In tandem with the release of the collection Clinical, Brutal… An Anthology of Writing with Guts Christopher Nosnibor interviewed some of the contributors to the book about their contributions, their writing methods and their outlooks more broadly.
My mission should have been simple enough: to locate the disparate literary freaks who’d got their work into Clinical, Brutal and ask a few questions. The first of the contributors I succeeded in hunting down was Jock Drummond, and I managed to pin him down long enough to interrogate and extract some information from him. The transcript runs as follows:
CN: ‘Slab’ is a pretty horrific piece of writing. Is it representative of your work?
JD: I suppose it is, really yes. Although I’ve not produced all that much work ass yet, so it’s perhaps a little difficult to define precisely what constitutes representative. But yeah, it’s in a similar vein – no pun intended – to my other work, both that that’s out there and in progress.
CN: What started you writing in the first place?
JD: Boredom, mostly. I’ve had my share of desk jobs and all that, and other jobs that just bore the arse offay you. So rather than doodle, I scribble down notes. I’d been doing it for years, but only got it together to collate some of these notes into anything more coherent a few times. I’ve started doing it a fair bit more in the past couple of years or so though, after some positive reactions. The bits I’ve not bothered to write up I’ve left as poems.
CN: So what of those earlier works? How did they come about?
JD: I scribbled ‘em down, typed ‘em up, and they came out in a no-budget, no technology photocopied zine that a guy I half knew up in Glasgow was circulating. Next to no copies, mostly given to friends, and friends of friends. Deviants. And I used a number of different pen-names, mostly because I didn’t want my bosses getting hold of them. I was big into revenge fantasies and thinly-veiled descriptions of people I didn’t like meeting grisly ends. Most have probably been destroyed by now, long ago. I certainly hope so!
CN: Why Clinical Brutality?
JD: I didn’t really chose it, it chose me. I’d been doing what I was doing before I’d heard of it, but once you introduced me to the concept, and some of the bits and pieces S. F. Grimm had done, I realised….
CN: I had a similar experience, in that I’d been producing work that effectively defined Clinical Brutality. I thought Clinical Brutalism was my creation. But then I found that there were other authors out there producing works that precisely subscribed to what I was all about…. so as much as I’d like to think so, I didn’t invent the style. Grimm didn’t invent the style. I did create – or at least co-create – the term.
JD: See ‘Taggart,’ right? That’s pitched as being ‘gritty realism.’ Is it fuck. Ok, so aside from the fact the acting’s wooden, it’s all pretty tame. But then at the same time, you’ve got CSI and shite like that that, that’s supposed to be really clinical and make the viewer feel intelligent because they’re getting all of these factual procedural terminologies and so forth… but the fact of the matter is that it’s too stylised to be remotely credible.
CN: So for you, Clinical brutality is all about realism? Would you describe your writing as realist?
JD: Yes and no. Where I’m fae – originally – crime and violence is a fact of life. people accept it. It’s grim and it’s gruesome. So on that level, yes. But realism has connotations of being really boring, at least to me. I hope that what I write isnae boring, but at the same time isnae as polished and stylised as you get on CSI. I suppose it’s a grittier version of realism than is the norm… a heightened realism, if you like.
CN: I have to ask: are you scatalogically obsessed?
JD: No, and anyone who says I am is talking shite! That was much a tribute to Christopher Brookmyre as anything else. Not that I have much truck with all that ‘tartan noir’ bollocks.
CN: So you don’t consider yourself part of the current wave of Scottish writing that’s big literary news?
JD: Well that all seems to be fading now anyway, but no, it was bollocks. I mean, sure, Irvine Welsh did a lot for literature in Scots dialect, but to say there’s this whole Scottish thing isn’t exactly a reflection of how it is really, it’s a distortion, a media fabrication, it helps with marketing and all, but… nah. I mean, Welsh’s stuff’s fuck all like Brookmyre’s, and Brookmyre’s fuck all like Ian Rankin, and so on. It’s like trying to lump all English or American writers into one category and say that they all represent some collective aesthetic. There’s a lot of good Scottish writers around just now, but they’re disparate, and I’ve certainly got nothing to do with any of them. There’s also a lot of good English writers around, and I’ve got nothing to do with any of them either.