Whisky & Culture

A cut (or two) above the rest

After reading this disturbing Scotland-based offering from Christopher Brookmyre you'll never look at school reunions the same way again says Jefferson Chase.
By Jefferson Chase
If you’re looking for an inventive excuse not to attend your next class reunion, then Christopher Brookmyre’s One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night is your source. A winner of the Critics’ First Blood Award and a Macallan Short Story Dagger, the Glasgow native crammed his 1999 novel with dead animals, body parts falling from the sky and homicides carried out with a dazzling array of tools and appliances.The carnage gets on its merry way with a group of mercenaries – incompetent mercenaries, mind you – rehearsing for a big operation on the Isle of Islay. Preparations aren’t going well.A second later there came the unmistakable sound of a shot being fired from the cattleshed, followed by a crash of splintering wood.Dawson looked at Connor accusingly.“I know we’re out in the middle of nowhere, Bill, but do the words ‘clandestine’ or ‘discrete’ mean anything to you?” Connor bit his tongue and stomped purposefully towards the entrance, almost grateful to have some idiot to take it all out on.‘This isn’t a bloody firing range,’ he began shouting, then had to dive for the floor as a volley of bullets pinged through the massive, side-rolling corrugated iron door… Abad start to a mission that will see the bumbling soldiers of fortune try to storm and pacify an off-shore oil rig.An off-shore oil rig? Well, a disused platform, converted into a mobile floating resort for loutish tourists who want to take vacations in an artificial environment where everything is exactly the same as in Britain. This is where the reunion among the Scottish classmates, hosted by the resort’s seedy developer, is being held.Once there adolescent resentments and crushes will be rekindled, and new friendships made. On the way to the resort, one of the revellers gets talking to his former English teacher.“Before he passed on, James made two requests of me for when he was gone, and one of those was ‘don’t be a widow’.” “Sounds like good advice. What was the other?” She gave him a conspiratorial look, then produced a half-bottle of Glenfiddich from by her side. “Grow old disgracefully” she said. She took a quick swig and passed the bottle.At this point neither of them suspect what disgrace awaits them, wearing ski masks and carrying automatic weapons, out at sea.One Fine Day is full of film citations, but it’s the mixing-andmatching of genres that makes it such fun - for instance, when the developer decides to check out the growing carnage on the closed circuit television cameras.Davie’s surprise at seeing Matt Black squatting there, determinedly gripping an Uzi, was matched only by Gavin’s at recognising the shotgun-toting woman beside Matt as his own wife. Both of these, however, were thoroughly eclipsed by Gavin’s appalled astonishment as he watched the pair exchange a brief but unmistakably affectionate kiss.“I’m sure that was just for luck. A heat-of-the-moment thing,” Vale offered, with gleeful insincerity.The frustrated-wife-strays-with-old-classmate-and-getscaught-by-unlikeable-husband-scene is one we know from scores of reunion movies. Only here the illicit lovers are carrying heavy-duty firearms.As Brookmyre himself says: “I write first and foremost to provide escapism.“ If a few scores get settled or heads get turned along the way, all the better, but mainly I want my readers to grip the safety bar tight and enjoy the ride.” Not a bad way to write or, for that matter, live. You might want to go to your next class reunion, after all, with or without a pack of mercenaries.