Friday, January 11, 2013

Write Here, Write Now

By Russel D McLean

I can't promise I'll never do it, but one of my pet hates is writers as characters in fiction.

Writers who writer about writers,

Not only is it a weirdly incestuous feeling, it also often feels wrong.

As with all things, there are exceptions:

Stephen King nails it in The Shining and Misery.
And Michael Chabon in Wonder Boys.

But that's about it. Most people when they write about writers, they talk in this weird way that doesn't sound real. They create writers who are succesful, who appear on talk shows. Or they talk about working hard on drafts and sending them out and getting rejected.

And every time it comes off as either wish fulfillment or oddly disconnected from the emotional reality of writing. I rarely read about a writer in a book and think, "boy, that's me!" or, "Yeah, that's how it is."

Maybe its the same for cops who read crime novels.

Or matchmakers who read romance novels.

But then, maybe its because writers focus on all the wrong things when writing about writing. Maybe because we're too close to it and are trying to find ways to communicate the truth to non readers but it just isn't possible to do it.

Or maybe, just maybe, its because writers writing are dull.

When we lose who we are in the words, or when we write frantically to deadline, we do little that is actually dramatically interesting. Honest to God, there's nothing exciting about me sitting around trying to watch that little movie in my head and translate it into the words that then appear on the screen in front of me. And there's nothing exciting about getting cheque that pays off the credit card bill. Or me eating an entire pack of crisps while swinging in my chair trying to think of a witty last line for some poor schmuck before he gets chibbed.

Somewhere there's a sense that writers should be interestong. And some of us are, that's why there are biographies written about them. But they're interesting beyond their writing.

The act or writing?
Its nothing.

Its uninteresting and tough to communicate as a dramatically intriguing character trait.

So please, let's call time on writers in books.

Unless they're interesting.

Unless they're Paul Sheldon with his missing "e" on that very special typewriter.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Move on...

Nothing to see here. As of now, new website and blog are here. There will be a new and proper URL to the new site soon enough but for now it lives where it loves. And its going to be updated with and tinkered a lot more than the old one.

Byeeeee... (for now)... and see you at the new gaff.


Thursday, January 19, 2012



Just when you thought it was safe to go on Holiday, four madmen invade the beautiful country of Italy... yes, myself, Allan Guthrie, Victor Gischler and Derek Nikitas will be forming the advance guard of Revolver, a new Italian crime imprint edited by the wonderful Matteo Strukul.

Cover art for this new edition of my first novel was painted by SCALPED artist Davide Furno, which only adds to the level of cool for this great new imprint.

One day I hope to get over to Italy to promote this book, but in the meantime, I hope that the Italians dig the dark, violent and ever-so-slightly corrupt world of J McNee.

*with apologies to Charlie Stella for stealing his usual greeting, but in this case I feel the Italian connection is justified

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Death of Ronnie Sweets (and Other Stories) - now available for all ebook formats

Mes Amis

Some time ago you may remember I posted about THE DEATH OF RONNIE SWEETS (and other stories) being finally available for the Kindle (US and UK). Well, those of you with other e-readers will appreciate that it has finally appeared at Smashwords for a measly $2 in all Ebook formats.

But wait, I hear you cry... what about the UK readers? Don't worry, you can still buy from Smashwords. I'm not exactly sure on the conversion rates but you can still buy from Smashwords at a price guaranteed under two quid - - for a smorgasbord of smashing stories featuring Dundee's first Private Investigator. Because before J McNee, there was Sam Bryson.

Still not convinced? Check reviews from Elizabeth A White and Eva Dolan. Or read two of the shorts that appear in the collection at Spinetingler Magazine and Thrilling Detective. If that hasn't whetted your appetite, I don't know what will!

These stories mean a lot to me. They were my first steps into the world of crime writing and damned if they don't still bring a smile to my face. And if you don't believe me, you can trust multi-award winning author Sean Chercover, who wrote one hell of an intro to the collection.

Thus endeth the promotion...

Au revoir


Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Botany Free Post (with Mr Stephen Blackmoore)

I first met Stephen Blackmoore - the genre writer, pictured, right with your beardy hero at the grave of Walter Mathau - in 2010. It was in the company of the always responsible Mme Christa Faust that our paths first crossed. And hell, I thought, this guy seems pretty cool. And he seems able to put up with my constant profanity.

There's no accounting for my judge of character.

Blackmoore the genre writer (there's a reason I keep calling him that, but I'll let him explain) was not only a deeply smart guy, but the pitch for his upcoming novel sounded ingenious - a crime novel that took in urban fant
asy and horror elements, that put its lead through a kind of literal hell. That played with all kinds of genre conventions.

And you know what - his novel does all that and more. I've had the honour of reading an advance copy of the manuscript, and I'll tell you this: its one of the wittiest, most brutal novels I've read in ages. Its a pitch black noir with a dark, supernatural twist. Its Chandler meets Lovecraft meets Gaiman. Its... hell, its just a damn fine novel.

So I'm honoured that in order to promote CITY OF THE LOST, Blackmoore the genre writer wound up asking to guest post here at this infrequently updated blog. What the hell, I thought, he can only add a bit of class round here. So, for your reading pleasure, I am proud to prevent - uh, present - the author of CITY OF THE LOST, Mr (not Professor) Stephen Blackmoore:

Have I ever told you about the botanist Professor Stephen Blackmore, Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh?

Let me back up for a second.

I have a novel coming out in the U.S. and U.K. next week titled CITY OF THE LOST. It's a dark urban fantasy about a thug in Los Angeles who is murdered, raised from the dead and finds himself in the middle of this Maltese Falcon-esque hunt for the object that brought him back. It is, in the words of Kirkus Reviews, "A head-shakingly perfect blend of zombie schlock, deadpan wit, startling profanity, desperate improvisation and inventive brilliance."

Startling profanity.

Now, I've gone through the book. Several times. While I was writing it. While I was getting notes on it. While it was being edited. I've looked for this startling profanity. And you know what?

There's a lot of it.

I mean, seriously. Out of 217 pages there are 244 fucks. I counted.

As one does.

Now a common thing I run into is that some people spell my name the way I spell my name, with two O's, and some people spell it with one. When my book was first put out in the catalogs that went out to the stores and websites like Amazon, Indie Bound, Barnes & Noble, etc. there was a slight glitch.

They spelled it with one O.

Some of those sites have corrected it, some haven't. I'm honestly surprised any of them bother to care. It doesn't bother me. I'm used to it. If you search for one spelling, Google asks if you want to do a search with the other. Either way, you're probably going to find me.

Or you're going to find Professor Stephen Blackmore, Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

I'm sure he's a very nice man. He looks rather jolly. Very big teeth. And far better educated than I could ever hope to be. He's the fucking Queen's botanist, after all.

And that's why I kind of feel sorry for him. Because you see, he's also an author.

Atlas of Sexual Reproduction in Flowering Plants. Buttercups (Shire Natural History 06). Pollen and Spores: Patterns of Diversification.

And, according to Amazon, though they may have corrected it by now, but I doubt it, my book.

Now I know that no one's likely to confuse us. But I kind of worry that someone will. I don't mind having someone come up to me with a copy of Evolution, Systematics, and Fossil History of the Hamamelidae and asking me to sign it. The man's in Scotland for chrissakes. I'm happy to be his stand-in here in the States. I'll even lecture for him over here if he likes.

Hand me a speech, cut me in for a percentage of the speaker's fee and I am so fucking there.

But I'm not sure he'd feel the same way. I don't know if he would mind being associated with scenes of cannibalism, undead prostitutes and feral midgets.

And particularly the startling profanity.

Of course, he's also in Scotland and I have yet to meet a Scot who didn't understand that there is no English equivalent for "fuck off".

Maybe he'd be proud to be associated with it. I hope so. I hope more that he'd buy a copy and enjoy some of the "startling profanity" himself.

And more than that I hope (because this is, after all, a post on unrepentantly shilling my book) you'll buy a copy and enjoy some of the startling profanity yourself.

Many thanks to Mr. McLean for letting me usurp his blog for the day. Much appreciated, sir.

Stephen Blackmoore (not the botanist) can be found regularly blogging at LA Noir

Friday, December 16, 2011

Its the Ob

By Russel D McLean (cross-posted at

Still time to enter Russel’s competition – and did you know that for the rest of this month his short story e-collection THE DEATH OF RONNIE SWEETS (and other stories) is only 99c US and 86p UK? Available for Kindle (US and UK) and for other e-readers. He also asks that you please forgive this moment of blatant self-promotion.

Mes Amis

And so Christmas time approaches. One more week to go. Whaddaya mean you ain’t gone Christmas shopping? What, you were waiting for my recommendations of books to go buy? Apart from my own? (available from all good booksellers both physical and digital, you know - - and every copy sold helps me keep The Literary Critic in the style to which she is accustomed). But of course, I’m not the only starving author out there and the following is a list of ten books from the last year I think you really need to buy. Either for yourself, or as a gift for someone you know who’s really going to appreciate a damn good read; especially one with the McLean seal of approval.

1) The End of Everything by Megan Abbott – My vote for book of the year, in part because it hit me completely from left field. I was already in love with Abbott’s work, but what she does here is incredible. The book is told entirely from the perspective of a thirteen year old girl, and it pulls no punches in its depiction of a world that is all appearance and snakes beneath the skin. The prose unfolds in a dream-like fashion, and the soft-focus of a character looking back on themselves and their lives hides ugly, unsettling truths. The cover – on both sides of the Atlantic – makes the book look like literary women’s fiction, which in a sense it is. But it is also one of the purest, most captivating and most disturbing books you’ll have read this year regardless of your genre. Abbott has excelled herself and set a high bar for other authors to reach.

2) A Drop of the Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block – Block’s back, baby. And so is Matt Scudder. This one rewinds to the eighties where Matt was first coming to terms with being an alcoholic. As such, it is stepped in atmosphere and a sense of moving forward. Matt is at his most interesting when he teeters on the edge, and here we find him a fascinating and volatile version of the man we’ve come to know. The book is as much about addiction as it is about murder, and a hell of a reminder as to why Matt Scudder is one of the most interesting and fascinating of the post-Archer PIs.

3) Fun and Games & Hell and Gone by Duane Swierczynksi – Okay, so its two books in this entry, but they are so closely connected I count them as one. Swierczynski is the king of the action novel. His plots are preposterous, his body count high and his adrenaline mainlined. He’s a pulp prince for the new millennium and one of the very few writers who can pace his action in prose to the point where you’re literally sweating with exertion along with his characters. Charlie Hardie is the kind of action hero who’s going to be mentioned in the same breath as John McLean.

4) Already Gone by John Rector – Rector follows up his brilliant THE COLD KISS with an equally terrifying slice of mystery, as we follow one man trying to atone for who he used to be as he becomes convinced that the past is finally catching up. But nothing is as it seems and this is one of a very few twist-thrillers where you really find yourself blindsided by the revelations.

5) Southern Gods by John Hornor Jacobs – I love a good horror novel, but I’m not a big Lovecraft fan. However, Rector takes some of Lovecraft’s legacy and makes it his own in this sprawling, brilliant and unsettlingly fun novel set in the deep south during the 1950’s. A great feel for the period and some brilliantly realised moments of supernatural terror make this one a winner.

6) Choke Hold by Christa Faust – Hands down the most fun I’ve had a (former) porn star this year. Angel Dare is back in this sequel to Money Shot, and somehow she’s even more kick-ass than before. The writing is lean and mean and there’s a hell of a lot more going on beneath the surface than you might realise at first. Also, it’s a slam-bang adventure with some real standout set pieces. Just… perfection.

7) Dove Season by Johnny Shaw – Kinda controversial debut given it came from Amazon’s publishing arm (at least one bookstore refused to stock it) but whatever your feelings about the giant retailer and their reach, there’s no denying that this is one hell of a debut – great sense of location and a lot of ambition. It’s a game of two halves, with the second finding the action in an unstoppable freefall that’s removed from the sedate pace that came before, but Shaw earns every moment and shows a real promise for the future.

8) Truth Lies Bleeding by Tony Black – Great start to a new series by Black. Its got more mainstream appeal than the Dury novels, considering the lead’s a copper, but of course Black’s got far more than yer standard procedural here. It’s a novel that revels in the shadows, leavened by a profound sense of dark humour that runs softly through the narrative. It’s the novel that should start to bring Black to the attention of a wider audience. And on top of that, it’s a natural progression to everything he’s done so far. Bravo, Black. Bravo.

9) Moriarty: The Hound of the D’ubervilles by Kim Newman – It’s not perfect (a little overlong in places, but then that might be part of the joke) but Newman’s tongue in cheek chronicling of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes’s nemesis hits all the right spots with some great gags and very nice appropriating of contemporary literature that make for a very fun read.

10) FIFTH VICTIM by Zoe Sharp – My impatience with the action novel is often quite severe, so its unusual that two should appear on my top ten list. Fifth Victim is more serious in its approach to action than Swierczynski’s homage to insanity mentioned earlier, but it is also one of the most successful and engaging thrillers I’ve read all year. Charlie Fox is – dare I say it – so much more interesting and developed than Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, and while a lesser writer might have made her a typical action hero in drag, Sharp manages to make Fox into a fascinating and fully rounded character. In other words, this is a woman who can truly kick ass. But it’s the emotional development that really marks out Sharp and Fox, and make FIFTH VICTIM a truly brilliant action novel.

So there we are. My top 10 reads of the year. Sure, they’re mostly crime novels, but they’re also a rich and varied representation of the talent available within the genre. So my advice to you is to hurry out to your preferred retailer and stock up. After all, if you do get snowed in this Christmas you’re going to want some damn good reads to keep you occupied…

Au revoir


Friday, December 02, 2011

Its Competition Time!

Mes Amis

Okay, here’s the deal. I want to give you something. Not neccesarily for Christmas, but just because I love you.

Only trouble is, being a Scot, I give away very little for free, so I’ll make a deal with you:
I’m looking for people to spread the word. Up my sales in some way and I’ll give you a little signed something for your effort. You can keep it for yourself. You can give it as a gift to a friend.
You can use it to prop up that wobbly table.

All you need to do is big me up.

Over the next month I want you to hit the websites. I want you to post a review of one of my books (THE GOOD SON,THE LOST SISTER or THE DEATH OF RONNIE SWEETS) on the website of your choice. It can be a personal blog. A review site. Goodreads. Amazon. Waterstones. The Book Depository. Whatever. Then I want you to email me the link to (replacing that _at_ with @, obviously) including your name and return email. On the closing date of 23 December I shall put all your names in a hat and announce the winner shortly thereafter.

The winner gets their choice of and a signed personalised (in any way they wish) copy of:

a) UK edition of THE GOOD SON.

b) UK edition of THE LOST SISTER


d) A hardcover copy of the brilliant anthology, EXPLETIVE DELETED which features one of my early shorts among a whole slew of brilliant writers whom you can then stalk for autographs should you so desire*

The small print is simple: anyone except me can enter. Only reviews that appear after 02/12/11 are elegible (if you have already reviewed, you can put that review elsewhere and I’ll put you in the draw). There is no cash equivalent of the prize. Offer is open anywhere in the world.

Oh, and obviously nice reviews (you can be a little critical if you like, but any hate-filled rants or complaints about swearing and/or violence will make you ineligible) are ineligible. We’re trying to spread the word here and help me and my publishers around the world continue to give you, the reader, your much-needed fix of Scottish noir. Oh, and it goes without saying that before reviewing or saying nice things you really should have read at least one of the books!

Go to it!

Au revoir


*I do not condone stalking in any way. Probably.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Back from the dead

Mes Amis

Bloody hell... April was my last post. April!

I am lax. I am sorry. You may beat me with sticks when you see me*.

But I haven't been sleeping this whole time. No, I've been busy. Lots of stuff happening in real life and in the writing world. Book #3 will be coming your way. Not till 2012 by the looks of thingsLink, but its coming. But to whet your appetite in the meantime, check out this (In the UK or in the US and with epub etc coming very soon):

Oh yes, you're seeing that right. We're talking a short story collection which features all my original stories from Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, as well as several others that feature the same characters.

And yes, isn't that a beautiful cover by the incredibly, wonderfully talentled JT Lindroos?

So.. what else? Well I'll be back in the US this year in St Louis for Bouchercon where you'll be getting double the Russel for your money. Check these panels out:

Thursday 15 September, 8.30am (!): WOMAN TROUBLE-Landmark 1,2,3
Crime fiction is rife with ‘bad girl’ characters.
Russel McLean (M), Lori G. Armstrong, Judy Clemens, Christa Faust, Lauren Henderson, Karen Olson

Friday 16 September, 1:00pm: SHADOWS RISING-Landmark 1,2,3
Movies for the crime fiction fan
Jeremy Lynch (M), Megan Abbott, David Corbett, Russel McLean, Todd Ritter, Wallace Stroby

Goddamn, what a line-up! And of course I'll be hanging around the bar a lot, too. Not drinking, of course. I'd never touch the stuff!

But what of those back home? Do they get no Russel? Well, people of Ayr can enjoy me next week (27/8/11) for the Ayrshire reader's day when I'll be appearing with Ken McLeod, Karen Campbell and Louise Welsh as we talk to readers about books we love (in my case, I'll be leading a group discussion on Megan Abbott's amazing noir novel BURY ME DEEP) and our own books, too (I'll be taking the blame for THE LOST SISTER).

But after that, wait until October 28 when you can see me here in Dundee delivering an Armitstead Lecture on the history of crime fiction. Oh, yes, I'll be returning to my academic roots for this one. But don't think that'll mean there'll be less jokes that a typical McLean event. I'll be slipping through some puns amongst the lecturing bits, I assure you!

And what else? Well let's see if I can't update this blog a little, eh? I've been watching some bad films recently and you know, I really used to love using this blog to talk about the bad films I've seen...

Until then,

Au revoir

*Actually, please don't. That would hurt.

Friday, April 08, 2011

The First Sign of Madness...

Mes Amis

Today I has been all over the internets. Seriously, its been like a wave of me which is a terrifying though.

Let's start at Criminal-E where Allan Guthrie interviews me to promote the kindle edition of THE GOOD SON.

And the move to Paul D Brazill's place where he asks me some short, sharp questions and I uphold the superiority of The Beano over The Broons.

I talk to myself (its the first sign of madness you know) at the insistence of Nigel P Bird.

And finally (phew!) as ever, I'm Doing Some Damage and this week I'm talking about that old chestnut, where a writer gets his ideas.

Soon enough I shall have written enough that I can control the entire internet! Tremble before me world! Tremble!

Oh, and don't forget, if you're in the Dundee area on Thursday 14 April, I'll be talking to Ray Banks and Tony Black at the Steps Theatre (in the main library) as part of Watersones' Dundee new crime club series. I

Until next time, mes amis,

Au revoir


Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Ready for my close up

Mes Amis

Today I has been mostly... well, preening myself. I was meeting with awesome photographer, Ross Fraser McLean* who has given me a new set of shiny author portraits. Playing on my love of noirishness and so forth, we have four shots (and a fifth colour one which is not yet here and is still being toughed up to remove graininess etc) that convey different moods and ideas. Most of them quite dark.

This first photo is pretty much my favourite. Its dark and just sinister enough to convey that noir mood.

This next one sees me get a little more smiley. Which is nice. I've been told I need to smile more in pictures. Most of the time I think I just look ludicrous in pictures where I'm smiling, but Ross managed to catch the right moment.

This next one finds me more relaxed. Its actually a reasonable portrait which is unusual. A testament to Ross's skills as a photographer that he can get me looking vaguely human at all.

Speaking of vaguely human...

This final shot is rather terrifying, even from my point of view. Looking like some kind of Terminator (but not quite as big as Arnie) from the 1970's in that leather coat, I really rather like it. Even if the sad truth is that people who meet me are going to be rather puzzled at the reality of what I look like.

Oh, well... its been a fun day though. We pissed about with Top hats, too, and generally had a lot of fun putting these together and selecting the final four from a selection of several hundred shots. I've known Ross's skills for a few years, and would happily direct you to his website where he's got images from his travels down the years. I even wrote a short story to accompany of them a few years back

Anyway, with thanks to Ross for these new images. And speaking of your humble beardy host's overinflated ego, you might notice we now have a facebook fanpage on the go. Check the link on the right. And go tell me you like me.

We'll be back with the usual nonsense very soon indeed. In the meantime, in case you missed yesterday's announcement, THE GOOD SON has now gone digital in the UK and you can snap it up for the Kindle for only 99 of your shiny, earth pennies. Gowan... give it a go.

Au revoir

*no relation, although we used to work together which got confusing when work documents were signed RM or R McLean