Paul JohnstonPaul Johnston
The Black Life The Nameless Dead The Nameless Dead The Death List The Soul Collector
The Greek Novels
The Quint Novels
Body Politic
The Bone Yard
Water of Death
The Blood Tree
The House of Dust
The Matt Wells Novels

Quint Dalrymple Novels

All five novels are now available as ebooks from Severn Select, on the following platforms: Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository, Gardners, GoSpoken, Kobo, Overdrive, Tesco, Waterstone’s, WH Smith.

The Future of Crime Writing - A Quintet of Quint Novels

‘Paul Johnston is still setting the bar high for intelligent crime fiction writing. His
Quint Dalrymple novels, set in a futuristic Scotland, form an excellent series.’

This page gives you some background information about the Quint Dalrymple series of crime novels - for detailed descriptions, introductions, extracts and reviews of each book, click on the titles. The novels in order of publication are:

Body Politic | The Bone Yard | Water of Death | The Blood Tree | The House of Dust

There are some authors who plan their series in detail before they write a word. I am not one of those. I planned Body Politic in excessive detail (must have been something to do with my academic background), but as I was an unpublished author at the time it seemed a waste of time to look any further forward than that book. Having said that, I was well aware of the significance of series in the crime genre, so I made sure I left enough hooks for a potential sequel just in case...

If you're new to the Quint books, you need to know something about the setting in terms of time and location. The action occurs in the 2020s (2020 in Body Politic through to 2028 in The House of Dust) and is centred around the independent city-state of Edinburgh (my take on Scottish, or any other country's, nationalism).

Why the future and why Edinburgh? As I describe on the Body Politic page, I was living in Greece when I planned and wrote the early drafts and I was nostalgic for my home city. But I couldn't get the novel to move away from a page one that remained frighteningly blank and I eventually realised that the distance between me and my fictional location was causing the problem. Somehow, changing the time dimension solved that. The place was still Edinburgh, but twenty-five years down the line, though still recognisable, it was very different. My separation from Edinburgh seemed to give me the objectivity to conjure up the differences. This led to a lot of extra work, but it paid dividends in terms of originality, always a useful quality in popular fiction.

So here's the set-up. The United Kingdom (and much of Europe) has been torn apart by drugs wars in the early years of the twenty-first century. Gangs of criminals run wild in most areas, but Edinburgh is different. In the last election of 2003, the people vote in the Enlightenment Party, a small grouping of university professors that promises to get rid of crime. They succeed in doing so, forming themselves into a Council of City Guardians backed up by a powerful force of auxiliaries (policemen and bureaucrats) - their ideas came from Plato, that well-known thinker and proto-fascist. The ordinary citizens, as the bulk of the population is termed, benefit from guaranteed work, housing, welfare and lifelong education. They also attend a compulsory sex session every week. On the downside, the regime has banned cars, computers, smoking, television, private phones and popular music - and your partner in the weekly sex session is chosen for you by the authorities. Of course, things are not what they seem in this supposedly benevolent totalitarian system. Far from doing away with crime, the guardians have only pushed it underground. They are too busy looking after the tourists who come to Edinburgh for the year-round festival, the gambling, the licensed brothels and the marijuana clubs. And where there's sex, drugs and rock'n'roll, you can be sure that crime will raise its ugly head...

Enter our hero. Quintilian - Quint, for short - Dalrymple is a former senior policeman who was demoted after refusing to accept orders. At the start of the series he works as a labourer, handling missing persons cases in his spare time. He is tolerated by the guardians because he takes some pressure off the overworked City Guard - and because he's good at what he does. Quint is a maverick who gets up the regime's collective nose, a lover of whisky and the blues. You can trace his roots back to Marlowe and Sam Spade, to the Great Detective Sherlock Holmes, and to any hard-nosed cop you care to name (Bullitt, Popeye Doyle, whoever) - though he has a softer, more intellectual side to him.

As the series developed after being given the green light by my British publisher, characters have appeared, disappeared and reappeared, and new locations have been investigated. Quint has a pair of dedicated sidekicks: Davie, a large guardsman who provides muscle and a way into the established power structure; and Katharine Kirkwood, his sometime lover who is a full-time critic of the regime. Later novels have seen the trio travel to Glasgow (The Blood Tree) and Oxford (The House of Dust). In both places, as in Edinburgh, the apparently placid surface conceals a corrupt and violent core.

The series may be set in the future, but it is firmly rooted in the present. I make use of contemporary issues - political corruption, the white slave trade, Viagra, nuclear power, lotteries, genetic engineering, higher education, enhanced human beings - and extrapolate from our experience of them. But the novels are not sci-fi, even if there are more high-tech elements in the last two books than in the first three. My initial conception of the repressive regime had more in common with George Orwell's dystopian 1984, a backward-looking dictatorship, than with the apparently utopian society of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.

So there you are. A quintet of Quint novels. The crime writing of the future. The future of crime writing. Read them in any order you like and remember - things can only get better...

Rather to the author’s surprise, academics have started writing about the Quint series. The following is a brief bibliography for students and other curious parties:

Plain, Gill (2002) Ian Rankin’s Black and Blue. New York/ London: Continuum; p. 85.

Sassi, Carla (2005) `“Quis custodiet Athenas Boreales?”: Paul Johnston’s Platonic dystopia`, in Daniela Carpi (ed.), Why Plato? Platonism and Twentieth Century Literature. Heidelberg: Winter; pp. 199-209.

Sassi, Carla (2005) Why Scottish Literature Matters. Edinburgh: The Saltire Society; pp. 169-171.

Plain, Gill (2007) ‘Concepts of Corruption: Crime Fiction and the Scottish ‘State’, in Berthold Schoene (ed.) The Edinburgh Companion to Contemporary Scottish Literature, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press; pp. 132-140.

Plain, Gill (2008) ‘Introduction’, Clues: A Journal of Detection, Theme Issue: Scottish Crime Fiction, Vol. 26, Number 2; pp. 7-8.

Kelly, Aaron (2008) `“The darkness at the heart of the Enlightenment”: Edinburgh in Paul Johnston’s Fiction`, ibid; pp. 39-52.

Clandfield, Peter (2008) ‘Denise Mina, Ian Rankin, Paul Johnston, and the Architectural Crime Novel’, ibid; pp. 79-91.

I give my personal take on Scotland in ‘Infinite Scotland’ (2005), in A Sense of Place: A collection of new Scottish writing, New Lanark: Waverley Books, pp. 181-188.

Top of Page

Website copyright © Paul Johnston 2019 Author photo by Colin Thomas
Website development by Pedalo limited