Christopher Galt Novels

The Bookseller 18 November 2004
Opinion : Horace Bent

Buyers get locked in the Hamburg Cell

Bookselling isn't usually a profession that leads to a criminal record (although there are exceptions, I'm sure - do email me your stories). But last Saturday, a group from the trade - including Nigel Jones and Claire Nuttall from Ottakar's, Darren Thomson from Entertainment UK, Charles Furniss of THE, Helen Ward of WH Smith, Julian King of Alpha, Rachel Hughes of BCA and Eoin McHugh of Easons - found themselves occupying a claustrophic and graffiti-covered cell in a police station on the edge of Hamburg's red light district. And that was before their night out on the town, drinking the local beer. Craig Russell with the Hamburg Police

This close brush with the Hamburg police came courtesy of Hutchinson author Craig Russell, whose début novel Blood Eagle, the first of a series, is published by Random House in March 2005. It's an involving, deeply-researched serial killer tale, featuring detective Jan Fabel investigating Hamburg's criminal underworld and terrorist threats past and present (the "Hamburg Cell" was behind the 9/11 atrocity, after all). Russell is Scottish, but has a long association with Germany, and knows Hamburg like the back of his hand. Sneaking us into the Davidwache police station where he has his "contacts", we learned about policing a red light district, where "you can buy anything if you pay the price", as the station chief explained. "Cup of tea?" quipped one of our number.

Russell explained that his interest in Hamburg's thriving transvestite scene is purely writerly and intellectual. But he had been taken aback to discover that if you search for "Craig Russell" on the internet, you find yourself reading about a notable female impersonator of the 1970s and '80s. Absolutely no relation, of course.