For a generation of women, John Gordon Sinclair will always be remembered as the gawky teenager, who starred in Bill Forsyth’s 1981 coming-of-age film “Gregory’s Girl”. This was illustrated in the Q&A section of John’s appearance at Whitstable’s first literary festival (WhitLit) on Sunday evening, when he was asked if he could write something for those “who loved him in Gregory’s Girl, but don’t like reading crime fiction.” For once, it wasn’t me stuck in an Eighties’ timewarp, and as a big fan of crime fiction, I found John’s appearance not only entertaining, but it gave a revealing insight into his transition from actor to writer.
I refer to John Gordon Sinclair as an actor at my peril. John joked at the outset of his WhitLit debut that he finds the term “mildly insulting”, preferring to consider himself “more as an electrician with an imagination” (his first job in Glasgow was as an electrician). As an audience, we were left in no doubt that acting is something John does to pay the bills, and something he will stop as soon as it is financially viable for him to do so. Writing is his passion, and he feels that “as a writer, you’re the one in charge [which is] a very satisfying position to be in.” John describes his approach to writing as “trying to describe the film that I’ve got running in my head”. This extends to him acting out the roles of his characters in front of a mirror in the shed at the bottom of his garden (his “Roald Dahl” shed), where he does all writing. In an attempt to normalise this part of John’s creative process, he explains that he doesn’t feel so mad when doing so, since discovering that Charles Dickens used to do a similar thing (although not in a garden shed!). However, he does concede that he hopes none of his neighbours happen to walk past during his characterisation performances.
John cites Dickens as one of his influential writers, alongside American crime fiction writer, Elmore Leonard. When writing his first novel, “Seventy Times Seven”, two of John’s characters meet in a correctional centre in Alabama. Whilst researching such facilities, he discovered that one was named Elmore Correctional Centre, so there was no doubt in his mind that this would be where his characters meet. In his second and current novel, “Blood Whispers” John again pays homage to Leonard by naming his DCI Mark Hammond, after a sergeant in one of Leonard’s books. Despite his love of Elmore Leonard’s books, John feels that quite a few of them fall short in their emotional engagement of the reader. “If it’s a crime thriller, I want to be thrilled and see some crime…I want to be manipulated when I read a book or go to the cinema.” Returning to his own writing, John continues “If you shed a tear, that’s the best thing in the world for me”.
As an author, John Gordon Sinclair is as yet undiscovered by me, but as a fan of crime fiction, one I am now keen to explore. This evening, I will begin my newly-purchased copy of “Blood Whispers”, (inscribed by the author, of course!). If Mr. Sinclair is anywhere near as engaging in his writing as he is in person, I know I am in for a crime-thrilling treat.