I came to write about a murder... and fell in love with the city

IN September 1862, a young Glasgow woman stood trial for a horrific murder.

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Novelist Alan Veale will lead his guests on a gruesome 'murder trail, around the city, including a visit to the People's Palace
Novelist Alan Veale will lead his guests on a gruesome 'murder trail, around the city, including a visit to the People's Palace

It was a sensational case which divided Scotland and sent newspaper sales soaring.

The gruesome story fascinated Alan Veale for decades but it was when he retired that the crime changed his life.

Mr Veale has written a psychological thriller called the Murder Tree, which is based in Glasgow.

It links characters from 2010 with the 19th century murder of Jess MacPherson.

On Monday June 16, the Manchester-born former civil servant will be appearing at the Mitchell Library to discuss his debut novel.

And he plans to invite the audience on a murder trail round the city, which features some of the places mentioned in his book.

They include the People's Palace, the High Court, the Broomielaw, the Willow Tea Rooms and 17 Sandyford Place, where Jess MacPherson was brutally murdered.

Her employer James Fleming was at first under suspicion of the crime, but former servant Jessie McLachlan was eventually charged and went to trial.

The case inflamed class prejudices and sales of newspapers which covered the court case increased by a staggering 500%.

Jessie was found guilty but insisted Mr Fleming was the killer.

She was jailed, evenually gaining her freedom in 1877.

Mr Veale was given a book based on the killing by an elderly aunt and admitted he was instantly hooked.

He said: "It got inside my skull and I visited Glasgow to see for myself where it happened.

"It ate away at me for the next 20 years so when I took early retiral, I decided to try writing a novel based on the case and for the next two years that is what I did.

"Because it was a true story, it struck me there would undoubtedly be descendants alive today who may even be ignorant of the involvement of their infamous ancestors.

"That prompted the creative instinct within me to look at the potential to write another version of the story, but from a modern day viewpoint."

Mr Veale came to Glasgow three times to carry out research for his book and quickly fell in love with the city.

He said: "I set a lot of the story around the Mitchell Library, because one of the characters works there and it is where my main character goes to get information.

"At the start I didn't know Glasgow at all and had only been through it on a couple of occasions.

"It was the book which made me think I would like to visit Glasgow to see it for myself.

"I have now visited three or four times and have fallen in love with the city and the people.

"I found everyone we spoke to was so warm and friendly and welcoming.

"Glasgow today is wonderful and every time I do talks in England about my book, The Murder Tree, I end up speaking about Glasgow and telling people they must go there themselves."

Mr Veale said he spoke to Glasgow City Marketing Bureau about the possibility of promoting his novel and took up a suggestion that he create a murder trail to the city locations featured in the book.

He said: "I am going to ask the people who come along to the Mitchell to hear me talk, if they want to walk the trail with me."

The author, who in the past has written only for the stage, says he has had a positive response to his debut novel.

He is already working on a second, which is also based in the city, and involves one of the characters from his first work.

n The Murder Tree (Matador) £7.99

vivienne.nicoll@ eveningtimes.co.uk

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