Sunday, January 15, 2017


I am very pleased to have Gordon Bickerstaff on my blog this week. We "met" through our mutual membership in Rave Reviews Book Club. He is an accomplished writer, a retired teacher, and has vast knowledge into the sciences.
Please give him a warm welcome and feel free to ask questions or leave comments.

Gordon Bickerstaff sprinkles biomedical flavours
I was born in Glasgow and still live nearby. When I started my teens, I knew I wouldn't follow the family tradition into engineering. Uncles were ships engineers and mining engineers. My older brother became a mechanical engineer and it was expected I would follow my cousin into civil engineering.

I wanted something different, and I found it in the local library. I was 14 and going out with a girl called Helen. Her mother didn't talk about sex or monthly periods, and with no older sister she was hearing wild stories from other school girls. She thought they were winding her up and the stories were disgusting. We went to the library and sat down with a medical book to get the facts straight. Unfortunately, after we got the fact of life clarified in our minds, Helen still thought the mechanics were disgusting.

Helen's predicament drew me to life sciences books. It caused quite a schism in the family, when I dropped out of school engineering classes, and took a biology class. Luckily for me, in the end, my parents let me decide for myself. I loved biological sciences, and went on to study biochemistry at university. I know I would have been an unhappy and unproductive engineer.

For thirty-two years, I taught biochemistry in Scottish universities, and at the same time on the weekends, I also taught biology and science foundation to Open University students. When I retired in 2011, I gave up academic writing and concentrated on fiction. Over the decades I'd read and enjoyed many thrillers so it felt natural for me to write thriller fiction.

The Gavin Shawlens thriller series was born. The first two books were taken by an online publisher but I realised I needed to take control of editing and cover design so I became fully independent.

Having spent a long time teaching life sciences, it's natural for me to sprinkle my stories with a little biomedical flavour. In Deadly Secrets I highlighted the properties of pineapple bromelain, which has been shown to break down blood clots responsible for stroke and heart attack. Anyone interested in an article 'The Power of the Pineapple' can find it on my blog website

In Everything to Lose, I highlighted the fascinating condition synesthesia through the experiences of a child character. The book also touches on how the body handles energy. I am intrigued by the mystery around spontaneous human combustion. Is it a real phenomenon? Could it be an energy malfunction? The possibility is weaved into the story.

In The Black Fox, a character chides biochemist Gavin Shawlens for not having produced a cure for cancer. I am passionate about cancer awareness and often post about skin cancer and what to look out for on the skin. If caught early enough it can be eliminated. In the book, Gavin explains his belief that the most effective cure for cancer will be produced from our own immune system.

The immune system can identify and kill viruses e.g. flu virus, and can identify and kill bacteria e.g. salmonella. The immune system on a daily basis identifies and recycles damaged, worn out and faulty cells. For example, red blood cells only last three months. When worn out, they are tagged, killed and recycled.

We have an efficient, effective,  mechanism, and all we need to do is help the immune system to identify a cancer cell as faulty or damaged so the mechanism will remove it. Anyone interested in how it works can have a look at an extract of Chapter 4 Enzymes in Medical Therapy from textbook Enzymes in Industry and Medicine. I've made the extract on cancer treatment freely available on my website

In Toxic Minds, the fallibility of DNA evidence in paternity is explored. In the fifth book, Tabula Rasa (coming soon), the biomedical flavour touches on microbiology and MRSA (antibiotic resistant bugs).

The main characters in the series are Gavin Shawlens and Zoe Tampsin. They work for a covert government department, the Lambeth Group, who police research and technology crime and fraud. Gavin is an academic, and he offers understanding and knowledge of the problems they face. Zoe is a strong Special Forces trained, kick-ass heroine, with a skill set to overcome baddies, outsmart the opposition and save the day. She's not perfect by any means. She has flaws but focus and determination normally see her through.

One of the enjoyable aspects of writing a series, is developing a relationship between main characters. The relationship between Gavin and Zoe has been tetchy with grudging mutual respect. Although emotional moments in successive dramas have drawn them closer. He doesn't like her pushy aggression. She doesn't like his indecision and washy academic thinking. They come from very different worlds. Him, brought up by an overprotective older sister, and a sheltered academic tower. Her, from a war hardened bunker, and a strident family with a long military tradition. In Tabula Rasa (Book 5), the relationship reaches a new height that shocks them both. Not sex, something much worse.

What of the future for the series? I am at a crossroads. I have a plot for book 6 that carries the series onto the next investigation. What about something different? Do I have the courage to change direction? Book 5 can give me an opportunity to set Gavin and Zoe up in a completely new genre. As an indie writer, I can decide to do it. Imagine Lee Child saying to his publisher  - in the next book, Jack Reacher finds himself on a space expedition to Alpha Centauri. I haven't decided. It's all part of the fun of what to do next. Either way, Gavin will try to understand it. Zoe will deal with it. That's what they do for the Lambeth Group.


 Please check out Gordon Bickerstaff's books at the links below:

                                              Deadly Secrets
                                            Everything To Lose
                                              The Black Fox
                                              Toxic Minds  


  1. Thank you Karen. I am delighted to be here.

    1. And I am very grateful and honored to have you as a guest.

  2. Thank you, Gordon for being my guest this week. It has been a joy promoting your fine works.

  3. It has been my pleasure. Thank you for your support, it is greatly appreciated.