The White Bird Passes by Jessie Kesson

‘This is the unforgettable story of young Janie, growing up in the city backstreets. Her beloved mother, Liza, has ‘gone to the bad’, her father has gone for good and Janie’s dreams are haunted not by the bogeyman, but the Cruelty Man, the Rent Man and the orphanage. Yet through her tough pilgrimage shines the gusto of the slums and the triumph of the human spirit.

Jessie Kesson is the much-loved author of Another Time, Another Place. In The White Bird Passes she draws vividly on her own Scottish childhood.’      From back cover 

The edition I have has an eight page introduction to this book. The book is way too short. Although in the short telling of this very large tale, you meet a lovely strong girl with such exuberance for life in-spite of her very hard life.  Beautiful clear descriptions of the slums she called home and the people who were her neighbors. At 8 years old she is removed from her mother’s care and sent to an orphanage where she lives until she is 16. Her grandparents are middle class people with a nice home and land, but because she was born out of wedlock her strict Presbyterian grandfather won’t sit at a dinner table with her or her mother or speak to them at all. They would visit her grandparents home on rare occasion and grandma showed them love and fed them, but grandpa left the house. How very sad that because of a hard, unforgiving heart and misplaced religious views this innocent child lived the life she did. And yet she only saw the beauty and the whimsy in everything. Maybe it was God’s plan for her after all to make her who she ultimately became. He gave her a beautiful gift that I envy!

Peggy Ann

Read Scotland 2014

A.D. Scott

We’ve made it to the letter S @ Crime Fiction Alphabet! Yea! I get to highlight my favorite author, A.D. Scott, pen name of Ann Deborah Nolan.

Ms. Scott is the author of the Highland Gazette Series. Books set in the Highlands of Scotland in the 1950’s and they are Mysteries! Perfect, character-driven mysteries! Okay, I’m getting carried away, but they really are excellently written mysteries. You have to read them.

The main characters in the books are the employees of the small town newspaper, The Highland Gazette. McAllister is the new editor-in-chief from Glasgow. Don McLeod, the sub-editor, Rob, the young ambitious reporter and Joanne Ross, the part-time typist. In the second book we meet Hector, the new photographer. They develop into a great team and you really get attached to them! The McPhee’s are reoccurring characters and add a little spice to the stories. They are Gypsies, the traveling people. Jenny McPhee is the mom, a strong woman who knows who she is, sure of herself and her family. Jimmy McPhee is the oldest son. Anything goes wrong the tinkers are usually blamed.

But, enough about the books! Let’s get back to A.D. Scott! You can see my reports on the first two here and here.

Ms. Scott was born in the Highlands of Scotland, got her education at Inverness Royal Academy and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, married, raised a family and at the age of 40 left Scotland for warmer climates. She now lives in both Australia and Viet Nam. She has worked in theater, magazines and been a knitwear designer. At the age of 64 she had her first book published! Book #3 is out November 13 this year and she is hard at work on #4! She is coming to the U.S. in November for a book tour! Deborah has graciously taken time out of her busy schedule to stop by and chat with us for a few minutes!

Welcome to the Post Deborah!

How did a Scottish Girl end up in Viet Nam?
Aah, that was simple, in 1998 my husband and I were offered jobs on an English language newspaper and we packed up and 6 weeks later arrived in Hanoi. The jobs fell apart after 3 months, but it was the beginning of the opening-up of the country so there were many more opportunities in a country where there were still more bicycles than motorbikes and cars were a rarity.

What do you love the most about Viet Nam?
The people.

What do you miss the most about Scotland?
Not having to explain yourself- my language and references, and the love of words and literature and discourse…a passing stranger can engage you on discussions on anything from the price of fish to the meaning of the universe.

For you how does the story come together in your imagination? Does a character come together first or the setting or the actual crime? Can you briefly walk us thru how it all comes together?
Every time is different. The book I’m working on now came together because as I was walking the back streets of Luang Prabang in Laos, I watched a woman hang out her washing. We’d never hang washing that way in Scotland I thought. I had to rush back, grab a pencil and notebook and write and the prologue to book 4 was written. All I had to do was find a way to make it work.

Peggy: Well, you’ve got my curiosity up now! Can’t wait to get the book.

I love the characters of The McPhees. Were/are the Gypsy’s a common part of Scottish landscape and did you ever experience their culture growing up there? The travelling people were and are a major part of life in Scotland. In the new book, Beneath the Abbey Wall, they are a major part of the story. There was always a mystery about tinkers – we saw often saw the families in their carts and caravans on the road to and from the West and at harvest time and in the town selling clothe-pegs and white heather door to door. But last June 2012, I discovered the long lost secret of my childhood, one I suspected but never knew, my paternal grandfather was a Traveller. I knew he was a tinsmith – a traditional job amongst tinker men, but he, along with many others, lost his cultural identity or chose to suppress it, when a soldier in WW1.The disgrace for my family, if it was discovered, meant a hiding of the past, but no one could banish my Granddad’s singing and story telling.

Joanne is one of my favorite characters. I love her bravery and enjoy watching her grow and become more independent and confident. I have a feeling you are just as brave! Is there any of you in her character? No, I don’t think so. Knitting yes. Dancing – absolutely. Mince and tatties and scones –I cook those too. But for me, Joanne is really annoying in the way she allows others to put her down. I want to shake her and say, respect yourself, then play her Aretha Franklin singing, “Respect Yourself.” Joanne needs that song. But maybe that’s the mark of an author — you can stand back and see what we can’t see in ourselves.

Peggy: Yes, Joanne is a bit of a ‘floor mat’ but I see her growing from book one to book two. She is learning as she goes and that makes her so real to me. I like her vulnerability.

I would love to see your books made into a Masterpiece Mystery Series! If that were to happen who would you like to see play Joanne? And McAllister?
Joanne? That’s hard. McAllister, easy. Davis Tennant. Apart from being a great Dr Who, and a Shakespearean stage actor, he is also Glaswegian.

I’m planning on traveling to Scotland, hopefully in the next couple of years? What is the best month of year to go? What traditional Scottish food do I have to try while there?
Best time –June. Those long long nights, white nights, less tourists, no midges.

Food –home-cured bacon, oatcakes, all the wonderful cheeses, fish (smoked, raw, cooked,) fish and chips in a newspaper (well probably brown paper these days) and the raspberries are wonderful in June.

Peggy: My sweet friend in Kirkcaldy said they don’t come in newspaper anymore, sometimes in cardboard trays. She said there was nothing like reading the news thru grease stains!

What’s your favorite food?
Fish and chips, from a real chip-shop, in Glasgow or Troon, or Largs, or Ayr, or Nairn run by an Italian Scott.

Do you have a favorite quote?
‘But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flower the bloom is shed…’   

No prizes for guessing who wrote that!

Peggy: I’m guessing Rabbie Burns!

It won’t be long until you’ll be doing your book tour in the US. How can we find out if you’ll be in a city near us?
Check my website:

Thanks for stopping by Deborah and most of all thanks for the great stories! Keep them coming!

Here are a few links you can see more interviews with Ms. Scott and learn more about her!

Simon & Schuster
Interview with Simon & Schuster
Scene of the Crime @ Kittling Books
and of course her blog

Coming November 13, 2012

On a dark, damp Sunday evening, a man taking a shortcut home sees a hand reaching out in supplication from a bundle of sacks. In an instant he knows something terrifying has happened. In the Highlands in the late 1950s, much of the local newspaper’s success was due to Mrs. Smart, the no-nonsense office manager who kept everything and everyone in line. Her murder leaves her colleagues in shock and the Highland Gazette office in chaos. Joanne Ross, a budding reporter and shamefully separated mother, assumes Mrs. Smart’s duties, but an intriguing stranger provides a distraction not only from the job and the investigation but from everything Joanne believes in. Beneath the Abbey Wall brilliantly evokes a place still torn between the safety of the past and the uncertainty of the future, when rock ’n’ roll and television invaded homes, and a change in attitudes still came slowly for many. As the staff of the Highland Gazette probes the crime, they uncover secrets deeply rooted in the past, and their friend’s murder becomes the perfect fodder for strife and division in the town and between her colleagues. 
Pre-order this book now!  Simon & Schuster  The Book Depository   Indie Bound   Powell’s Books   Amazon

In the United Kingdom:  Amazon

Book #1

Both probing character study and a driving novel of suspense, here is a novel that will linger in your mind like mist over the Scottish glens . . .

In the Highlands of 1950s Scotland, a boy is found dead in a canal lock. Two young girls tell such a fanciful story of his disappearance that no one believes them. The local newspaper staff—including Joanne Ross, the part-time typist embroiled in an abusive marriage, and her boss, a seasoned journalist determined to revamp the paper—set out to uncover and investigate the crime. Suspicion falls on several townspeople, all of whom profess their innocence. Alongside these characters are the people of the town and neighboring glens; a refugee Polish sailor; an Italian family whose café boasts the first known cappuccino machine in the north of Scotland; and a corrupt town clerk subverting the planning laws to line his own pocket.

Together, these very different Scots harbor deep and troubling secrets underneath their polished and respectable veneers revelations that may prevent the crime from being solved and may keep the town firmly in the clutches of its shadowy past.

Book #2

Two Women, Two Murders . . .
A stunning and suspenseful story of families, betrayal, and a community divided.
Nothing is ever quite at peace on Scotland’s Black Isle—the Traveling people are forever at odds with the locals, the fishermen have nothing in common with the farmers, and the villages have no connection with the town. But when two deaths occur on the same day, involving the same families from the same estate—the Black Isle seems as forbidding as its name.

Joanne Ross, typist at the Highland Gazette, is torn whether to take on the plum task of reporting on these murders—after all, the woman at the center of both crimes is one of her closest friends. Joanne knows the story could be her big break, and for a woman in the mid-1950s—a single mother, no less—good work is hard to come by.

But the investigation by the staff on the Gazette reveals secrets that will forever change this quiet, remote part of the Highlands. The ancient feudal order is crumbling, loyalties are tested, friendships torn apart, and the sublime beauty of the landscape will never seem peaceful again.

Browse inside this book here 
Read an excerpt from chapter one here

This post is linked to Crime Fiction Alphabet @ Mysteries in Paradise. A weekly meme where you have to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week. Your post MUST be related to either the first letter of a book’s title, the first letter of an author’s first name, or the first letter of the author’s surname, or even maybe a crime fiction “topic”. 

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