As an author with a new book in stores as of yesterday, there’s just one obvious thing for me to do here on my blog: pimp someone else with a new book. They don’t call me a marketing genius for nothing! (Note: They do not, in fact, call me a marketing genius at all.)
And so it is that we launch a new feature here at stevehockensmith.com: “More Talk, Less Hock,” a semi-regular series of Q&As with whoever the heck I want to Q. (Semi-regular means I might decide pretty quickly that this is a pain-in-the-ass idea.)
First up: Scottish crime writer and five-time Mr. Universe world bodybuilding champion Russel D McLean.
Me: In your novels, The Good Boy and The Good Boy 2: Nuns on the Run, lots of mysterious-type stuff happens that the hero, Patrick Macnee, must deal with when he's not cashing residual checks for The New Avengers. Did you make that mysterious-type stuff up or did Mr. Macnee allow you to write about actual incidents from his real-life life? [Note #2: This is not an accurate reflection of the content of the book.]
Russel: Patrick Macnee came into my life about 25 years ago, during a period in which I was under the tutelage of two mysterious Yogi masters named Hock ’n’ Smith. After ingesting some “medicinal ’erbs” (but not inhaling them) I experienced a strong sense that Mr Macnee wished me to write about his life. Unfortunately when I returned to Messrs Hock ’n’ Smith to procure more of this herbal communication, their premises had been padlocked by the local police.
Doing some leg work (and then realising I’d get on a lot faster if I used more than one leg at a time), I finally tracked Patrick Macnee to his home in the South East of England. Later that evening, I found myself a guest of the local constabulary with written orders to “never again bother Mr Macnee.” The letter went on to say that failure to adhere to said instructions would result in “severe damage internally and externally as well as immediate cessation of liquor rations.” It was this second point that frightened me the most.
So at that point I jacked in writing about Patrick Macnee and just made up lots of stuff about a Scottish private investigator with a very similar name (J. McNee) who gets beaten up rather a lot. While not as epic as my planned tetrology concerning the real Macnee, publishers were very happy to accept my postal order to the tune of 10 million Scottish pound notes and publish the book.
Also, Nuns on the Run was nixed as the title for book #2 following covert legal action from Robbie Coltrane and Eric Idle. A fair point. One wouldn’t want to devalue that most classic of movies by associating it with cheap and tawdry fiction written by a weirdly bearded Scot.
Me: I'm glad we got that straightened out. Now...wait. Did we get that straightened out?
Russel: Hmmm. I think there was maybe one kernel of reality in that last answer. Still, I think we at least managed to sort out the classic status of Nuns on the Run. So we definitely achieved something.
Me: O.K., lesson learned. Enough funny business. Because noir isn't anything to joke around about, right? So tell me, in all seriousness: Who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp? Who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong?
Russel: You’re right. We noiristas1 are not allowed to have anything to do with funny business. Do you see me smiling in any of my author photos?
As to your question...the “bomp” was discovered (along with the lickable postage stamp and electric street lighting2) right here in Dundee by Jock “Get Ootae Mah Face Wi’ That Bloody Camera” McGinty, one of Scotland’s lesser known physicists from the turn of the last century. By inserting the “bomp” in “bomp bah bomp bah bomp” he revolutionised the field of theoretical bah-bomping and ushered in a modern age of scientific enlightenment.
As to who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong, I’m not sure, but I do hear of certain practices in the more remote parts of these isles that do involve putting your rama lama ding dong into a ram....
1 noirista: a bit like a barista but generally less employable.
2 These are yer actual historical facts. Well, the postage stamp and street lighting bits anyway.
Me: Obviously I came to the right man for the lowdown on the rama lama ding dong, which makes me hopeful that you can solve another great mystery. Tell me, Russel -- who's zoomin' who?
Russel: You did indeed come to the right man to ask such questions. Zoomin’ Who was the hero of a short-lived 1980s spinoff from Doctor Who featuring the Time Lord’s hick cousin Zoomin’, who travelled in time and space via a TARDIS disguised as a pig-trough. It lasted three 200 hour-long episodes and has sadly been lost after the BBC were conned out of over three billion yards of film stock by a mysterious grifter wearing a false moustache over his natural facial fuzz and calling himself Mr. Smithenhock.
Me: Now that we know who Zoomin' Who is perhaps we should find out who Russel McLean is. What's the scoop? You write mysteries, obviously, and you clearly know a lot about rama lama ding dong. What else would you like people to know? By which I mean how would you like to brand yourself to potential consumers?
Russel: I’ve tried to stop branding myself. Mostly because it really really hurts when the iron sizzles the skin.
But yes...[adopts serious, writerly pose] my name’s Russel D McLean (the D’s important for finding me books) and I’m a 5 foot 7 Scottish author of dark crime novels set in Scotland’s fourth largest city, Dundee. I also have a beard. Because I think every good author should have a beard. The books themselves are private eye novels and people seem to enjoy them. Let’s pull up a quote from the blurb-o-matic to give you an idea: “...an intense, taut crime story with a caustic PI. Not to be missed by fans of straight-up hardboiled noir.” (RTBookreviews). I like to think I’m following in the tradition of Ross Macdonald, Lawrence Block and so on, but with a distinctly Scottish accent.
I have lived in Dundee for over 10 years now. My current abode came with a cursed mask, a la a Stephen King novel3.
I was not, despite popular mythology, the executive producer of Zoomin’ Who.
3 This is genuinely true.
Me: So you've put out The Good Son and The Lost Sister (or so Amazon's telling me -- sorry for getting the titles wrong in the first question). Any plans for The Grumpy Mom and The Absent-Minded Dad and The Annoying Cousin Who Won't Stop Talking About Charlie Sheen? By which I mean will our man Macnee/McNee be back?
Russel: Oh, he’ll be back if I have my say in it (and I may or may not do at the moment) and if the readers have their say as well. The next book is planned and primed, so if the big bad world of publishing lets me play in its sandbox again there’ll be another one. Watch me blog (www.theseayemeanstreets.blogspot.com) which I do honestly update on occasion, especially when I have news to report! The next book was originally going to be called Father Confessor, but the more I think about it the more I think the title may indeed change to The Annoying Cousin Who Won't Stop Talking About Charlie Sheen. See, Steve, this is why you’re my new writerising guru. You’ve always given out such top advice....
Me: Final question, and it's an old chestnut. What writerising advice would you give to the aspiring, o guru?
Russel: 1) Despite the fact I joke a lot about wearing a tatty dressing gown when I write, I actually find it helps to get dressed, showered and refreshed. Treat it like a job and in the end, it’ll give you the rewards.
2) Don’t write to market unless that’s what you love. There are two reasons for this. Number one is that by the time you get the book publishable the market will probably have moved on. And two, readers can spot a faker a mile off. They know cynicism. They appreciate passion.
3) When redrafting, eliminate the unnecessary. [Note #3: The rest of this answer was cut for space.]
4) Read. Seriously. Read everything you can get your hands on. Even the bad stuff -- especially the bad stuff –- can teach you something.
5) Grow a beard. Unless this is impossible for you. In which case don’t.
6) Be patient. If you’re an aspiring musician you don’t release an album after you’ve learned only one chord. (You have to know at least three.) Same thing with being a writer. Slinging a sentence together doesn’t make you ready for publication. You have to practice. Hone your craft. Treat it with the respect it deserves. In the end, readers will thank you for that.
7) Don’t get uppity about being an author of prose. You can learn things from watching how TV and film construct their stories. In fact, you might learn more than you ever expect. I wouldn’t be writing the way I do without the influence of other media teaching me new tricks.
8) If Steve Hockensmith offers to show you his “collection of zombie etchings,” think very carefully about your answer. To this day, I can’t stop the twitching in my right eye.
Well, that was a lot of...hey. I forgot to ask him how he got the middle name "D" and whether that means he's related to Chuck D. And did he say something about living in a house with a haunted mask?
Obviously follow-up questions are not my forte. Oh, well. I'm new to this blog interview thing. Hopefully, the next one will go a little more smoothly.
Assuming anyone will talk to me after this....