Once Upon a True Crime: Meet the Authors - Douglas Skelton

Douglas Skelton leaning against a fence
Douglas Skelton | Once Upon a True Crime

No writer captures the dark and gritty side of Glasgow quite like Douglas Skelton. His works are renowned for showing the city in its true light and while he’s happy to delve into the darkness, he also shows a lot of love and passion for his hometown.

Blood City was his first work of fiction and saw him turn his hand to creating a criminal underworld very much steeped in the realities of 20th century Glasgow.

Early Life and Career

Douglas Skelton is Glasgow-born and bred, so it’s no wonder the city sits at the heart of his works. Before fiction, he published eleven true crime books as well as Scottish history books. He also spent plenty of time doing all manner of jobs, from waiting to taxi-driving, and previously maintaining a successful career in investigative and regular journalism.

Outside of writing, he also tours with other crime writers up and down the UK, with a range of comedy-mystery shows, including Four Blokes in Search of a Plot and Carry on Sleuthing. He also presents You the Jury where audiences are invited to deliver verdicts on cases.

Skelton’s fiction novels all focus in and around Glasgow. His Davie McCall series includes four books that explore the city’s underworld, drug cartels, and violent criminals. He has written several other series including Dominic Queste and more recently, Rebecca Connolly.

It all began with Blood City though, and Skelton’s first foray into crime fiction, inspired by real-life events.

Blood City and the Ice Cream Wars

Skelton published his first novel, Blood City in 2013 and it delves into the world he knew only too well from his true crime and journalism days. In the novel, Davie McCall gets drawn into a world of crime despite his strict moral code. More than just your average henchman, McCall is desperate to get out of the life of crime he’s entrenched in, but finding a way seems quite impossible. Blood City is set in the underworld of Glasgow during a time when illegal drugs, gang activity, and violent crime carried on just below the surface.

In the 1980s, Glasgow was rife with poverty, violence, and in many areas, drugs. The well-publicised Ice Cream Wars case saw rival ice cream van crews fighting over territories in the East End of the city. Bricked windows and slashed tyres escalated to gun attacks and a horrifying arson murder that killed six members of the Doyle family on the Ruchazie housing estate. Two men were convicted of the crime, yet their innocence was campaigned for and eventually proven, leaving it completely unsolved.

The societal and economical background of Skelton’s Blood City, and subsequent Glasgow-based novels, rings very true when compared to the plight of the Doyle family and others involved in the Ice Cream Wars and similar local gangland crime.

Skelton’s intimate knowledge of the city and in-depth research and investigation into crimes in the area create unforgettable and gripping tales of a city at its worst.