The Murder Tree is a fictional story based on a true one: the murder of a Glasgow servant woman in 1862.
That grisly event is the focus of a new BBC Television documentary: The Sandyford Murder – Sgeulachd Jessie McLachlan to be aired in Scottish regions on BBC Alba on Thursday 5th December at 9pm, and then repeated on Monday 9th December at 10.30pm. BBC Alba is not available in the rest of the UK, but the programme WILL be screened on BBC iPlayer for seven days after the first broadcast. This is part of a series of four murder stories centred around Glasgow's infamous 'Square Mile of Murder', but will be of particular interest to anyone who has enjoyed reading The Murder Tree, and would like to know more about the facts and the people who inspired me to write my first novel.
The programme features actors playing the parts of Jessie McLachlan, James Fleming and Jess MacPherson, and also includes interviews with other knowledgeable historians. Some of the filming took place at the site of the murder, and I am most grateful for news of the programme from Yvonne Cunningham, who works there for Henry Abram & Sons.
Although some of the presentation is in Gaelic with English sub-titles, this should not put off anyone 'south of the border', as I have already watched the previous programme in the series (about Madeleine Smith) and found it totally fascinating.
So - don't miss this unique opportunity to delve deeper into a good story! More details about the broadcast can also be found at this link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2797104/.
Hooks you right in.......
On reading the prologue I thought this book might not be for me (as I'm not in to period stuff) but how wrong I was, and by chapter 3, I was completely hooked.
The story keeps you involved to the conclusion and has you rooting for the main characters. There were a few details that I 'guessed' in advance of it actually being revealed but it didn't detract from how the story evolves and the conclusion of the story is suspenseful and well executed.
Whilst I'd not heard the factual story of the two Jessie's before reading this book, it has certainly inspired me to take the time to find out more.
For a new author this is a spectacular start and I look forward to reading more.
by Mrs L Dale
I was fortunate enough to purchase this book before its launch date via a book signing event.
Like the first reviewer I was unsure initially, but was totally hooked once I settled into the second chapter - so much so that I couldn't put it down and actually completed reading it within 48hrs.
I won't elaborate on the contents of the book as there is already information re this on 'the murder tree website' . I would , however, encourage anyone with a penchant for a psychological thriller to purchase this book and hope that there are many more to follow by this author.
Well done Mr. Veale, and keep writing!
by Gillian Smith
This is a very encouraging debut novel. From the compelling opening scenes, which swiftly engage the reader,to the imaginative and unexpected denouement,'The Murder Tree' takes us on an exciting trail through 19th century and modern day Glasgow. Well drawn, sympathetic characters inhabit a vivid world. Combine this with extensive research and attention to detail and the result is a cracking good original story. Congratulations, Mr Veale!
by S D Hinchcliffe
I was gripped by the book. The characters are really well drawn, especially Billy for whom I felt quite worried. I felt that it was good, exciting, puzzling, and frightening. There was some violence and some erotic bits, well balanced. All in all I can’t wait for the next tome. Thank you.
12 October 2013
I thoroughly enjoyed The Murder Tree. I was totally breathless by the end of it. Your characters were beautifully drawn and I really cared what happened to them.
21 October 2013
I enjoyed reading the book. It is very meticulously researched, and this is reflected in the detail of the descriptions of the venues featured in the book. There is some very sensitive writing which shows the range of emotional reactions of people under stress. I like very credible characterisation very much, especially Abram. The blend of historical association and science fiction works very well, and the latter is powerfully deployed throughout.
Dr Glyn Morton
21 October 2013
by Received by Author
This novel covered many matters that I have an interest in: crime fiction, historical facts and family tree research. It took a couple of chapters for me to get into it, but once I did I enjoyed it and the last quarter of the book I didn't want to put it down. I read on The Murder Tree website that the author would like to write a follow-up depending on reviews and would like to say that I for one would another book.
by Stephanie Rothwell
In this tale, Fersen, the main character, wants to know how she is connected to an incident and person from 150 years ago. She sets out on a journey of discovery with a British librarian who shares her desire to find out if the accused is guilty of the crime she was convicted of, or if it was truly someone else. This is a well written, engaging tale that keeps you turning pages. It is based on the true story of Jessie McLachlan, who was convicted of murder, but blamed on someone else. It was very interesting to read of such a brutal crime committed by a woman. I couldn’t put it down. It was fascinating.
by L Schwarzman
INTRODUCING THE AUTHOR
Born in 1952 in Manchester, Alan Veale developed his creative imagination when given school homework at the age of 13: to write a fairy story... Here he answers some questions about his background in the theatre, how he came to write The Murder Tree, and what might come next:
HOW DID IT ALL START?
I started writing for fun shortly before I left school at the age of eighteen, but my subsequent interest in the theatre led me to take a more serious interest in character development and plot construction. This could then be taken to further levels by a director and a cast. To date I have concentrated almost entirely on theatre scripts – some specifically for performance, others for writing competitions – but it was not until an enforced early retirement from the civil service in 2009 that I considered taking up my biggest challenge: to write a novel.
WHAT MAKES WRITING A NOVEL SUCH A CHALLENGE?
For me, the challenges of each medium are totally different, and yet related. Theatre is all about the visual impact for a live audience, requiring a dynamic that can be easily absorbed for short term gain. Writing prose for a reader demands something deeper, and is intended to stimulate imagination and to provoke thoughts that may affect for a longer period. And yet both demand the writer to paint a picture that holds attention. Both require strong characters, interesting dialogue, and the framework of a beginning, middle, and a satisfying end.
WHERE DID THE IDEA FOR 'THE MURDER TREE' COME FROM?
It was around twenty years ago that I first read a book by Christianna Brand entitled Heaven Knows Who. This was a contemporary account of the trial of Jessie McLachlan, and the events preceding it. I was immediately struck by the dramatic 'twists' in this factual story, and by the intriguing questions it posed about who had really committed the crime. Because it was a true story, it struck me that there would undoubtedly be descendants alive today who may even be ignorant of the involvement of their infamous ancestors - and that prompted the creative instinct within me to look at the potential to write another version of the story, but from a modern day viewpoint.
But my writing experience was limited to the theatre, and I could not think of a practical way to put such a drama on the stage, so I put the project to the back of my mind for a while.
Along came children, other projects and lots of new challenges, and it was not until I retired from the civil service that I felt the time had come for a serious attempt at turning the story into a novel. It took another year before I hit the keyboard properly, and several visits to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Perth and Inverness (plus a holiday in New York) to complete the necessary research.
WILL THERE BE A FOLLOW-UP STORY TO 'THE MURDER TREE'?
That depends on my readers! I do have something in mind, yes - but first I would welcome some feedback on the present story. A novel of this kind, based on real events, does take a lot of time and effort to research, but I do like making the connection between fiction and fact, so if I find my readers enjoy the style of 'The Murder Tree', then I will be happy to get back to work!
TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR INVOLVEMENT WITH THE THEATRE
My love affair with the theatre began at the age of 9 when my uncle, who was Head of Art at a boy's school in Cheshire, took me along to help him prepare the set for the annual Christmas show. I saw the work behind the 'magic' and I was fascinated, but I had no aspirations to act. It took another eleven years before I found myself volunteering my services for an amateur dramatic society, where I was persuaded to take the part of Eric Birling in Priestley's An Inspector Calls. This was early in 1973, and by the end of the year I was taking acting roles in three further productions... I was hooked!
The following year I was fortunate enough to be a founding member of a new (semi-professional) group of actors. We were brought together specifically for a one-off event: the centenary of the St Annes Land & Building Company - formed in 1874 to start building the town of St Annes-on-Sea on the Fylde Coast of Lancashire. The Company still owned the town's pier, which boasted a beautifully restored pavilion theatre, and we were given the task of presenting a classic Victorian thriller - Gaslight. I was now doing sound effects, assisting the stage manager, and doing a walk-on as a policeman! But the important thing was that I was now working with professionals...
There followed plenty of mixed fortune for me, theatrically. I had some brief spells of paid work, usually touring in children's theatre, or the odd season show, but most of my involvement in theatre has been with amateur groups. The Centenary Players are a slight exception: we still put on the occasional production, using a combination of professional and amateur talent, but we don't get paid. You can check out our website www.centenaryplayers.co.uk for further information.
AND WHAT ABOUT THOSE THEATRE SCRIPTS?
I was lucky. One of the first groups I joined in 1973 was a youth group, led by a wonderful lady who wanted older volunteers to help develop her young charges. We wrote our own material and performed it - usually for the parent's benefit - but it was all good experience. My first 'commission' was to write about the history of Blackpool, and once completed our show Castles from the Sand was presented in a couple of different venues on the Fylde Coast - and not just for parents!
There were one or two other opportunities to write material for the youth group before I left to concentrate on acting projects that paid. There were not enough of those around, so I soon found myself joining the civil service for a more reliable income, but the script writing continued occasionally. I won a national competition in 1984 with a comedy entitled Best Laid Plans, which was performed the following year by a local drama group. Various other scripts followed, with some degree of success in competitions, but my latest effort has still not been performed after undergoing several re-drafts and transitions over a period of twenty years! That said, it recently attracted the attention of an established professional director in the North West, and I have hopes that it may yet have a life in performance...