Soldiers returning from war inspired writer who has now sold 200,000 books in six months.
GLASGOW 1946 – a time when people were trying to resume a semblance of normality and shake off the memory of six long years of war.
But as RUSSELL LEADBETTER discovered for author Gordon Ferris writing about the post-war years has taken him to the top of the Kindle charts
THE damage wreaked by German bombers in the blitz of 1941 is still visible. Douglas Brodie, former cop and war hero, is making his mark as a crime reporter on a crusading tabloid newspaper.
Then a group of balaclava-wearing vigilantes begin hammering out their private brand of justice.
They warn: "This is a declaration to the people of Glasgow. The police are feckless and corrupt. We are taking the law into our own hands".
And Brodie knows he has a major story in his hands.
Bitter Water, the latest book by Kilmarnock-born Gordon Ferris, is certain to repeat the success of the first Brodie adventure, The Hanging Shed.
It attracted great reviews and sold more than 200,000 ebooks in the space of six months.
His publishers say he is Kindle UK's biggest-selling author yet, and in some circles he's been described as the new Ian Rankin.
"It seemed to fit the period," Gordon, 63, says of the idea of vigilantes – frustrated former soldiers who go under the name of the Glasgow Marshals.
"I could well imagine a bunch of ex-squaddies, demobbed and roaming around jobless, and feeling pretty hard done by.
"They have fought for King and country but they have no jobs or homes to go back to."
There's a line in the book about the land 'not being fit for heroes' – a line we still hear today.
Glasgow has had no shortage of crime novels, but not many are set in the immediate post-war period.
"There were several attractions to doing this," says Gordon.
"For one thing, I didn't have to get clouded by concerns about things like forensic science or mobile phones or any sort of modern technology.
"I could just boil things to raw personalities and people's personal skills.
"It was also a really interesting period – largely untouched by other writers, I'm thankful to say.
"It was a time of great social upheaval. Britain was bankrupt, a million men were coming back from the war.
SOCIETY was plainly chaotic, and I thought it was a remarkable time to be writing about.
"I wasn't around then. I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s in Kilmarnock, and I guess things didn't change that much from the late 1940s to the mid-50s, but I did struggle to get down to the detail of what life was like.
"The Mitchell was a great help but there were several books about the era, going all the way back to No Mean City.
"Thank God," he adds, "for Google – it cuts through things so swiftly."
No Mean City was a raw, sensationalist 1935 novel, by Alexander McArthur and H. Kingsley Long, about the Gorbals' notorious 'Razor Kings'.
Success as a novelist has scarcely arrived overnight for Gordon. As a young man he worked as a computer programmer in the Ministry of Defence, and later found himself in the employ of a major accountancy firm.
Writing whiled away hours on tedious cross-Atlantic flights.
He said: "When I was at Kilmarnock Academy, the only things I was good at were writing and rugby, and I always wanted to get back to my writing.
"On long flights, there were only so many reports and emails I could be bothered dealing with, and I started putting together some words and eventually decided that this was what I really wanted to do and give up the day job."
Gordon wrote six novels before getting his first books accepted. Truth Dare Kill and The Unquiet Heart featured Danny McRae, a demobbed Special Operations Executive agent-turned-private-investigator.
But it wasn't until the first Brodie book, The Hanging Shed, that he tasted real success. By then, he reckons, he had written nearly a million words before he had "found my voice" as a novelist.
"My publisher had the wizard idea of launching The Hanging Shed first as an ebook, taking advantage of the Christmas Kindle market in 2010.
"The great thing about this electronic marketplace is that readers can have their say, very quickly.
"I was getting piles of good reviews and shooting up the charts, which was lovely."
He still remembers, though an early letter from a literary agent.
He can quote it from heart. 'Most folk can run for a bus but very few make it to the 100 metres finals of the Olympics. You will never be a writer, Mr Ferris.'
"It was either an insult or a complete downer," he says. "Looking back, it was probably a spur."
And of that un-named agent, he says dryly: "I understand he's a broken man these days..."
Sticks and stones. Gordon is above all that now. In any event, there's a new Brodie novel to be completed, and another one beyond that.
l Bitter Water (Corvus Press, £12.99). Meet Gordon on Wednesday at Waterstones Argyle Street (3.30pm) and Sauchiehall Street (6pm). www.gordonferris.com