Friday, 2 October 2009

The Lost Sister Launch

Apologies for any typos today, I'm still a bit knackered after my night shift and haven't had much sleep. I have no excuse for typos any other day.

Last night was the launch in Dundee of Russel McLean's second book - THE LOST SISTER. A large...nay, positively ginormous... crowd was in attendance, including such luminaries of the crime fiction world as Allan Guthrie, Tony Black and Jay Stringer. And hello to the lovely ladies from Carnoustie I chatted to for a wee while.

Russel read a couple of excerpts from THE LOST SISTER and was interviewed by Dave Lewis from The Scotsman. First of all, though, he was introduced by someone who I think was his boss at Waterstone's. If it was his boss, I want him (as a boss, obviously, rather than as I would want a pair of shoes or Johnny Depp dressed up as Captain Jack Sparrow). He was very funny in a dry, sardonic way. He mentioned that Waterstone's in Dundee had sold around 1300 copies of Russel's first book THE GOOD SON and he believed that this one would sell even better "because it's got that wraparound cover with the Tay Bridge on it."

The premise of THE LOST SISTER is that depressed PI J McNee is searching for a missing 14 year old girl who happens to be the god-daughter of local businessman/hardman, David Burns. Russel describes it as full of "very dark secrets and lots of violence - good clean, family fun." Incidentally, he also mentioned that the only negative reactions to the first book had been in relation to the amount of swearing. (Mum, I don't think this one's for you, somehow).

The action takes place about a year on from THE GOOD SON and Dave asked Russel how McNee had evolved. Russel said that he is less depressing, but he still has demons to sort out. The reason McNee does not have a first name is partly laziness, partly an homage to Bill Pronzini's Nameless detective series, and also, apparently, a very obscure homage to The Joker from Batman.

Russel studied philosophy at university and Dave asked him what influence this had had on him. "It taught me to drink really really well." Very philosophical, Russel.

The idea for THE GOOD SON came to him when he was about 20. It took 8 years to gestate. Writing THE LOST SISTER was different - he was under more pressure, he wanted to do something different that would have the same effect on people as the first one and pull them in. There is more pressure now, but it's also more fun.

Next up is, hopefully, a standalone about a dying man who wants to get revenge for something, followed by another McNee. He would also jump at the chance to write a graphic novel.

Dave asked him whether he thought crime writing is looked down on by the literary establishment. Russel mentioned James Kelman who "throws a sulk every few weeks" and said that crime writers are happy with the sales and the readers. He said that crime fiction writers don't necessarily want to win the Booker Prize - " we just want you to enjoy the books."

Film is a big influence, as is music, and while writing he listens to the stuff that fits what he is trying to write. He cited Nick Cave as being very good at dark, depressing and violent (which I wholeheartedly agree with), and also Jim White (not Barry White - which he uses for certain scenes later deleted.)

When asked how he sees his writing as having evolved, Russel answered that he has gained perspective and distance and focus and he hopes that his writing has become more real and universal to other people.

Russel's main influences were US writers - including Chandler, Hammett and Elmore Leonard. He writes short because he preferes reading shorter books (although there are exceptions such as Don Winslow's POWER OF THE DOG) . For those who want to check out Russel's other reading recommendations, as well as the authors already noted above, Russel specifically mentioned Allan Guthrie, Tony Black (and they weren't standing up pointing at themselves, honest), Ray Banks, and Derek Raymond.

Finally, I bought a copy of the book last night, but the lovely people at Five Leaves also sent me a copy, so if you would like to win that, please send me an e-mail at bigbeatfrombadsville at gmail etc with the answer to the following question:

Question: Russel is a 'fun guy', but if you don't want him to vomit all over your shoes, what item of food should you not offer him?

I believe that Sean Chercover had to throw those shoes away...


  1. Great post. Would love to have been there, though this post is the next best thing.
    Looking forward to reading the book.

  2. Cheers Steve! And me too. I shall be getting round to it very soon.