Scots, kilts and crime
By Sally Carpenter
Thanks to Paty for this opportunity to guest on Ladies of Mystery.
When I created the main character for my Sandy Fairfax cozy series, I gave him a Scottish heritage so I could put him in a kilt. I love men in kilts. Sandy’s real name is Farmington, which has its own family tartan.
At long last the opportunity arrived. My new book, No. 6 in the series, is The Highland Havoc Caper. The story begins at the Seaside Highland Games in Ventura, California, based on the real Seaside Games in the city. I didn’t have the chance to attend the games when I was writing the book, but I pulled a lot of useful information off the event website. The games are held at the Ventura County Fairgrounds, which I’ve visited on other occasions, so I added some realistic features, such as the grounds are on the coast, providing a terrific ocean setting.
I found videos of other Highland Games on YouTube, so I was able to piece together an authentic depiction of the festivities. The event is a celebration of Scottish culture, music, dancing and “heavy athletics,” what the Scots call their sports of caber tossing, sheaf throwing, shot put using large stones and more. The sports are not for the weak of body nor faint of heart.
Sandy’s in a kilt for most of the book. I researched kilts via internet. The garment itself is a long piece of fabric that is wrapped around the body with the pleats hanging on one side. An ornamental pin keeps the kilt from flying open. A belt holds the kilt in place. Each family has its own tartan design.
The man also wears hose (knee-high stocking) held up with flashes (garters) that have small fabric tags visible under the top of the hose. Sometimes the shoes worn have long laces that are wrapped around the calf and tied below the knee.
Since kilts don’t have pockets, the man also wears a sporran, the large object hanging down the front of the kilt. The sporran is basically a purse, although I think nowadays it’s more decorative than practical. For formal occasions, a dress sporran is worn. This might have large tassels or artwork.
Women don’t wear kilts; they have tartan skits without the sporran.
In the book, Sandy tops his kilt in three different ways, depending on the occasion. When he sings during the games’ Saturday opening ceremonies, he wears a white shirt, a tartan tie and a solid-color jacket. He returns to the games the next day with a more casual look in a leather ghillie shirt that has a pointed collar, long sleeves cuffed at the wrist and leather laces at the neck instead of buttons.
For a formal dinner, Sandy dons a white Victorian shirt with a black bow tie and a tartan waistcoat. His jacket is left open to expose the waistcoat.
During the week Sandy is shooting a guest spot in a TV show in which he plays a Scottish ghost. Once more he’s in a kilt, although this one is a black tartan with the addition of a fly tartan, a sash that’s worn across the chest from the hip to the shoulder.
When Sandy’s at home or going places around town, he’s in regular clothes: jeans, corduroys and sweatshirts.
On YouTube I also found some Scottish music that I used in the story. The phrase “You take the high road, and I’ll take the low road” is the chorus from the song “On the Banks of Lock Lomond.”
YouTube also shows Highland Fling and other Scottish dances. Sandy’s daughter takes dance lessons, so she’s in a Highland Fling contest during the games.
And we can’t talk about the Scots without haggis, that quintessential Scottish dish. Sandy’s served this at a dinner party. I asked my writers’ group if anyone had eaten haggis. Some liked it, others didn’t, and one said it’s a Scottish mainstay and I shouldn’t make fun of it. I didn’t, but I described what’s in it.
Other Scottish dishes making an appearance are mince and tatties (ground beef and mashed potatoes), neeps (turnips) and Red Kola (a Scottish soft drink).
I put in a few Scottish slang terms (nothing naughty), but didn’t write in dialect so that the reader could understand the dialogue.
I had fun with the research; crossing my fingers that I got it correct. I’m hoping my readers will enjoy this interesting look into Scottish culture and the twists in the mystery.
Former pop star Sandy Fairfax engages in a dangerous hobby—amateur sleuthing. At the Seaside Highland Games in California, he and his teenage son, Chip, discover more than their heritage. In a castle transported from Scotland, they find a body bludgeoned with a curling stone. But when they go for help, the corpse vanishes. Without a body or even a name, how will Sandy find the killer? As he and Cinnamon plan their wedding, more bodies pile up. A piper plummets from the castle tower and into the ocean. Another body is found behind a Scottish pub in L.A. And when Sandy takes a guest role on the Spook Spotters TV show, the worried dad must keep Chip safe from an amorous young actress. Whether you take the high road or the low road, can you solve the case before Sandy does?
Kindle link: https://www.amazon.com/Highland-Havoc-Caper-Fairfax-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B0BX8P1GXV
Print link: https://www.amazon.com/Highland-Havoc-Caper-Fairfax-Mystery/dp/1952579562
Sally Carpenter is a native Hoosier now living in Southern California. She writes retro-cozies: the Sandy Fairfax Teen idol series (six books) and the Psychedelic Spy series (two books). She was a finalist for the 2012 Eureka! Award for Best First Mystery Novel. She has a master’s degree in theater, a Master of Divinity and a black belt in tae kwon do. You can download free stories from her website http://sandyfairfaxauthor.com.
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