering and drinking undistilled spirits from a train that had broken down.
His subsequent police career was spent mainly at Baird Street, where he had a CID attachment, then at Pitt Street and Alexandria police station.
Before then, he had got into journalism -- and that interview with Tyson.
“Getting the book published was a long and sometimes heart-breaking process, but I got lucky in January last year when a New York company, Strategic Publishing Group, got involved.”
Bert adds: “I got a lot of help from my group of ‘expert readers’. Two of them, who are keen to stay anonymous, are still in the police. Another, Kenny, my old neighbour and senior man, is the basis for Thoroughgood’s partner, DC Kenny Hardie.
“And my wife, Arlene, supported me through every major downer I experienced while trying to get it published.”
At least now, when Bert wants to interview Mike Tyson, he doesn’t have to lock himself away and bring out a hidden mobile phone.
Parallel Lines is available on www.amazon.co.uk and from www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/ParallelLines-TheGlasgow Supremacy.html
It is also on sale at Waterstones, WH Smith, Hyndland, Milngavie and all good book shops.