Christopher Brookmyre

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Christopher Brookmyre (born 6 September 1968) is a Scottish novelist whose novels mix comedy, politics, social comment and action with a strong narrative. He has been referred to as a Tartan Noir author.[1] His debut novel was Quite Ugly One Morning and subsequent works have included One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night, which he said "was just the sort of book he needed to write before he turned 30",[this quote needs a citation] and All Fun and Games until Somebody Loses an Eye (2005). Since April 2008, he has been President of the Humanist Society of Scotland.[2]

Brookmyre at "Bloody Scotland", Stirling 2013


Brookmyre was born in Glasgow and raised and schooled in Barrhead, attending St. Mark's Primary School and St. Luke's High School, before attending the University of Glasgow.[3] Brookmyre is married to an anaesthetist with whom he has a son, and supports St Mirren F.C., references to Scottish football ('fitba') frequently featuring in his books. Brookmyre is also a regular on BBC Scotland's Sportscene Results programme during the football season.


Jack Parlabane[edit]

Five of Brookmyre's novels (Quite Ugly One Morning, Country of the Blind, Boiling a Frog, Be My Enemy and Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks) centre on the investigative journalist Jack Parlabane. Parlabane's unorthodox, occasionally criminal methods usually see him catching all manner of "white collar" villains, from murderous NHS Trust managers (Quite Ugly One Morning) to rogue secret service chiefs (Country of the Blind, Be My Enemy). The character is very anti-authoritarian and frequently curses institutions such as the government, media and intelligence services.

Through Parlabane, Brookmyre articulates what might be argued as a radical viewpoint, with the "bad guys" invariably belonging to the Establishment. Most vitriolic is Boiling a Frog, in which Parlabane tracks down massive corruption and murder in the then newly fledged Scottish Government and the Catholic Church. This latter novel is also notable for countering readers' accusations that Parlabane had become too good at his work, as it opens with him in prison following a conviction for breaking and entering. It also reveals that the character's full name is John Lapsley Parlabane. The reference to Lapsley is a direct homage to what most St Mirren fans agree to be the club's finest ever player, Davie Lapsley, captain of the 1959 Scottish Cup winning side.

Angelique de Xavia[edit]

Three of Brookmyre's novels feature the character of counterterrorism officer Angelique de Xavia: A Big Boy did it and Ran Away, The Sacred Art of Stealing, and A Snowball in Hell. A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away and A Snowball in Hell pit Xavia against international terrorist-for-hire Simon Darcourt. A Snowball In Hell was originally due to be titled The Great Grease-Tailed Shaven Pig Hunt.[4][5]



Brookmyre has said that the inspiration for Jack Parlabane was Ford Prefect from Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series; he said "I always adored the idea of a character who cheerfully wanders into enormously dangerous situations and effortlessly makes them much worse." [6] The name Parlabane is taken from the works of Robertson Davies as are the names of several other characters in Brookmyre's works, indicating another of the author's influences.

Art Alexakis of the band Everclear has been thanked by Brookmyre inside the front cover of two of his books - Be My Enemy and Sacred Art Of Stealing. Brookmyre has said that Sacred Art was inspired by the Everclear song 'Unemployed Boyfriend' from the album Songs from an American Movie, Vol. 1: Learning How to Smile. This is the song which the lead character, Zal Innez, discusses with Angelique De Xavia.

In other media[edit]

In 2003, Quite Ugly One Morning was dramatised in two parts by ITV, with the lead played by Irish actor James Nesbitt. None of Brookmyre's other novels have been adapted for television, but his short story Bampot Central was rewritten as a radio play by the author for BBC Radio 3.

In 2004, actor David Tennant narrated the audiobook of Quite Ugly One Morning.

In 2007, actor Billy Boyd narrated the audiobook of Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks.

Recurring characters[edit]

Brookmyre's books are all set in the same "universe" and contain a number of recurring characters, especially the appearance or mention of major characters (such as Parlabane) in incidental roles in other stories. Some of the recurring characters are listed below:

  • Jack Parlabane, an investigative journalist with an attitude towards the laws covering trespass and burglary best described as flexible. Parlabane was the protagonist of Brookmyre's debut Quite Ugly One Morning and is, to date, the most frequently appearing character. He appears in Country of the Blind, Boiling a Frog, Be My Enemy and The Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks as a major character, and is referenced in Not The End Of The World.
  • Sarah Slaughter, anaesthetist and ex-wife of the murder victim in Quite Ugly One Morning. She and Jack are later married.
  • Angelique de Xavia, the diminutive but deadly police officer from A Big Boy Did it and Ran Away, The Sacred Art of Stealing and A Snowball In Hell.
  • Tim 'Death's Dark' Vale, the head of security on the Floating Island Paradise Resort in One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night, is revealed as an associate of Jack Parlabane in Country of the Blind when Sarah accuses Jack of having got his gun from Vale. They then join forces in Be My Enemy.
  • Simon Darcourt, the Black Spirit, is the "hero" of the short story Mellow Doubt[7] and A Big Boy Did it and Ran Away. He also features in A Snowball In Hell (which also re-uses Mellow Doubt as part of the story).
  • Steff Kennedy, the hero of Not the End of the World, is mentioned as the photographer who took the picture of the Arguments for their single sleeve in A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away.
  • Larry Freeman, who has a cameo in Quite Ugly One Morning as a friend of Parlabane's, also features in Not the End of the World. In the short-story Bampot Central Jack Parlabane is attempting to post "Paranoid Tim" to Larry's young son as a birthday present when he becomes embroiled in an armed robbery, "Paranoid Tim" is himself referenced in Not the End of the World. He further has a brief cameo in Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks in a phone call with Parlabane.
  • Former police Inspector Hector McGregor, who investigated the murder of Dr Jeremy Ponsonby in Quite Ugly One Morning, returns to play a part in One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night.
  • Zal Innez was one of the main characters in The Sacred Art of Stealing and was brought back with a similarly central role in A Snowball In Hell.
  • Glasgow Gangster Bud Hannigan has a small role in A Big Boy Did it and Ran Away and is later one of the main villains in The Sacred Art of Stealing. He surfaces again in All Fun and Games, Until Someone Loses an Eye and is also referenced in A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil. Hannigan is noted to have died at a point in time between events in All Fun And Games, Until Someone Loses An Eye and those in A Snowball In Hell, in which his death is mentioned.
  • Marius Roth, a shadowy figure with a near mythical reputation, is mentioned in All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses an Eye as the paymaster and A Snowball in Hell as a possible employer of the Black Spirit. It is implied, though never confirmed, that he is "Shub", who appears in A Big Boy Did it and Ran Away as the owner of "the good ship Black and Decker". He is certainly the owner of the yacht which is raided by Bett's Tiger Team in All Fun And Games Until Someone Loses An Eye; a connection confirmed in A Snowball In Hell.
  • Raymond Ash, "Larry - the little drummer boy", a major character in A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away is referenced in both The Sacred Art of Stealing and A Snowball In Hell/Mellow Doubt.
  • Spammy, one of the suspects in Country of the Blind, reappears towards the end of Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks and is referenced in Boiling a Frog.
  • Comedian Matt Black who attended the class reunion on the Floating Island Paradise Resort in One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night, is referenced in Flesh Wounds.


  • Quite Ugly One Morning was the winner of the Critics' First Blood Award for Best First Crime Novel of the Year in 1996.
  • Bampot Central was shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association Macallan Short Story Dagger in 1997.
  • Boiling a Frog won the Sherlock Award for Best Comic Detective in 2000.
  • All Fun And Games until Someone Loses an Eye was the winner of the seventh Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction in 2006.


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