HE admits that, as a crime writer, the occasional sick and twisted thought comes through his mind - and that’s part of the job.
So the opener for his new novel ‘Preserve the Dead’ pulls no punches. The novel opens when a body is pulled from the Foyle and McGilloway’s chief protagonist, D.S. Lucy Black, makes the gruesome discovery that the corpse has already been embalmed.
From that moment McGilloway takes us on a rollercoaster of a read - as further gruesome discoveries are made and police work to get to the bottom of the mystery in front of them.
‘Preserve the Dead’ is, perhaps, not for the faint hearted - it pulls no punches when it comes to grisly scenes and a look at the darker underbelly of a city we are all proud of.
Setting the novel during the city’s landmark City of Culture Year is the perfect juxtaposition of the sublime and the seedy.
“There were a number of reasons I wanted to set to a novel during the City of Culture,” Brian said. “First of all, because while it was such a great year for Derry, I’m not sure if that buzz about the city translated further afield so I suppose it was a chance to showcase what a success it was.
“But the other side of it was that this is a novel about things which may initially appear good and innocent, which may have a darker side.
“So using the very positive setting of the City of Culture allowed me to also show a darker side - using what lay behind the false fronts of the shops which were cleaned up for the year.
“The book shows that something which looks lovely on the outside but can be decrepid behind the scenes.”
This starts with the discovery of that body in the Foyle, which offers up its own secrets and thus follows the discovery of several more sets of remains - all of which have their own questions to be answered.
It is the third outing for McGilloway’s Derry based detective Lucy Black - who has become a force to be reckoned with in the Irish crime scene. Brian’s previous ‘Lucy’ books have sold in their hundreds of thousands, topping the Kindle charts in the UK and enjoying an extended run in the ‘New York Times’ Bestseller lists.
And yet, despite the success McGilloway remains modest about his success, describing his career as “going grand” and adding that he has been “remarkably lucky.”
“When you write, there is a degree of arrogance there. You are saying to the world, You have written something that you want people to read. It is a great privilege when people actually take the time to read the books - and even more so when they enjoy what you have written.”
Lucy will definitely be around for another few books - although McGilloway says he already knows how her story will end. He’s keeping that to himself though. “Notionally I know how her story will end - where she will end up,” he said, saying he has enjoyed building her character - who is a great contrast to the protagonist of his earlier books, Inspector Benedict Devlin.
“When I started with Devlin, he was already a fully formed character in himself. With Lucy, she had just moved back to Derry, had no friends and was uncovering secrets about her own family. She had a base line from which to grow the character.”
He is already working on a fourth ‘Lucy’ book - which should hit the shelves in 2016. It’s one that, like his other works, isn’t afraid to tackle big issues. “It’s a hate crime novel, essentially,” he explained. “Examining complicity in hate - whether saying something which stirs people up can be as damaging as physical violence.”
Along with the fourth ‘Lucy’ novel, Brian is also working on commissioned screen plays for the BBC - which, he says, is a completely different craft from novel writing - but one he is thriving on.
And, not content with that, he will also be returning to the classroom following a two year career break and will be working in Strabane come the new term. “I found I missed teaching. I missed the interaction with pupils and staff and the craic in the classroom, so I made the decision to go back,” he said. And no doubt his pupils will benefit from having an author of his calibre inspiring them too,
‘Preserve the Dead’ is out now.