Guest post: Denise Mina, author of Conviction

Denise Mina 400 c. Ollie Grove - colour (2)If you’ve read my review of Conviction, you’ll know how much I loved it, so I’m honoured to be hosting Denise Mina on the Bloody Scotland blog tour. 

Here is an extract from the novel. Enjoy!

Conviction (Vintage) by Denise Mina

It was a nice car. I have to give Hamish that. His intellectual

life might have ended at Cambridge but he does have

an eye for a nice car. The engine was quiet and smooth, the

seats deep and comfortable.

Fin was shivering in the bucket of the passenger seat. not

in his extremities, not a tremble, but from so deep down in

his middle it looked like tiny convulsions. He was embarrassed

about it and didn’t want me to ask so I didn’t. I just

turned the heating up and pulled out of the parking space.

Great Western Terrace has a sharp drive down to the Great

Western Road. It was jammed with cars and buses and it

was a long time since I had driven. I kangarooed violently

down the steep slip road, straight into the stream of rushhour

traffic almost hitting a car side-on. The driver was angry

and gestured at me eloquently. I pretended I hadn’t noticed,

though he was only five feet away from me.

‘Where are we going?’ asked Fin, his voice faint.

‘Well, I’m going to Fort William. Where do you want me

to drop you? Are you going home?’

Fin didn’t answer me but there was a lot going on in the

road, I hadn’t driven for a really long time, so I didn’t notice.

The lights changed and the driver I’d almost rammed gave

me an ardent finger as he moved away. I gave an apologetic

wave. A few cars further down a man let me edge clumsily

into the stream of traffic ahead of him. I could tell from his

expression in the rear-view mirror that he was shocked at my

driving. He left quite a big space behind me.

‘Fin. Where do you want dropped off?’

‘no,’ he muttered, ‘I’m just, around . . .’

I stalled and had to restart the car. A lot of drivers were watching

me now and it’s an understatement to say that they were

unimpressed. I didn’t care. Up ahead a bus edged into a yellow

box and a chorus of car horns sounded around the junction.

I was elated at escaping from the hall; I had got away from the

cellar. God alone knew where reminders of Gretchen Teigler

would have taken me if I hadn’t. I was grateful to Fin for that but

I wondered why he had come to the door. Did he come to tell

me something? We didn’t know each other. He may have been

my best friend’s husband but he’d always been cold towards me.

‘Why did you come to the house? Did Hamish send you

to check on me?’

‘Send me? Hamish?’ His voice was very faint. ‘He’s . . .

they’ve run off together. D’you know that?’

‘I – yeah. I know. To Porto. They took my kids.’

For some reason I had assumed Fin was in on it, that he

was ok with, or even the cause of it. I thought he would

have been having affairs with other women and, you know,

maybe, you couldn’t blame Estelle. I didn’t think it would

be the same for him as it was for as me. But that’s part of

being down. Empathy loss. I can’t imagine anything might be

worse for anyone else, not really.

He sounded indignant. ‘I’m not friends with Hamish.’

The bus moved and we got across the junction to the next

set of lights. It felt like another tiny triumph.

‘Why did you come to the house?’

‘I dunno. I was a bit, you know . . .’ Fin’s voice was soft, his

breath stuttering. ‘. . . I thought of. You and just. I wondered . . .’

I glanced at the passenger seat. Tears were dripping from

his beard as he stared straight ahead at the road. He looked

glazed and grey and his jacket was buttoned up over his concave

belly.

‘Fin?’

He didn’t answer.

‘Fin?’

nothing.

I couldn’t stop the car and put him out, not in two lanes

of heavy, bad-tempered traffic. He didn’t seem capable of

finding his way to the pavement. I wanted rid of him now

though, now we were away from Pretcha and I had spoiled

her fun. I wanted him out of the car and I never, ever wanted

to see him again.

Because I didn’t like Fin at all.

It wasn’t personal, though I did think his band were whimsical

and a bit crap. I didn’t like him because he had snubbed

me the few times we had met and, I suppose, because Estelle

bad-mouthed him a lot. Also, he scared me. I hate famous

men.

I don’t remember him becoming well known. I didn’t

know Estelle at the time. It seemed to happen very quickly,

while I was having babies and being a happy bit of furniture.

His band were young, just in their late teens. They had only

played small gigs in the living rooms of fans who won competitions.

Without releasing more than a couple of demos

they were suddenly everywhere. I can’t remember how that

happened. It was Fin Cohen people were interested in, really.

He was tall, groomed and very good-looking. He was vegan,

anti-capitalist, all the buzzwords. Hailed as the leader of a new

subculture, he was interviewed on every topic from summer

colours to climate change. He was everywhere, worldwide

fame, huge in South America and Asia. It took less than two

years for capitalism to eat him.

Cohen lost a lot of weight. The press followed him around,

taking pictures, charting his decline. He became terrifyingly

thin and wore very tight clothes. His face hollowed out.

Suddenly he was forced into rehab for opiate addiction. So

far so on trend.

The band were self-managed, which Estelle said was like

trying to run a train company from a smartphone. A massive

unexpected tax bill came in. All of their stage equipment was

stolen in Germany and they had taken out the wrong insurance.

Then came the famous interview. The drummer got wasted

and gave an interview to a nasty vlogger. I haven’t watched it

but apparently the vlogger prises everyone’s secrets out of the

very drunk twenty-year-old. Their bass player was sexually

predating on their young fans. This was true, he later went

to jail for it. The guitarist painted miniature dragon statues

as a hobby and lived with his mum. Their frontman, Cohen,

wasn’t an addict, that was a lie. Fin was anorexic. Addiction

was cool but an eating disorder wasn’t, apparently.

The band imploded, gone as quickly as they arrived, a

footnote in music history. But celebrity sticks in a small town

and Glasgow is small.

Estelle was Portuguese. She married him at the height of

his fame, big diamond ring, rush-wedding in Vegas. This was

before the weight loss began. She was there for the car crash

and she stayed, but it was hard. They were broke. His eating

ruled their lives. He was in and out of hospital. I still saw blurry

pictures of him on the cover of the schadenfreude magazines,

speculating about his weight and mental health.

I looked at him sitting in the passenger seat, his thighs

hardly touching, so thin that the safety belt might as well

have been done up over an empty chair. He looked as if he

was dying.

‘Fin? Have you eaten today?’

He didn’t answer.

‘Drunk water?’

‘Huh.’

‘Do you want me to drop you somewhere?’

He didn’t answer.

Mothering is a comfort. Even through a smog of suicidal

self-pity I found the voice I used for the girls:

‘oK, Fin. You want to come and meet my pal Adam? Have

a wee road trip up and down to Fort William?’ I think he

nodded. It was hard to tell. ‘Yeah. We’ll go on a drive and

see some sights. Shall we?’ He didn’t answer. I should have

listened. ‘Come on, then.’

I was driving, my life was in pieces, I had someone to look

after, my leg hurt, it was all good, except that one small part

of my mind was still unoccupied. I remembered Hamish and

the old dark feelings began to rise again.

I couldn’t stand to be alone with those thoughts.

When we stopped at the lights I got out my phone and I

pressed play.

the long drop denise mina coverAn extract taken from: Conviction (Vintage) by Denise Mina

Shortlisted for The McIlvanney Prize 2019. Winner to be announced at the Bloody Scotland opening night reception on Friday 20 September. For festival tickets and information www.bloodyscotland.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out the other blogs on the Bloody Scotland blog tour!

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