After a harrowing upbringing as part of one of the most notorious criminal families in the east end of Glasgow, William Lobban embarked on a life of crime that saw him mastermind armed robberies, drug dealing and gangland revenge attacks. In prison he was at the forefront of some of the most shocking hostage taking and riots, and he was wrongly accused of some of Glasgow's most notorious gangland murders. Finally released from prison in 1998, Lobban decided to walk away from crime but personal tragedy led him to a dependence on alcohol and drugs which nearly killed him. Only in recent years has he found a measure of peace and stability, and he now lives quietly in the Scottish Highlands. The Glasgow Curse is his story in his words.
The following interview was carried out with staff from Birlinn Publishing Limited:
1. Do you have a routine when you’re writing (i.e. silence, a particular genre of music, only working in the morning, only working in your underpants?)
I can write in just about any given situation whether this is with noise in the background or in total silence but I do prefer the tranquil setting. I wrote my full autobiography while utilizing just about every sound imaginable. I’ve found that when I’m in the zone, when that sudden burst of inspiration takes over, then it makes no difference what the state of affairs is because I’m so immersed in what I’m writing about it doesn’t really matter. First thing early in the morning when everyone else is in bed and after that first coffee when I’m ready to take on the day I find this time particularly stimulating.
2. What advice would you give to anyone who wants to be a writer?
I’d have to say believe in what you’re writing about and if you’re passionate enough in what you’re doing then that belief is enough to carry you forward. You don’t know what you can do until you put your mind to it. And never give up that’s most important!
3. Who are you generally writing for?
Since this is only my first book I’d have to be selfish and say it’s more to do with convincing myself, as a writer, that I’m good enough to write another and so on. When I first started writing The Glasgow Curse I never set out with a target readership in mind although I appreciate this type of writing is more suited to readers of true crime. That said I’d like to think that my book would appeal to a much broader readership, most certainly fellow Glaswegians from every walk of life, and I’m confident that people who do read my book will be able to connect with me as the author as well as all the different characters therein. My heart and soul went into this project and I’m sure this will come across loud and clear. I believe we all have a story to tell and we should relate to each other accordingly. My book will also be dedicated to all those who have lost their lives to The Glasgow Curse.
4. What’s your favourite book, and why?
I’d have to say it’s a book called Moobli by highly acclaimed author Mike Tomkies aka The Wilderness Man. The author wrote this book while he lived secluded in the Scottish West Highlands for over 20 years and the only company he had, apart from the many different forms of wildlife he researched, was the Alsatian dog he owned from a pup and which he named Moobli. I read this book in one sitting while I was locked up in segregation in a windowless prison cell for seven mind-bending months and I couldn’t put it down. Profoundly entranced by this book, I suppose I could relate to the author and his solitary lifestyle. The book really drew at my emotions.
5. What one thing would improve your life?
The simplest of things can sometimes feel like a massive improvement to me. With so few opportunities in the past, it wasn’t easy trying to lead a normal life with a background like mine so even today I’m faced with difficult challenges and I’m always striving towards a clearer day. I’ve felt my life has improved dramatically since I started work on The Glasgow Curse project. Not just from a writing point of view, but from every aspect of my life. It’s amazing how quickly things have improved but it has taken a lot of hard graft and dedication, not least plenty of support from others including Birlinn who have been brilliant. I guess I now have to stay focused and build on that impetus but I’m very passionate about what I do and I’ve waited a long time for the tables to turn. I may have found my niche in writing and a sudden gush of inspiration is all it took.
6. Where would you like to be right now, anywhere in the world?
Spain would be nice but not for the sunshine and laidback lifestyle, my young daughter Tamara who is only 12 lives there with her Spanish family and I’d love to spend more time with her.
7. If your book was a film, who would you cast for the lead character?
To make a great film that mirrors a part of Glasgow’s underworld you don’t specifically need Hollywood actors to achieve this. Scotland has a fantastic breed of artists who are more than capable of a starring role; look at Jimmy Boyle’s 70’s film Sense of Freedom that was a brilliant movie and a realistic portrayal of one of Glasgow’s most hardened criminals from an earlier era. It’s a touchy subject since not everyone believes that movies of this type should be made. Some say that they only glorify crime and I suppose to an extent they do, but the majority of people still find them fascinating and for that reason film producers will want to make them. It is a very real part of our society and we shouldn’t forget this, as for films of this sort, well, I’ll let everyone else argue the point.
8. Why are books important in your opinion?
Books are a source of knowledge and for that reason alone they are important. Depending on what book you read they can trigger all sorts of different sentiments and some books will inspire us to a point where we want to make changes in our lives. I think that books are even more important today as they were say 30 years ago because with modern technology and the internet books can now reach millions of people at the touch of a key.
9. Which authors do you particularly admire?
I have a high regard for John Dickie, Professor of Italian Studies at the University College London. He is an internationally recognised specialist on many aspects of Italian history and his books, as well as having sold millions of copies around the world, have also been translated into many different languages. Apart from him being Scottish, a family man with two kids, speaks different languages fluently and is currently a tv presenter having filmed a documentary called The Mafia’s Secret Bunkers, he’s an inspiration of how to be successful despite having come from humble beginnings.
10. If you had a superpower what would it be?
You really don’t want me to answer that!