A PROMISE to his gran and the idea of throwing a body off the Scott Monument in Edinburgh took Neil Broadfoot’s life in a different direction.

Luckily he’s not a deranged killer but a critically acclaimed Dunfermline author who decided life would be much better if he started writing about death and murder.

A former journalist who started his career in this town, before going on to work for national newspapers, he’s now published five crime thrillers with a sixth, The Point of No Return, out soon.

Neil, 45, told the Press: “I always wanted to be a writer and said I’d dedicate my first book to my gran but she died before it happened.

“Life and career got in the way and it fell by the wayside, I never got started.

“Something happened when I was at The Scotsman that reminded me of that promise and it drove me on.

“I remember walking around and thinking ‘How do I do this?’, I looked up and saw the Scott Monument and I got the idea of throwing someone off the top of it!

“That was the start of Falling Fast.”

The first novel introduced us to Edinburgh investigative journalist Doug McGregor and police contact Detective Sergeant Susie Drummond.

The Storm and All the Devils completed the trilogy, with No Man’s Land and No Place to Die introducing a new hero, close protection specialist Connor Fraser.

This time the corpses pile up in Stirling. Not that the dad-of-two always finds it easy to focus on the grisly details when working from home.

He laughed: “In the office I’ve got a whiteboard where I write character names and ideas and my youngest (she’s six now) will come up, grab a pen and leave little messages.

“It really takes you out of the mood of bloody murders and killings when you’re reading the board and then see little love hearts and butterflies!”

His works have been nominated for the Dundee International Book Prize and the McIlvanney Award and The Point of No Return, which will complete the Connor Fraser trilogy, is out on September 3.

On the same day all six novels will be available as audio books.

In the new thriller, two women are brutally murdered at Stirling University.

Neil added: “A guy gets charged, tried and put away but 14 years later his conviction is overturned and he’s released.

“Understandably he doesn’t trust the police to offer protection as he’s a local hate figure, so Connor is drafted in.

“There’s then another murder, the body found in the same way, but Connor gives the guy an alibi, as he was with him, and it’s a race to find the real killer.”

Neil has been hailed as another great Scottish crime writer and compared to Ian Rankin, who’s a pal, but had to smile when he received praise for his intricately plotted work.

He explained: “I don’t plan. I don’t know where the story is going and I don’t plot it out. I start with a single line, that’s all I ever have.

“I have an idea, a scene or an image, and then attack it like a journalist, who, where, what, why and when, and it goes from there.

“I’m never more than a couple of pages ahead of the story and if I don’t know what’s going to happen, hopefully that urgency comes out in the writing and leads to a satisfying and thrilling book for the reader.”

He continued: “Every writer is different. I know some who plot everything to the nth degree, they have spreadsheets and everything.

“I’m in the ‘make it up as you go along’ gang! There’s no right or wrong way, that’s what I do and it works for me.”

Lockdown didn’t herald a huge change – “you socially isolate yourself anyway when you’re working” – but the cancellation of book festivals means he can’t catch up with crime writing friends.

He explained: “We are solitary individuals when we’re writing but the writing community is very sociable.

“You turn up at one of the festivals, you meet your pals, have a pint and a chat. It’s like an office night out but with people you actually like!”

He’s doing some work online for Bloody Scotland, the international crime writing festival, and hopes to rejoin the Four Men in Search of a Plot – where crime writers write a short story live on stage from suggestions from the audience – as soon as it’s practical.

He explained: “One of us puts on the tea cosy of inspiration – it’s from that Billy Connolly sketch: ‘Never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cozy, doesn’t try it on.’ – and starts writing.

“The audience gives you the protagonist and murder weapon and the other three field questions. You read out the first 150-200 words and the audience decides who writes the next section.

“It’s really fun and not too serious, we’ve had exploding nuns and penguins, but the audience is incredibly enthusiastic and supportive and the finished product gets edited, as you’re writing fast, and published online.”

He’s also contributed to a new crime writing anthology which is raising money for NHS charities.

Noir from the Bar was turned round in just six weeks, it features 30 short stories from crime and mystery writers around the world, and is now available in various formats.

Neil, who is originally from Eskbank, got his first job in journalism at the now defunct Dunfermline Herald and Post in Guildhall Street, before going on to work for the Evening News and the Scotsman.

With his wife Fiona, who also worked as a journalist, and two daughters, he returned to live here in 2011 and said: “When I worked in Dunfermline I fell in love with the place. And the Glen, if you’ve got kids and dogs, what more could you ask for? I always wanted to come back.”

He’s even got a ready-made critic next door, Neil asks his neighbour to cast an eye over his work before he sends it off to the publisher, and hasn’t ruled out bumping off a few folk – just on the page obviously – in Dunfermline.

“Don’t worry,” he laughed. “I’m sure we can dump a body or two. I’ve had ideas for Dunfermline, given its rich history you could set something here no bother.”