Many thanks to fellow blogger and tour organiser Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be part of the blog tour for D.A. Watson’s Cuttin’ Heads. I’m delighted to have D.A. Watson staying in with me to tell me all about the book. And when you’ve heard what he has to say you may well want to enter the giveaway at the bottom of this blog post too!
Staying in with D.A.Watson
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Dave. Thanks so much for staying in with me.
Thanks for having me round, Linda.
Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?
I have here my recently published third novel, Cuttin’ Heads. To be honest, I’ve brought it along because I want it to make me rich and famous, so I’m promoting seven shades of shite out of it by any means necessary. Hope that’s cool!
(Absolutely! Writers have to live. They can’t all wear velvet jackets and reside in ivory towers sighing heavily!)
What can we expect from an evening in with Cuttin’ Heads?
Well, the book’s about a talented, but unrecognised three piece rock band, and what happens to them when they get involved with a mysterious music producer. A lot of it’s based on my own experiences playing in bands over the years, and it is essentially a story about the love of music versus the love of family, how damaged people deal with their demons, and what people are willing to sacrifice to make their dreams come true. So you can expect more rock n roll references than a trip to Gene Simmons’s house, you can expect scares, laughs, hopefully some tears, and deep ponderings on the price of fame, fortune, friends and family. Here’s a wee taster to get you in the mood…
She’s walking through a chapel. The one she used to attend as a child. St Michael’s. Same raggedy red carpet down the aisle beneath her feet. Same intricately carved wooden pulpit pews. The same imposing crucifix on the wall with its thoroughly miserable looking Christ, and the same tiny confessional booth on the floor to the left of the dais, dark wood panels, brass fixings, looking like an upright coffin.
There are no walls to the left or right, only deep banks of vaguely shifting darkness where votive candle flames flicker like a yellow starfield. The air’s heavy, cloying with the sweet smell of incense, and a voice, old as Death and dry as moldering bones, ghosts around the shadowy room, insidious, reverberant, as if spoken in a stone cathedral rather than the little chapel of Luce’s childhood. That voice reads something from the book of Job. A verse that had frightened her as a child.
…Now a thing was secretly brought to me, and mine ear received a little thereof…
The door of the casket-like confessional slowly creaks open, and Karen emerges. She glides across the floor and stands naked in front of the dais, beckoning to Luce, blood spilling from her eyes, nose and mouth in red ribbons as her lips move, mouthing the litany in that ancient, spectral voice.
…In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men…
The priest, old Father Lafferty, hatchet nosed and eyes like cigarette burns, stands beside Karen, also naked. A massive erection juts up between his spindly legs as he grins a rictus grin crammed with too many teeth.
…Fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake…
Karen turns from Luce and looks up at Father Lafferty with beatific devotion before kneeling in front of him and reaching for his cock.
Luce looks away, up at the big crucifix on the wall. The despondent figure of Christ has been replaced by the bass player from Shattered Twilight. She still can’t remember his name, but he’s grinning down at her, his lips twisted in a suggestive leer. His side’s split open, revealing a ropy bulge of dripping viscera, his nailed hands and feet and thorn-torn forehead bloody with stigmata, running black in the candlelight.
…Then a spirit passed before my face, the hair of my flesh stood up…
The deep space blackness to her left and right recedes, slowly revealing crumbling grey brick walls adorned with water-stained posters from past Public Alibi gigs. Fat Sam’s in Dundee. The Tunnels in Aberdeen. King Tuts in Glasgow. Studio 24 in Edinburgh. Last year’s Wickerman Festival. The flyers hang feebly on the wall, barely clinging on.
…It stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof…
Luce becomes aware of music. The tune sounds almost familiar, a song she knows but can’t quite place. Then she recognizes a snatch of melody from Stone Me, one of the band’s early songs, played at a drastically reduced tempo, slow and muddy.
With the random suddenness of dreams, a dead eyed congregation are abruptly filling the pews around her, moaning along to the funereal dirge en masse, and there, up on the dais beneath the crucifix, are the band. Her band. Aldo, Ross, and herself, appearing like animated waxworks with low batteries, only their arms moving sluggishly on their instruments. Glassy eyed, waxy faced, staring ahead out over the heads of the muttering dead choir below.
…An image was before mine eyes, there was silence…
The congregation – who Luce now sees includes her parents, old schoolmates, work colleagues, ex bandmates, friends and lovers and long dead family members – groan along with the band, their lifeless faces turned up to the crucifix, where the Shattered Twilight bass player has now been replaced by another figure, one dressed all in black, long haired and handsome, smiling placidly out over the congregation below.
The music slows further, like a record on a turntable being forced down under a ragged fingernail, until it’s a tonally malevolent, mumbling nonsense sound.
…And I heard a voice, saying…
The people crowded into the pews turn as one and fix Luce with hollow eye sockets, and she realises they’re dead, every one of them. They begin to shuffle towards her, corpulent skin and flesh falling from their bones, and she retreats, backing toward the exit, except she finds herself somehow turned around, forced towards the pulpit as the ghoulish churchgoers surge down the aisle toward her, their skeletal clawed hands reaching for her. She struggles and bucks in panic as they seize her and begin binding her face and limbs with lengths of mouldering fabric that smell of the grave.
Then strong hands grip her by the shoulders from behind. Hands that feel wooden, tipped with carved meathook claws. A strangely accented voice, velvety as coffin lining, whispers in her ear.
…Shall mortal man be more just than God?
Luce screams into the suffocating cloth covering her face, desperately thrashing against the death shrouds knotted around her by the rotting congregation.
But then she remembers, and Luce fights to control the fear, clamping down on it and forcing herself through sheer will to stop shrieking and kicking. Immediately she feels her bonds loosen, and notices for the first time that through the material covering her face, she can make out a floral pattern on the weave of the fabric, blurry and indistinct.
The breath shudders out of her in a long sigh. She removes the duvet from her face, untangling her sweaty limbs from the bedclothes.
(I wish you’d warned me about that before I read it Dave. I’ve come out in a cold sweat now!)
I’m not sure I want to know the answer to this question, but what else have you brought along and why?
Well, I brought a link to Iron Maiden on YouTube but unfortunately it’s been suspended because of infringements so…
(Actually, I’m not too sorry about that, but I did find another link here. I’m more of a Roxy Music person myself! But why Iron Maiden?)
Iron Maiden’s The Number of the Beast is the first record that I ever genuinely loved. One of my elder brothers bought it when it came out in 1982. I was five years old at the time, and found myself fascinated by it, at first mainly because of the artwork on the cover; a very graphic and frightening vision of Hell. Much of my interest was due to the fact that I was raised in a pretty religious house, where you had to read a bit of bible and say your prayers every night. And the way the music on the record sounded… holy shit. I’d never heard anything like that. It was scary and exciting and fast and angry and really really loud! It’s still one of my favourite albums to this day.
(Pass me the ear plugs and I might let you play it as we chat some more about Cuttin’ Heads.)
Later in life, when I started playing guitar and just immersed myself in music, I learned about the various connections and conflicts between music and religion, like how the mediaeval Catholic church banned a certain note arrangement they called Diabolus in Musica or “the devil’s interval” which was later heavily used in the blues and was a defining characteristic of heavy metal (listen for it in the opening notes of the first song on Black Sabbath’s debut album).
(I’ll just take your word for it. Though I have to say, those connections are fascinating and the cover of Cuttin’ Heads has fabulous resonance with those ideas.)
I learned about the folklore and legends behind the blues, selling your soul to the Devil down at the crossroads, how even in modern times the church were burning rock records as tools of Satan and bands were being dragged through the courts for recording subliminal backwards messages into their albums that were causing kids to kill themselves. Basically, music, religion, books and a fascination with the supernatural were massive influences on me growing up, so it’s fair to say that when I started writing, this was all going to come out in a novel! I just hope people have as much fun with it as I did.
Despite the fact that I think we are chalk and cheese in musical taste, Dave, I’ve really enjoyed hearing about Cuttin’ Heads. Thanks so much for staying in with me to tell me all about it. And I hope you make that money!
Aldo Evans is a desperate man. Fired from his job and deeply in debt, he struggles to balance a broken family life with his passion for music. Luce Figura is a troubled woman. A rhythmic perfectionist, she is haunted by childhood trauma and scorned by her religiously devout mother. Ross McArthur is a wiseass. Orphaned as an infant and raised by the state, his interests include game shows, home-grown weed, occasional violence and the bass guitar. They are Public Alibi. A rock n’ roll band going nowhere fast. When the sharp-suited, smooth talking producer Gappa Bale offers them a once in a lifetime chance to make their dreams come true, they are caught up in a maelstrom of fame, obsession, music and murder. Soon, Aldo, Luce and Ross must ask themselves: is it really better to burn out than to fade away?
Cuttin’ Heads is available for purchase from Amazon UK.
About D. A. Watson
Prizewinning author D.A. Watson spent several years working in bars, restaurants and call centres before going back to university with the half-arsed plan of becoming a music teacher. Halfway through his degree at the University of Glasgow, he discovered he was actually better at writing, and unleashed his debut novel, In the Devil’s Name, on an unsuspecting public in the summer of 2012. Plans of a career in education left firmly in the dust, he later gained his masters degree in Creative Writing from the University of Stirling. He has since published two more novels, The Wolves of Langabhat and Cuttin’ Heads, a handful of non-fiction pieces, several short stories including Durty Diana, which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2016, and the Burns parody Tam O’ Shatner, which in 2017 came runner up in the Dunedin Robert Burns Poetry Competition, and was a competition winner at the Falkirk Storytelling Festival.
He lives with his family in Western Scotland.
There’s more with these other bloggers too:
Giveaway – Win a signed copy of Cuttin’ Heads
*Terms and Conditions –Please enter here. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then the organiser reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time they will delete the data.
Please note that this giveaway is run independently of Linda’s Book Bag and I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.