Monday, 14 November 2011

PUSH-UPS: Russel D McLean

So, what you pushing right now?
After years of people asking after the original stories I sold o Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, they’ve finally been collected (with a few others) in an exclusive e-book (available in the UK and the US) called THE DEATH OF RONNIE SWEETS (and other stories).

What’s the hook?
The stories in this collection focus on my first PI character, Samuel (Sam) Bryson. He was the forerunner to J McNee, the protagonist of my first two novels. These stories were my first professionally published works and I think they still stand up as solid pieces of writing. People had been asking how they could get their hands on the pieces that were published in Hitchcock’s, so this is their chance.

And why’s that floating your boat?
I had written a new Sam Bryson story for the collection COLLATERAL DAMAGE, and it got me thinking about these old stories and whether they really did stand up. I revisited them cautiously and discovered that there was a great deal to be proud of. I also noticed a number of threads that developed through the stories as they were written chronologically, so it seemed like the hard work had already been done. All I needed was a good cover, a great introduction from Sean Chercover (given how we met after the first story was published, and how I made a lasting impression on his shoes – and yeah you’ll need to read the book for the full story on that one – it seemed he was the obvious candidate) and the collection was good to go.

When did you turn to crime?
These stories mark my first foray into crime, actually. I’d penned a few pieces before these, but these were my first out and out attempts to be a crime writer. I was twenty-three at the time. Up until then I’d been writing science fiction, but my stories were convoluted and unbelievable. I needed a down-to-earth milieu to achieve the effect I wanted, and crime fiction gave me that… in (Sam) spades.

Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary?
Given that the lines between hardboiled and noir blur so easily I can’t pick with ease, suffice to say that both have their dark charms. And a damn good book’s a damn good book regardless of when it was written.

And, what’s blown you away lately?
I’ve been on a real Megan Abbott kick of late. I did a library event where I had to choose a book to discuss with readers and picked up on her incredible novel, BURY ME DEEP. Sparked a great conversation with readers, But you can’t just stop at one Abbott so I had to keep going and her new book, THE END OF EVERYTHING slipped on my radar. It is frankly one of the best books I’ve read in ages. All the marketing would have you believe it’s not a novel for men, and given that its written from the POV of a 13 year old girl in the 80’s, that might seem to be borne out. However, as that internet campaign says, Real Men Read Women, and quite honestly given her backlist I’d read Megan Abbott’s shopping list (well maybe not, but you know what I mean) and so I dived right into this on the day of release. Let me tell you, it is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve read in years and it has this emotional kick that just stays with you long after you’ve put the book back on the shelf. Abbott deserves to be one of the biggest names not just in crime writing but in writing, period.

See any books as movies waiting to happen?
No question, its anything by Duane Swierczynski. Read FUN AND GAMES a while back and it just screams for a full-on movie adaptation. Loud, insane, unstoppable. And you can see the frames unspooling in your head as you read that rat-at-at prose. One of the very few “action movie on the page” books that really works.

Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?
If it’s a good book, who gives a damn? I have a natural feel for paper, but like I say, its not the delivery method but the quality of the writing that matters.

Shout us a website worth visiting …
I always check in on the brilliant Donna Moore’s Big Beat From Badsville. From her often insane anecdotes to the her great Scottish crime fiction news updates, there’s always something worthwhile (and by the way, she’s another you should be digging right about now – her novel, OLD DOGS is one of the funniest things I’ve read in years).

Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself …
Okay, three random facts:

I am (a little distantly) related to the leading man of classic Scottish-set B-Movie DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS, Hugh McDermott.

My first ever accepted piece of writing was for a small music fanzine based in Scotland. I wrote a guide on how to spot Elvis in your back garden and got fan mail all the way from the Netherlands.

In my current flat, I am forced to share living space with a cursed mask. When I stop to think about that, it does get a little unnerving.