In all my years writing this column, I've never featured the same author twice. But when Whisky Towers called to ask if I'd fancy having an advance read of Tom Morton's new novel, I knew that there was one more rule made to be broken. I enjoyed Morton's Guttered, when I read it nine years ago, and I enjoyed A Whisky in Monsterville even more. It's got everything a pop-lit novel for guys needs: sex, guns, black humour, Scotland, religious fanatics, mercenaries, drinking… it even comes with recommended drams and tasting notes for each chapter.
The hero - the marvelously named Murricane - is a water-of-life connoisseur who lives in a boat on Loch Ness: It was chilly on the loch at this time of night, getting on for 1.00 am. Maybe the beer was too cooling. He pulled out of his pocket a miniature of Balblair 97 he'd picked up during a visit to the distillery, north of Inverness, across the Black Isle. Whisky, they always said, was an outdoor spirit, originally made in mobile stills by a stream or a river, meant to be drunk as a medicine, a tonic, a guard against cold or a buffer against fear.
It turns out that plenty of fear is coming to Scotland - in the form of a crazy fundamentalist preacher and an evil US billionaire.
Murricane is a former SAS man who's dropped out of society to nurse the physical and mental scars he carries from a botched mission in Afghanistan. He spends his days making trout lures and accompanying his friend Ferg on expeditions for tourists who want to fish and spot the Loch Ness monster: "If you're here long enough. You will meet the creature. And then you'll know about what is and isn't monstrous. Monster-us." "Oh, I believe in monsters, Ferg, Don't you worry about that. I've seen them. "I've conversed with them. I've smelt their breath." Unbeknownst to him, the ex-soldier Murricane is about to get reactivated.
The plot kicks off when our hero fishes a body from the loch - it's the corpse of a young woman who has been shot, burned and decapitated.
There was a silence, broken by the regular chewing of Fred, a choking sound from Gerry, the clink and swirl of whisky being swallowed, the mutter of boat engines.
"Sounds like it might have been deliberate then," said Archie McMinn, known universally as Crunchie due to an incident one Hogmanay 20 years previously when he ate an entire whisky tumbler, including the heavy base, apparently without ill-effects.
This extract is totally Tom Morton - a completely over-the-top scenario mixed with an oddball vignette that sums up the quirks of Scotland. A Whisky in Monsterville is a book well-worth breaching the normal protocol for.