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“The cat’s brains were pink and glistening in the glow of the clear high moon. Rivulets of blood puddling on the concrete. Its limbs were folded to the side, and the dead thing’s face looked away from the road, towards the loch.”
Set in the fictional landscape of Cullrothes, in the Scottish Highlands, The Mash House is about simple people antagonising each other to the limits of human endurance. There is Innis, a newcomer who hides a shameful secret and manages the pub; his girlfriend Kirsten, a gorgeous, cheating, lying primary school teacher. And, in the same village, Donald is the aggressive distillery owner, who floods the country with narcotics alongside his single malt; he is haunted by an anonymous American investor intent on purchasing the Cullrothes Distillery using any means necessary.
This is a place where mountains are immense and the loch freezes in winter. A place with only one road in and out. With long storms and furious midges and a terrible phone signal. The police are amateurs, the journalists are scum, and the innocent folk of Cullrothes tangle themselves in a fermenting barrel of suspicion, malice and lies.
In whisky distillation, the mash house is where malted barley is repeatedly steeped in hot water. The intense heat and pressure changes the barley’s complexion. Sugar is drawn from the liquid, and the husks are sold as cattle feed. The villagers of Cullrothes must survive this same transformative process.
The Mash House uses multiple narratives to weave together the parallel lives of individuals in the village. Each fractured by the fears and uncertainty of their own minds. Rural isolation is at the forefront of these concerns. Who can we trust? What are we most scared of? What are we hiding from? Relationships, no matter how damaging or dedicated, sustain each of us.
Infused with love, addiction and free-pouring measures of single malt, The Mash House takes inspiration from the television series Fargo, from Mario Puzo's The Godfather, and from the rich tradition of tartan noir writers.
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Alan teaches English at a school in Glasgow, working each day with brilliant pupils to help them read better, write better and enjoy literature.
Alan’s short stories are published online and in print, and he has performed at spoken word events, including the Edinburgh International Book Festival. He has received support from Creative Scotland, and took a residency as Cove Park’s Emerging Writer in 2011. His plays have performed in Glasgow and Barcelona. He completed an MLitt in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, where he edited the department’s online literary magazine.
Alan has recently written articles focusing on education and arts, and these have been featured in The Times Educational Supplement, The Guardian, The Herald and The New York Times.
Alan grew up in Fife, on the east coast of Scotland. His first teaching placement was in Ardnamurchan, a remote peninsula in the West Highlands. In his year there, he was appalled and charmed by the small community’s social quirks. These are blended in The Mash House to create a fond yet dark portrayal of rural Scotland and its people.
He likes his whiskies large, with ice.
The cat’s brains were pink and glistening in the glow of the clear high moon. Rivulets of blood puddling on the concrete. Its limbs were folded to the side, and the dead thing’s face looked away from the road, towards the loch. It was silent. Kirsty had been driving with the windows open, and when she hit the cat the sound of its bell tinkled noisily until it landed. But now the road was silent. The blood formed a jammy shadow around the cat’s body.
Kirsty’s car was pulled over on the verge. She sat on the bonnet and lit a cigarette. There were a few houses nearby but Kirsty had not lived in Cullrothes for long enough to know who the cat’s owner might be. The creature had a red collar around its neck and a white loveheart shape embroidered on its flank. The road was dark with no streetlights. The water on the surface of the huge loch moved softly.
- 18th December 2020 New Writing Scotland 38
I hope you are doing well and getting a bit of a break over the coming weeks.
I wanted to share some good news with you. My story 'The Arcade' has been included in this year's New Writing Scotland 38. Published by the Association for Scottish Literary Studies, this annual collection is seen as the principal forum for new writing from Scotland. In the past, they've published writers…11th November 2020 Cover Reveal
It's bleak grey days here in Glasgow. It's dark when you get up and it's dark when you go home. Bare trees and midnight storms and horses eating each other when nobody's watching. But I do have a bit of good news to share.
The cover design for The Mash House has arrived.
This incredible image was created by Mecob design studio and perfectly captures the book's aesthetic…22nd October 2020 How Come Ma Scottish Novel Isnae Written in Scots
As ye’ll maist likely hae picked up by noo, The Mash Hoose is a gey Scottish book. It’s aw set in the Scottish Heilands, it’s aw aboot Scottish fowk n the hings they get up tae, n Ah’m a Scottish lad masel. Hooever, it isnae scrieved in Scots. N so Ah wantit tae post youse a wee update explainin ma thinkin aboot it.
Ah’m fae Fife, n ower there it’s aw “ah ken this” n “d’ye ken…23rd July 2020 A Story about the Edits
How's it going? I hope you're all doing well. I wanted to give you a quick update on the book's progress.
I've been working on the developmental edits with a really good guy called Russel D. McLean. He's a fellow Fifer and I've benefited from lots of support through working with him. The first draft that I sent Russel was really shabby, and he guided me through heaps of issues…17th June 2020 Welcome to Cullrothes
I hope you're all doing well. I've been busy doing remote teaching by day and editing the manuscript for the book at night. I've been working with a terrific editor and the story is getting stronger and clearer.
I’ve always been a sucker for a book with a map, and I’m absolutely in love with this one. Drawn by Laura Barbour @dreamingisfree for my debut novel THE MASH HOUSE. Isn…28th November 2019 95% - Almost There!
I know it's been a long time since I've updated you on the progress of our book. November is a busy month in my day job as a teacher, and I've been involved in lots of extracurricular events as well. Theatre trips, creative writing seminars, journalism workshops.
But I'm delighted to report that the funding has now reached 95% - so close to completion!
I'd love to get this…29th October 2019 How to Upgrade Your Support
Hello mashguys and mashgals,
The weather is turning cold here in Scotland, and with 66% the crowdfunding campaign for our book THE MASH HOUSE is officially into its final third. You might think the hard part is over.
In this update, I'm going to be making some fairly outrageous suggestions that you might struggle to tolerate. Crowdfunding has compelled me to post more often on social media,…22nd October 2019 Upcoming Short Story Publication
There's a good literary organisation called the Federation of Writers Scotland, a well-established group who champion writing and have a small publishing imprint called New Voices Press. They produce an annual anthology of their members' writing, and this year have accepted a short story of mine.
It's an old story, written maybe six or seven years ago, called The Permanent Arrangement…14th October 2019 Meet the Author: Jason Cobley
I hope you're all doing well. I've got a week off school and I'll be spending a lot of this time working on the manuscript for THE MASH HOUSE. The crowdfunding picked up brilliant momentum through September, but October has been a little quiet. And just as we're so close to the two-thirds mark. Please, if you can, pass on details of the project to anyone who might be interested…7th October 2019 Ness Book Fest Launch Event
Last week we hit a new milestone in the journey of this book, when I performed the opening chapter of THE MASH HOUSE at the Ness Book Fest. It was great to see some supporters and old pals in the crowd. A long drive up and down from Glasgow to Inverness but it was worth it.
The Ness Book Fest runs an innovative scheme to get new writers, like me, to share a stage with more…23rd September 2019 In The Footsteps of Robert Burns
Last month I was talking to my Uncle Allan, a proud son of Ayrshire, about the crowdfunding nature of Unbound books. It can be a tricky thing to explain. The book is not a physical reality, yet we've already sold well over 200 copies to subscribers. We're asking for individual pledges which will combine to fund the whole project. And this reminded Uncle Allan of Robert Burns' early…19th September 2019 Meet the Author: Emma Grae
One of the cool things about working with Unbound has been getting to know some of the other writers with live projects. One of the first I noticed was Emma Grae. Another Scottish writer with a novel called 'be guid tae yer mammy' which is set in Glasgow.
I interviewed Emma about her writing, her favourite books and her idea of a good party.
Tell us what little Emma…17th September 2019 An Interview about The Mash House
There's another Scottish writer currently crowdfunding with Unbound, called Emma Grae. She's been a good support for me throughout this journey. This week, she has kindly interviewed me about my upcoming novel, and other things. You can read the exchange here:
I'll be interviewing Emma later this week as well, so keep your spuds peeled for…11th September 2019 Ness Book Fest '19
I got a bit of welcome news this week. I'm going to be reading an extract from our novel at the Ness Book Fest. This is a pretty awesome book festival held in Inverness, Scotland. Which suits the Highland setting and atmosphere of THE MASH HOUSE perfectly.
I'm no stranger to a book festival reading. Back in the foggy past, I was part of the Margins Festival, a short-lived but…6th September 2019 50% Funding Reached!
Today is a bit of a landmark day in the journey of THE MASH HOUSE - thanks to 188 generous souls, I have reached the halfway stage of funding.
I've been so grateful for pre-orders from old pals in Fife, my wonderful family, colleagues old and new, and the pupils and parents from Fernhill School, where I teach English. I've also had support from friends of friends, twitter acquaintances…27th August 2019 The Mash House in the Media
It has been a busy summer. Working on the manuscript and fundraising and a bit of DIY. Part of my strategy has been to get a little coverage in the media.
First I contacted the Glenrothes Gazette. This was the local newspaper where I grew up and I thought they'd like to carry a story about the book. I carried out a nice wee interview and was able to talk about how my schools…29th July 2019 What Makes a Good Book Cover?
Happy Monday, everyone!
I've had lots of new supporters for THE MASH HOUSE recently, taking the campaign to 36% funded. The novel is officially in its second trimester. Thank you all so much for getting involved, it means a lot.
I've been thinking a lot about how the book might look once it's published. I understand the logic behind the old saying, but it's inevitable that we do judge books…10th July 2019 Free Range Writing #2: The Clydeside Distillery
It's been too wet recently to write outside, so today I went for a tour of the Clydeside Distillery in Glasgow. I had an excellent tour guide, and afterwards spent time in the cafe working on my manuscript for THE MASH HOUSE on my typewriter.
One of the major conflicts in the novel revolves around the ownership of a fictional distillery. On the tour I couldn't help but imagine my characters…27th June 2019 The Pickard Account
Years ago, when I first moved to Glasgow, I had a flat near the Trongate, in the city centre. It was a poky wee place but it had a big cupboard that I could call a library, so I was happy. I was trying to convince everyone that I could be a writer and ended up joining a writer's group that used to meet in the Tron Theatre. Just along the road from that was a building that I instantly fell in love…25th June 2019 Free Range Writing #1: The Southern Necropolis
I'll be working on my manuscript over the summer, and as long as the weather's fine I'll be taking my typewriter out into the wild. Sitting at a desk is fine for editing but I like drafting in the fresh air.
Today I went to the Southern Necropolis for the first time. It's a sprawling and crumbling graveyard in the Gorbals, near where I live. I haven't been before. It's surrounded by high rises…31st May 2019 The One That Got Away
Another huge thanks to you all for pre-ordering my book THE MASH HOUSE. The project has been live for about a week now, and we're nearly 20% towards the target figure. You're all fantastic.
I thought I'd share something a little different. A few years ago I was playing about with the idea of writing a children's novel called GULLS. Maybe I'll go back to it once this book is published…
These people are helping to fund The Mash House.