Authors are often asked where we get our ideas from, and all too often the answer is “I wish I knew!” For once, in the case of my Glasgow thriller Dark of Night, I know exactly where it came from..
Several years ago, I was working on an oil refinery in Ohio in the States (long story!). One night, a colleague and I went for a drink, and she told me a story that very possibly changed my life.
In the early seventies, her aunt was the middle of five sisters – and the only one still to be unmarried. In her late twenties, she had begun to worry that that she was left on the shelf. She was working in a laundrette just outside of Seattle, in Washington State, and one day the most dreamy guy came in and chatted her up. Drop dead handsome, charming, well spoken and intelligent – she couldn’t believe her luck.
She turned him down the first few times, but he persisted and after a week or two, she finally agreed to a date. He took her to dinner at a fancy restaurant just outside the city. He was the perfect date – attentive, funny, and apparently just as smitten as she. She felt like Cinderella — and was convinced that surely this Prince Charming was her reward for having spent so many years as the perpetual bridesmaid.
However. After dinner, he drove her home, and she was halfway through planning their fantasy wedding – when she was suddenly hit with a violent bout of food poisoning. Utterly mortified, she she wasn’t surprised when he speedily dropped her off – and never phoned for a second date.
So she did what – let’s face it! – we all do in such situations. She blamed herself for blowing it. She looked out for him in the laundrette every day for weeks. She gathered her girlfriends for top level strategising sessions for ways to engineer a second chance. She found increasingly tenuous reasons to visit the area of the city where he told her he worked. She cursed the dodgy scallops that had ruined her chance at happy ever after.
Luckily, she happened to meet her husband just a few weeks later, and that was that, though family legend had it she never forgot the one who got away.
Until around ten years later.
She was home one evening, watching the news, when there he was.
He had been arrested.
For the murders of 30 women.
It was Ted Bundy.
Far from ruining her life, those dodgy scallops saved her from a fate, quite literally, worse than death.
To this day I can remember the tingles I felt when I heard the story. The drama of the close call. The fascination of how she had spent an entire evening in his company and still hoped he would call. The horror of her hoping to run into him for a second chance – while he was most likely murdering other women.
I knew I had found my first novel.