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A tribal story about secrets, death and malt whisky

“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.

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.


https://medium.com/@alangillespie

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.

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Free Range Writing #2: The Clydeside Distillery

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

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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…

The Pickard Account

Thursday, 27 June 2019

History page1

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…

Free Range Writing #1: The Southern Necropolis

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

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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…

The One That Got Away

Friday, 31 May 2019

Hi everyone!

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…

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