Chastity Riley is the central character in Simone Buchholz’s crime series. River Clyde is the 10th book in Germany, the 5th in the UK, all published by Orenda Books and translated by Rachel Ward. Following the traumatic events of the previous book, Hotel Cartagena, now longlisted for the 2022 CWA Dagger Crime Fiction in Translation, Chastity Riley is traumatised and grieving. Buchholz decided it was time to give her time to recover, to heal. So she sends her to Glasgow.

Not the place I’d choose for rest and recuperation, to be honest. But Buchholz spent lockdown in Hamburg heartbroken that she couldn’t travel to Glasgow, a city that had stolen her heart during a visit in 2019. So she imagined herself in the East End of whilst writing the novel on the balcony of her Hamburg flat.

It’s been a while since I meandered through that area. So I thought I’d take a wee wander in Chastity Riley’s footsteps, starting at Glasgow Central Station.

“Next to the station there’s an old Grand Hotel with chandeliers, curlicues and a provocatively luxurious entrance. … At the other end of the turn-of-the-century station, behind a monumental bridge on which golden letters spell out Central Station, a massive but unexcitable business hotel shoots up from the ground.”

She decides to go in search of her great-great-grandfather, Eoin Riley, who emigrated to America from a grey Glasgow tenement slum. So under the railway bridge she goes, past this icon.

“The place looks like a cheap chain, but its glow warms my buried self.”

Down Argyll Street past the Trongate to Glasgow Cross and The Tollbooth Steeple.

“there’s a tower with a clock on it, it’s acting very elegant but looks like someone thought it up over afternoon tea, with no meaning or purpose, just for fun.”

From there eastwards into Gallowgate to the famous market, The Barras. Very quiet the day and time I visited – perhaps the place is still scarred from the pandemic. It would have been bustling with deep-fried Snickers (!) in 2019. In 2022 at least the grey skies were authentic.

“this whole funny-batshit-crazy place, all the market stalls, the old halls where there’s any amount of colourful tat for sale. You just don’t know what you might need here, and everywhere smells so confusing. But it’s cheap and it’s wild, it’s there for the taking,”

Had I carried further on up Gallowgate, I would have arrived at the Hielan Jessie, Buchholz’s and Riley’s favourite pub in Glasgow, I suspect. When asked how she comes up with new characters for such a well established series, she said, “ I meet them”. The Hielan Jessie is where she met the real-life inspiration for Tom in River Clyde.

As I had to drive later in the day, this was not the wisest route for me to take (!), so I turned south to walk through Glasgow Green and a rendezvous with the headline star of Buchholz’s novel, the River Clyde.

Meanwhile, the river lies there like over a hundred miles of dead man. Dark, asphalt-coloured, he doesn’t move, ignores the life around him or eats it up with his depth, according to the weather, now the drizzle is lying on his surface, not disturbing him in his rest. The river was once the heart of the city, but no friend to the people: here on the river, they were exploited. He was an oppressor, but he couldn’t help it, that’s just the way the world is, he’s one of the greats, and the greats regulate the little people down, what else was he meant to do? He couldn’t just up and flow off. Now they’ve forgotten him, the way you do just forget an ex-boss, so he lies there waiting for something to change.”

The Clyde simply cuts the city in two, according to Buchholz. There’s no life in it, nor life around it. In comparison to Hamburg’s Elbe, that’s true. I think the Clyde mellows with the miles, because it has quite a temper 25 miles upstream in the Lanarkshires. But the story of how it has washed away part of the Clyde Walkway in Motherwell is one for another day.

St Andrew’s Bridge / The Weir Bridge on the Clyde Walkway by Glasgow Green

My plan was to walk the short stretch of Clyde Walkway from St Andrew’s Bridge into the centre of the city, but I got only as far as the weir (about 500m) before I tired of the tarmac path and the industrial backdrop on the opposite bank. So I turned back eastwards, walking through Glasgow Green, past Nelson’s column, the People’s Palace, to the easternmost point of today’s walk, The Templeton Building.

Nelson’s Column and The People’s Palace / The Templeton Building / West (in the East End)

On Saturday I wasn’t sure whether the Templeton Building or the tree in front of it was the most resplendent! The West Brewery Bar and Restaurant, situated at the far end of the building, is the place to enjoy a a Jägerschnitzel and a Munich Red Beer to die for! Chastity Riley should visit one day. 😉

But now, it was time to head to the Mitchell Library and Buchholz’s event. By bus. A LOL moment in the novel when Chastity Riley receives the following advice: “Just don’t try taking the bus here, it’s hellish.” Never a truer word was spoken. I once asked for a map of bus routes at the Buchanan Bus Station. It doesn’t exist! Still, with the help of Google Maps, routes 18 and 3 got me across town in time for Buchholz’s event at the Mitchell Library with no problems at all.