In My Opinion: Craig McGill: Matt Bendoris and his first crime novel

CHIEF features writer on The Scottish Sun, Matt Bendoris has released his first crime novel, Killing with Confidence, a £2.99 ebook on Amazon with the paperback edition to follow.

You can tell Bendoris is a skilled tabloid writer as this is a taught, little work which tells the tale of two tabloid reporters who try to find the truth behind the murder of a Scottish fashion celebrity.

And it’s a good read, certainly up there with the work of fellow reporter-turned-writer, Anna Smith, and while it doesn’t have the twists of a Rankin or the dark sarcasm of a Brookmyre, it is a worthwhile read – especially for those in the trade or who have an interest in it.

It won’t be hard for readers to work out who Bendoris is comparing these fictional Scots to and anyone who keeps abreast of Scottish celebrities and their activities will find some humour in the fates that befall their fictional equivalents in this book. Indeed, I know more than one PR person has taken great glee at the comeuppances in the book. Equally, if you’ve ever worked at The Scottish Sun you might be reading it to see if Bendoris has described you as one of the characters in the book.

As noted, it’s a tight read and as such, hard to fault with its minor issues – like a rushed ending and one of the characters appearing to be a bit of a Mary Sue for the author – you can put down to it being Bendoris’ first published piece of fiction.

It’s a good start to what one hopes will be a promising and long-running book career.

Bendoris took some time to answer a couple of questions for AMS about the book…

Q: Obviously the book is in the past for you but have you re-read it recently? Is there anything you would change or expand upon?

BENDORIS: Yeah. Apparently you’ve got to start all crime books with a crime. And I haven’t. I thought of changing but decided against it. But I think the actual crime plays second fiddle to the main characters anyway.

Q: Is the secondary lead a bit of a Mary Sue for you? There’s definite similarities…

BENDORIS: If you mean Connor ‘Elvis’ Presley, then yes. He’s a bit of a bore, isn’t he? Just like myself. But then again I think everyone looks a bit boring next to the lead, the formidable April Lavender. Funnily enough, my publisher wants him to come to the fore for the next book, although April will still be the main character.

Q: There are a few potshots at certain Scottish ‘celebrities’. Was there anything you had to take out to avoid people getting litigious?

BENDORIS: Er, whatever do you mean? Not really. The only time my publisher choked on his pint was when I realised I hadn’t got permission from my detective pal to use his name for the copper, DI Crosbie. Fortunately, my friend was fine about it which allowed me to keep my Bing Crosby references, especially for the finale!

Q: Any of your colleagues taken the huff at being in the book – or not being in the book?

BENDORIS: Not yet. Then again, I have managed to squeeze in many. I was very nervous allowing Yvonne Bolouri to read the final draft. If – and I stress if – the book was based on her, it’s not very flattering is it? Fortunately, she took it in great spirits. She also came up with the name, April Lavender, which I think is marvellous. Something olde world about it.

Q: Obviously you’ve written books before but why the move to fiction?

BENDORIS: Honestly? I’m fed up making other people sound good!

Q: When’s the next one coming out? Same characters?

BENDORIS: No, the next crime novel will have different characters and be out later this year. I co-wrote it during a seven-week frenzy with a colleague. It’s mad as hell, but I’m really excited about it. I also think I’ve learned from the mistakes I made writing the first. Can’t wait to get it out there.

Q: What’s the reaction of your colleagues been?

BENDORIS: Overwhelmingly positive, which feels weird. Working in papers all my life, you don’t get praise often. So this is all new to me and a bit embarrassing, to be frank.

Q: There’s a fair few real life incidents mentioned in the book. Was there any one jumping off point that made you think, ‘Aha, this will make a great book’?

BENDORIS: No. I just had one single idea. A serial killer who uses self-help material for evil. It was influenced by the old Dennis Potter TV play, Brimstone and Treacle, where the devil stays over as a lodger and cures a disabled girl (by raping her – it was very dark stuff). I always remember Potter saying that he could have easily have had an angel cure the girl with a miracle but ‘where would be the fun in that?’ That always stuck with me.

Q: What was the hardest thing about doing the book?

BENDORIS: The bloody re-writes and edit after edit!

Q: In the book, you don’t come across as a fan of either the minor celebs that Scotland (mostly) has or the famous gangster culture? While you haven’t been a crime reporter (much) you’ve certainly covered a ton of celebs in your day. Was the book a way of venting or are you worried people might see this as you biting the hand that’s fed you until now?

BENDORIS: Venting. I’ve witnessed the growing influence of the PRs and agents in the world of showbiz and I don’t like it. I get more conditions to interview some minor celeb from a reality TV show than speaking to the First Minister. So yes, it’s called revenge.

Craig McGill has written for – or been a member of staff at – TIME Magazine, The Guardian, Daily Mirror, The Scotsman, Evening Times, The Press and Journal, The Sun and Evening Times. Author of four non-fiction books and lecturer in ‘cross-platform journalism’ at Edinburgh Napier University, McGill is currently the digital strategist (Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland) for Weber Shandwick. You can get him via Twitter @craigmcgill