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‘There are shades of Iain Banks’ early works in here, and that is a very good thing.’
Russel McLean, 2014.
A Murder Of Crows is the debut novel by Ian Skewis.
An intriguing dark, crime thriller that is both psychological and unsettling.
The story begins when the most violent thunderstorm in living memory occurs above the fictional town of Hobbs Brae on the west coast of Scotland – a young couple, Alistair and Carol, take shelter in the woods, never to be seen again.
Jack Russell is the dogged detective who tries unsuccessfully to maintain a relationship with his estranged wife and his all too distant son. Approaching retirement, he agrees to undertake one final investigation as a way of escaping his personal problems and ending his career on a high. He is assigned to the case of Alistair and Carol – a case that he believes will be solved easily.
However, the clues in the forest lead him to the unnerving conclusion that he is following in the footsteps of a psychopath who is just getting started. Jack is flung headlong into a race against time to prevent the evolution of a killer. But the arrival of a stranger with an unlikely alias and the machinations of an ambitious adversary, conspire to lead him unwittingly into a trap devised by a serial killer who knows him all too intimately…
Ian Skewis was born in Scotland in 1970.
At the age of nine his schoolteacher stepped aside to allow him to teach his entire class about prehistory - as they both agreed that he knew more about these kinds of things than she did. Ian was also the first boy to join the exclusively female school choir too. He was very unconventional.
Whilst at secondary school he exhibited his own prints and poems up and down the country, wrote for a local free-paper and somewhere in between he managed to get some grades. In his final year he read what he describes as his ‘first really good book’, The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan, in 1989. Later that same year he began writing a novel of his own...
Ian went to art school in Aberdeen but got thrown out for being too bohemian and ended up at drama school instead, where he worked like a Trojan to make up for his earlier misdemeanours, emerging as a very professional actor and touring the world in various stage plays, including Like Thunder, in which he played the lead, and which won a Fringe First Award in 2001. He also appeared (briefly) in film and television.
However, increasingly disillusioned with the acting business, Ian ventured for the first time into the real world where he took on the roles of toilet cleaner, tarot card reader, perfumery salesman and mystery shopper before settling for Front Of House Manager for an event catering company. He later set up his own event planning company, Entitled Events.
Always writing throughout his life but never actually completing anything, he finally managed to finish writing a couple of short stories in 2013, The Circular Memory and Leviathan, followed the next year by a Doctor Who story, Borrowed Time, which was a Finalist in an international competition. In 2015 he wrote another short sci-fi story entitled Inkling, which has been published by The Speculative Bookshop in their debut anthology. In the biography for that publication he light-heartedly wrote, ‘Recently, he has actually managed to complete a few short stories, and Inkling is his first story to be published - who would have thought? Maybe, only maybe, he might get round to finishing what he started at the age of nineteen...’
And so here it is.
My debut novel, A Murder Of Crows, with your help to be published by Unbound Digital.
In development hell since 1989.
Please don’t ask for a sequel...oh, alright then...
DCI Jack Russell made it to the top of the hill. He was exhausted, fighting for breath - but it was worth it, for the view was stunning. Beyond the shops and the houses that stood below he could clearly see the gentle golden swell of the farmer’s fields, the jagged forest, and the ruins of an old abbey that crumbled into a sea that stretched into the distant horizon - and all this crowned with a sky so impossibly blue it seemed to have been imported from the Mediterranean.
He opened the creaking gate and was met with the picturesque view of the abode of Alice Smith. It looked like the kind of house a child would draw - a typical two up, two down with a garden path winding its way up to the front door. The sound of the wind moaning through the surrounding vegetation made him feel isolated, vulnerable - and yet Jack kind of liked it. He imagined living up here, far from the madding crowd, and in perfect peace. He strolled leisurely through the garden which had been left to grow in wild abandon. A chaos of dead weeds draped the cracked paving stones and growing on either side were clusters of rosemary, thyme and other fragrant herbs that had grown into disarray, festooned with brambles and rambling roses.
As he approached he saw a monkey puzzle tree that stood to the right of the house, towering up into the blue and looking like it had been transported via satellite in high definition from some Jurassic age. He observed a seagull in the distance glide behind the upturned green branches, and then reappeared on the other side as a white pterosaur, lazily flapping its wings towards the cliffs at sea. To the left of the house stood a clump of conifers and silver birch, and below these were some rhododendrons and broom, the scent from which was sweet and overpowering. On arriving at the front door he realised that the house was in a state of abandon too. The once white paint was cracked and peeling and the windows on either side were filthy, so much so, they almost looked like they’d been deliberately tinted to block out the sun. He knocked on the door. It opened almost immediately.
- 18th December 2018 Future Plans...
First of all, apologies for not keeping in touch. However, I think most of you have now subscribed to my newsletter or have followed me on Twitter or Facebook. I am writing this in case anyone is still wondering what I have been getting up to over the past six months.
It's been a very busy year again. A Murder Of Crows has now been released as an Audiobook, which has sold very…6th April 2018 A Murder Of Crows and Beyond...
It's been quite some time since I last updated you with what's been going on, so please accept my apologies. Suffice to say, the publishing world has been keeping me very busy indeed!
First of all, I had an amazing time at the Bloody Scotland festival and have since also appeared at the Aye Write! festival, as well as making numerous other public appearances. I have great pleasure…1st August 2017 Not The Booker Prize!
I just wanted to tell you that A Murder Of Crows has now been longlisted for the Guardian's Not The Booker Prize! This came as a complete surprise to me when it was announced yesterday and I am thrilled to say the least.
The vote is now open to the public and it would be wonderful if our book could make it into the shortlist. In order to vote simply click on this link:
https://amp…9th November 2016 Interesting Developments...
Welcome back and sorry for the lengthy delay!
It's been a busy time of late what with proofreading and further editing but the latest stage of my arduous yet still rather exciting journey is done. Another mountain climbed!
So the proofreading is complete from my end and I'm very happy with it. I have asked to see the manuscript one last time before it goes to print just so that I can be sure…4th October 2016 Copying Crows...
Hello again, and welcome back!
Just to let you all know that the copy edit of A Murder Of Crows is complete so now I get some much needed reprieve, well I say reprieve but I can never really stop writing. At the moment I'm working on a short story and trying to catch up reading other writers' work; Denise Mina, Jennie Ensor and Graeme Macrae Burnet - there is never enough time! I have a small backlog…5th September 2016 The Final Edit
When I was asked to do the final edit for A Murder Of Crows I thought it would be easier than the previous one but I was wrong!
Real life tends to get in the way of a writer's work and real life certainly caught up with me. Massive shifts at work and the death of a loved one contributed to what turned out to be a very tough few weeks. However, the end result is something I am very proud of.…13th July 2016 A Murder Of Crows: The First Edit...
It's pouring down with rain in Glasgow today but I've been keeping very busy with various projects related to A Murder Of Crows and a few unrelated writing projects too.
The first edit is now complete. As a result I think the book is now much more robust and realistic, with some additional input from not one, but two, detectives. My editor's suggestions were such that I…13th June 2016 At Home And Abroad
Hello and sorry for the lengthy delay in writing my blog. It's been a very busy time of late!
I have just returned from a working holiday in France and Spain, during which I began the first proper edit of my novel. We spent two thirds of the journey sitting in a van, travelling the entire length of France and Spain. What little time we had for sightseeing was crammed in whereever possible - we…2nd May 2016 Close To The Edit...and into the Top Twenty!
Long time no see!
Forgive me for not being in touch this past month but I've been catching up on three months' worth of real life chores that were put on the back burner whilst all my energy was put into fundraising. Now that the book is funded I've been rewriting the last few chapters and working on other pieces (short stories and the ocassional poem) as well as getting various…29th March 2016 A Murder Of Crows: The Next Chapter...
So, all the excitement has died down and I've had some, but not much time, to reflect.
The conclusion? I am happy and still can't quite believe that we did it.
And now the book funding has risen to 111%! Who would have thought?
I am now rewriting the last fifty pages of the book and then in about four weeks time it will be sent to my editor, Rachel Rayner, who comes from Transworld…18th March 2016 Day 90: The Crows Are Airborne!
What a journey!
I cannot believe that I have made it this far and that my 'wee book,' as I described it some three months ago, has been fully funded - and two days ahead of schedule!
I am amazed at everyone's kindness and generosity and unstinting support - from the three separate pledges from Linda Hepper, who I have never met, but I am certainly indebted to her - to the double pledge from…14th March 2016 Day 87: Countdown Commencing!
It's an absolutely beautiful morning in Glasgow.
A sky blue sky and everything seems as clear as a bell.
One thing isn't clear though - my poor head!
Last night, I went to Noir At The Bar at the Mitchell Library (part of Aye Write! - Glasgow's book festival) and even though I was absolutely exhausted from working long hours I found it very informal and entertaining. I finally got to…10th March 2016 Day 83: Something To Crow About...
Well, I am finally approaching the nailbiting finish line!
It has been extraordinary to be on the receiving end of so much kindness.
Thank you once again to all those who have pledged their support - all 128 of you!
And many of you have been very suppportive in other ways too, sharing my posts and encouraging me too - very much appreciated. And now my wee book has reached…3rd March 2016 Day 76: Come Fly With Me...
My novel has now reached the funding level of 71%!
It's been a long and arduous journey and I can finally see the end is in sight - two weeks to go!
But it's not over until it's over so please continue to pledge and share this.
A special thank you to all who have started sharing my posts of late in order to spread the word, and thank you for all your kind comments and gestures…24th February 2016 Day 68: Over The Halfway Limit!
Well, the book reading at Hillhead Library was a huge success!
Thank you to all who took part - Gavin Mitchell and Jennie Ensor (who got some more pledges for her wonderful book) and above all to YOU!
It was lovely to see so many people turn up and so many friendly faces too. The event went smoothly and was a lot of fun for all concerned. I have to say I had a ball and I felt absolutely…19th February 2016 Day 63: The Glasgow Event...
It's been in the planning for a while now and I learned alot from my previous reading in London.
So, at 1.30pm on Sunday 21st at Hillhead Library, Glasgow - me and fellow author Jennie Ensor, alongside actor Gavin Mitchell, will be reading from our novels in a bid for publication!
The scene is almost set, the flyers are printed and distributed, and the microphones are in place.
So get set…10th February 2016 Day 54: Why The Hell Should I fund Your Book?
It's a good question isn't it?
I have to say I had serious concerns when I started on this journey.
I figured that Unbound were just another vanity publisher or self publishing house - not that I am saying that's a bad thing - it just wasn't my thing. I reckoned they were simply accepting any old tat, after all, within 24 hours of sending it, my synopsis was accepted and off we went - it seemed…9th February 2016 Day 53: London and growing pains...
It's been a very industrial time over the past few weeks, so much so that I have not had the time to write my blog because I've been too busy raising funds!
I teamed up with fellow writers Jennie Ensor, Phyllis Richardson and Martine McDonagh and we read from our books in front of a small crowd in a pub in Highgate, London. It was a long way for me to go just to read for 20 or so minutes but it…19th January 2016 Days 27 - 33: One Third Funded!
Well, a major milestone has been achieved today thanks to you guys!
I am on target for my book which has been up and running for one month and is now 1/3 funded!
Blue Monday has been and gone so time to look forward. Thank you to the following for your support over the past few days:
Thank you to all the above but in particular…13th January 2016 Days 22 - 26: 1/4 Funded!
Wow! The past few days have certainly been eventful. The death of David Bowie was a shock. I don't normally shed tears for celebrities but I did for him because he was so much more than that - he was an artist and an inspiration to all. It's nice to see Unbound paying tribute too - check out their logo.
On a more upbeat note I read my short story, Inkling, to an audience - my first time performing…7th January 2016 Day 21: Launch Of Anthology...
So today has been another mega busy one sending emails asking for donations, preparing stuff for tomorrow (more on that in a mo) and writing of course.
And another patron has joined the growing list - thank you to Ken Britt - an old pal of mine from Canada!
We go waaaaay back lol!
But back to the present, I mean tomorrow...
Tomorrow my short story Inkling is being launched as part of an…6th January 2016 Day 20: One Fifth Funded...
Day 20 and I'm feeling much better since I gave myself the luxury of a lie in.
Believe me I needed it!
I had loads to catch up on but I also managed to track down another lead for a possible reading in a local pub!
I also have two more patrons to thank:
Ian Skewis Snr (my dad!)
Thanks to these lovely individuals my novel is now one fifth funded (21% and counting…5th January 2016 Day 19: A Worthy Cause...
I'll admit it - I'm knackered!
Not only have I spent every spare minute promoting this novel on Facebook and Twitter since this amazing offer from Unbound started, but I have been knocking on every virtual door in order to spread the good word and raise funds - it's not easy!
But the kindness of people always makes my cause worthwhile.
Sara Park step right up!
Thank you for your support…4th January 2016 Day 18: On Target...
Thank you so much to Lorenzo Mele for your pledge today!
I am still touched by how kind people have been and the interest that this little project has generated.
I promised that there would be some exciting developments and I haven't forgotten. I intend to do some readings from the novel and today visited Hillhead Library to see about doing a reading there - but it is still shut for the holidays…3rd January 2016 Day 17: Growing Wings...
Thank you to the following for your pledges over the past 24 hours:
Paul Le Poidevin
Rob Collins ( to be credited soon!)
Thanks to you my novel is now at 18% and growing some wings!2nd January 2016 Days 14-16: Spreading The Word...
Happy New Year everybody!
I hope you all had a great one - I certainly did - and I'm still suffering!
However, I'm pleased to say that A Murder Of Crows has got off to a great start this year with three more pledges! So thank you to the following:
Nikki and Tracey are old friends of mine from my student days and Greg is a professional and…30th December 2015 Day 13: Overseas Aid...
As someone who often goes for long periods of time with little or no contact with anyone it still amazes me that people even remember me sometimes. Take Stephen Drisoll for example...
I met Stephen many years ago - in 1995 to be exact - in London. I met him again in America in 1996 and again in the States in 1998. We were good friends.
Well, I drifted. I became a professional…29th December 2015 Day 12: Going Live...
So today I went to Waterstones bookshop to see if I could do a reading there to drum up publicity for my book but alas, no, because they don't sell ebooks, only physical books.
I have to admit I prefer physical books too - but I will try to do some kind of limited run of physical copies and will discuss this in further detail with Unbound so watch this space!
I have a couple of options for doing…28th December 2015 Christmas Presents (Days 7-11)
Christmas has been and gone and it was lovely to be home again with my small family (Mum and Dad). As a result of the festivities I've been away from this blog but I haven't been idle. And neither have you it seems!
Below are the latest patrons of my novel, A Murder Of Crows:
Thank you all for your contributions…23rd December 2015 Thanks x 3...
I have three people to thank today:
and Karen Macleod.
Louis had pledged a few days ago but slipped through the net and I have sent a note to the publisher to add him to the list of patrons. (Might take a while as I reckon they will be closed for Christmas but rest assured it will be done!)
Stewart is an old friend of mine and it was a lovely surprise…22nd December 2015 The Kindness Of Strangers Part Two...
His name is Derek Wilson.
I don't know him.
But I think he's great!
He just helped fund more of my novel - a total stranger! There's nothing more amazing than someone who doesn't know you looking at your work and thinking, yes, this is worth it.
It reminds me of all those times when I was down in the dumps about my writing, thinking I was never going to be heard because I simply wasn't…21st December 2015 The Kindness Of Strangers...and of course, friends...
Amazing how kind people can be.
I've had a total stranger pledge for my book today and she also shared my post too! Suffice to say, we are now very good friends! I've also had pledges from my other friends which is so encouraging - it's a frightening prospect trying to raise the money for something like this. One is at the whim of other people's kindness. And how very kind they have been!
I…20th December 2015 "Big things come from small beginnings..."
Three kind people have funded my book today!
They are: Anne Hanlon-Bucher, Gary Rooney and Mary Wells.
Thank you so much guys - you are the best!
So my novel is now officially 1% funded!
99% still to go!
I recall the android in the movie Prometheus holding a small drop of inky goo on his fingertip - the DNA of some terrifying new organism..."big things come from small…19th December 2015 In Stasis
Here in Glasgow the weather is predictably cold and grey. Everything seems as if it is in stasis, waiting to be activated. There is no forward momentum.
Or maybe that's just how I feel.
Yesterday, was manic. I must have sent reams of posts and blogs across all spectrums of social media in order to plug my book. One pledge arrived. A great start. And now?
Well, now it's a wee bit of a waiting…18th December 2015 Something is coming...#2
Up until now I felt a bit lonely with my blog, wondering if anyone would be in the slightest bit interested in my wee book. That's the problem with writers - we have mood swings galore; one minute up, the next down. This is the first offical launch day of my book - and as such, was filled with more than the usual mix of swings. Thrilled at the prospect of getting it off the ground…17th December 2015 Something is coming...
A Murder Of Crows is my debut novel, in development hell for many years (since 1989 in fact) but finally complete!
The fact that a publisher of this calibre has taken an interest in my wee book is amazing and I am thrilled to be given this opportunity to breathe life into it - but I can't do this alone!
I need to raise the funds in order to pay for the editing, copy editing, illustrating…
These people are helping to fund A Murder Of Crows.
Rhel ná DecVandé
An anonymous donor
An anonymous donor
David de Croy