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I was born in Orkney in 1965 and attended Kirkwall primary school, where my P5 teacher allowed me to write during art classes, given my woeful lack of talent for visual art. I was, however, not too bad a musician, playing piano and bassoon to a half-decent standard. I became a founder member of the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland when I was twelve, and was whisked off to music school in Manchester as a fourteen-year-old.
After leaving school, I attended university in Aberdeen, where my plan to support my studies by playing piano in a posh restaurant took a nosedive when I was sacked on my second night because my hair was too long. After a year, I left Aberdeen, degreeless, and moved to Edinburgh.
Having lots of spare time on my hands, I taught myself how to program computers and spent the following twelve years working in IT. It was good while it lasted, but I started to feel the pinch and found a part-time job in a bookshop, where I was so happy I would have worked for free. For a while, at least!
Before long, I was employed full-time in the book trade, and over the nine years that followed I worked in various jobs, from stockroom supervisor to IT trainer, moving between exotic locales such as Brussels, Cork and Stirling, before giving up my day job in 2006 to work as a writer, editor and literary agent.
I'd married in 2000 and it was my wife, Donna, who was instrumental in encouraging me to take my writing seriously. After being short-listed for the CWA Debut Dagger for a book called Blithe Psychopaths in 2001 (renamed Two-way Split for later release), I started to think she might have a point. Three years and hundreds of rejection slips later, I wasn't so sure!
Eventually Two-way Split and Kiss Her Goodbye were picked up (within weeks of one another, oddly enough) by two independent presses in the United States. In 2006 Kiss Her Goodbye was nominated for an MWA Edgar Award, an Anthony Award and a Mystery Ink Gumshoe Award. Two-Way Split went on to win the Theakston's Crime Novel of the Year in 2007.
Since then I've published another three novels, most recently, Slammer, which describes the descent into hell of a young prison officer. I've also published three novellas, including Bye Bye Baby, a police thriller, initially published as an ebook original, and going on to become a Kindle top ten bestseller.
In November 2011 I co-founded Blasted Heath, a digital-only publisher, launching with original novels by Anthony Neil Smith, Ray Banks, Douglas Lindsay, Brian Pendreigh and Gary Carson.