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The Rogue Reader Publishes Ron McMillan’s “Bangkok Cowboy”

May 9, 2014 by

At The Rogue Reader, we try to bring you the very best of fiction from the bleeding edge.  So far we’ve published two Spinetingler Magazine Top Picks (Under the Dixie Moon by Ro Cuzon, and Dark as Night by Mark T. Conard) and a Library Journal Staff Pick (Under the Dixie Moon).  With Court Haslett’s Tenderloin (Raven Crime Reads described it in a rave review as “a 70‘s set version of The Wire.”) we expanded into historical noir, and now we are happy to announce publication of our first international author, Ron McMillan, and his riveting Thailand set thriller Bangkok Cowboy

 

Ron McMillan in Bangkok

One of Ron McMillan’s alter-ego web identities is ‘properjob’, chosen because he hasn’t held a regular job in nearly thirty years. And when you consider that he has spent most of the last thirty-five years scouring Asia for diversions to satisfy a near-insatiable thirst for variety and challenge, it’s hardly surprising that the guy who re-invented himself as a photojournalist at the age of 30 – and went on to work for some of the world’s top magazines – has stories to draw from that turn up in his crime fiction.

Newsweek Cover

This is a man who cut his photography teeth in the middle of vast student demonstrations that laid waste to South Korean city centres in the 1980s; who was smuggled into war-torn Afghanistan with the help of the mujahideen in 1989, wrapped in traditional tribal garb that fooled nobody; who has lied to men carrying guns throughout Asia; who performed nearly fifty editorial and commercial photography assignments all over China; and who conjured his way into the hermit kingdom of North Korea posing as a tourist five times, each time secretly on assignment for top publications in North America, Asia and Europe.

Now, with the arrival of Bangkok Cowboy, Ron makes for a truly international addition to the Rogue Reader stable.

Bangkok Cowboy thumbnail cover

The first in a series of crime thrillers set in and around Thailand, Bangkok Cowboy introduces one of the most original private eye duos in modern crime fiction. They are Mason & Dixie.

McMillan: “I chose the single name ‘Mason’ in homage to one-name fictional characters whom I never tire of re-reading: Robert B. Parker’s ‘Spenser’, ‘Burke’ from Andrew Vachss, and James W. Hall’s ‘Thorn’. After settling on ‘Mason’, I needed a short name for his transgender partner, and chose ‘Dixie’. That American reviewers have already taken exception to a nod at a dark line in America’s recent history only tells me that I’m striking a chord. Sure, Mason & Dixie books are primarily crime thrillers, but they are also about how people of extraordinarily different backgrounds and sexualities can mesh as the most loyal of friends.”

Ron McMillan’s website

Follow Ron McMillan’s Mason & Dixie thrillers on Twitter

Mason & Dixie Thrillers on Facebook

Readers and reviewers clamoring for more from Mason & Dixie will not have long to wait. The sequel, Bangkok Belle, is in the works. Watch this space.

Details of Bangkok Cowboy and a lengthy excerpt are available at The Rogue Reader’s book page.

 


Blog, Reviews & Press

Why real cops don’t often make good crime writers

April 30, 2014 by

Courtesy of the Guardian Newspaper website, a hilarious assessment of what’s wrong with crime fiction detectives being portrayed as flawed individuals who lead less than perfect existences – and how such portrayals affect the performances of real cops in the real world. No, it’s not an April Fool spoof……

[Story below by Steven Morris]

 

Sam Spade

 

Crime writers should depict more detectives as clean-living and balanced rather than damaged and hard-drinking like the Inspector Rebus of Ian Rankin‘s novels, a chief constable has said.

Nick Gargan, chief constable of Avon and Somerset, said some police officers modelled themselves on fictional cops when they were interviewed on television in high-profile cases.

Speaking to the Guardian before a talk on crime fiction at the Chipping Norton literary festival at the weekend, Gargan said: “I’ve seen cops on the steps of court putting in rather theatrical performances for the TV cameras and I’ve thought: you weren’t trained to do that. It doesn’t represent any part of the rest of your working life. You’ve thought, tomorrow morning I’m likely to appear on the steps of the court, I’ll be expected to say something. What are my reference points, how am I going to come across?”

Gargan said he accepted Rankin’s view that a novel giving a realistic portrayal of police procedure would be “the most boring book in the world”, but objected to crime authors depicting one detective doing the work of what in reality would be that of up to 40 officers.

“You see a Rebus or Morse at the scene, recovering forensic exhibits, interviewing the suspect, comforting the family, arguing with the chief constable about resources. What can be a team of 20, 30 or 40 people is concentrated in the person of this one senior investigator,” he said.

Gargan, who worked on the investigation into Princess Diana’s death, said he did not accept the accuracy of another trait of fictional detectives – bending the rules for the greater good. “Do we have hard-drinking, heavy-smoking cynical people who make a few mistakes? Yes. But this slightly heroic bucking-the-system thing, I don’t think we have much of that.”

He said Rankin’s beloved creation would not like him. “I represent everything at the top end of the organisation that he’s contemptuous of, and I understand that.

“There are some pretty damaged individuals in too many of these books. I’d quite like to see some cheery, well-balanced, well-adjusted, equally successful investigators. I’d hate to think our investigators were modelling themselves on Rebus, but I think a few of them modelled themselves on Frost [RD Wingfield's creation Jack Frost, played on television by David Jason in A Touch of Frost]. You get a bit of Morse too.”

A senior detective in a neighbouring force, Steve Fulcher of Wiltshire police, was disciplined recently for breaking the rules on how a suspect should be questioned during the high-profile murder case of Sian O’Callaghan in Swindon.

In a scene that could have come from a crime novel (and Rankin has said Rebus might have acted in the same way), Fulcher questioned a suspect, Chris Halliwell, on a remote hillside without access to legal advice in a desperate attempt to crack the case. Halliwell admitted murdering O’Callaghan and led Fulcher to the body of a second woman who had vanished some years earlier. Fulcher was feted by some and criticised by others.

“The rules and laws are there for a reason,” Gargan said. “It’s not heroic to step outside the law. We shouldn’t do that. We’re the police.”

He said real-life detective work attracts interesting personalities. “In the world of investigation there are some real characters. It’s a magnet to individuals.”

He said crime writers did the police a disservice when they suggested officers had a propensity to corruption and were willing to break the rules. “But does that really shape people’s perception of policing? I think people’s experience of policing tends to be shaped by what has happened to them and their friends.”

As to whether it mattered whether writers got the forensic details right, Gargan said it wasn’t important unless there were jarring inaccuracies. He said that as a young constable he and his colleagues would watch episodes of The Bill and tick off the procedural errors. “But it’s the quality of the writing, the story that matters.”

Which detective novels would he take on holiday if forced to leave behind his management tomes and biographies? Gargan discounted Sherlock Homes and Agatha Christie – too much toxicology. Neither had he got into gruesome Scandinavian crime fiction. “There’s a rather depressing amount of pathology now,” he said.

“I’d take a Rumpole of the Bailey. It’s such good fun. I’d probably take an earlier Ian Rankin. I’d take a Colin Dexter too, a nice Morse.”


Blog, Craft, Other People's Books

Best-selling Crime Author James W. Hall Interview

April 28, 2014 by

James W HallWhatever James W. Hall has for breakfast, I want some. He has produced eighteen novels, including the best-selling Thorn crime thrillers (thirteen published, one more coming soon); he has published four collections of poetry and two books of short stories. He has written for the Miami Herald and the Washington Post, and his respected non-fiction Hit Lit (Random House) is an analysis of twelve of the most commercially successful novels of the last century. All of this he achieved in his ‘spare’ time, while he pursued a parallel life as an academic and university lecturer (he has a Master’s in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins University and a Doctorate in Literature from the University of Utah). For thirty-six years, Hall taught at Florida International University, where he founded the Creative Writing program in the 1970s.

I have been a fan of the Thorn novels since I read Under Cover of Daylight in Hongkong almost twenty years ago, and when I set out to write Bangkok Cowboy as the opener for a new thriller series, I unashamedly sought inspiration from Thorn – and from Thorn’s fellow-Floridian, John D. MacDonald‘s Travis McGee. I was delighted when James agreed to take time out for a Q&A session with The Rogue Reader.

 

Ron McMillan: The first Thorn book, Under Cover of Daylight, came out nearly twenty years ago, and emerged as the opening installment in a best-selling series that continues today. At the time, did you consciously set out to write the first in a series, or did its success inspire the Thorn series?

James W. Hall: If I’d known in the mid-eighties when I wrote Under Cover that I would still be writing about Thorn 30 years later, I might have made him a bit more receptive to future adventures. By making him a hermit of sorts, I had to find believable ways to engage him in new stories and to shake him loose from his isolation. Most series heroes don’t have that issue. Travis McGee sometimes helped out friends (as Thorn does), but he was often motivated by the need to replenish his money supply – going back into the salvage business so he could resume his “retirement.” But most series characters are on-call in some ways. Private eyes, cops, or other professions that make them freely available to new adventures. This problem is the first issue I have to solve in each new novel. What would cause Thorn to come down out of his tree house and take on a new challenge? So no, I never intended for Thorn to live beyond Under Cover, but my publisher at the time as well as my subsequent publishers have urged me (bribed me) to keep him going.

Under Cover of Daylight

Ron McMillan: The plotlines of the early books in the series were very much revenge-driven, as Thorn set out to right wrongs from his early life. Since then, the stories are more about friendship, and how Thorn reacts to the misfortunes of people close to him. As a reader, I relish such basic, elemental struggles. You make this seem easy, but how hard do you have to work at the crafting of relationships and friendships that enable you to tug so effectively at readers’ heartstrings?

James W. Hall: I’ve always thought that emotional motivations are better drivers of thrillers than the requirements of a job. I’ve never been much interested in police procedurals for that reason. The cop might be clever and dogged, but the emotions that drive him are in large part requirements of his work. Thorn has very raw emotions. He’s basically a loner, though Sugarman is a close friend, and as a loner the few friendships he does make are very significant to him. So in a way he’s more vulnerable to strong passions than someone more well-rounded in his attachments.

For a character to simply die on page one without first establishing who that character is and his emotional connection to the protagonist makes no sense to me. So I usually devote a good deal of time trying to show the foundation of the relationship that character has with Thorn. Even John D. often glossed over the connections between Travis and the friends he put himself at risk trying to help. I try to make each novel contain a new and unique test for Thorn so that means in part that I must find new people for him to get passionate about. As a result, Thorn seems to be a magnet for bad luck.

Ron McMillan: I know you are a big fan of John D MacDonald, whose Travis McGee novels blazed a path for Florida-based crime fiction. How much do you and Thorn owe to John D. MacDonald and Travis McGee?

Hit Lit

James W. Hall: John D. certainly blazed the trail that a lot of Florida writers have followed. I’m no exception. But there are others who I’ve also learned a lot from. Elmore Leonard, of course, and a man named Douglas Fairbairn whose wonderful novel Street 8 was an early example of the kind of crime thriller set in South Florida that I aspired to write. I re-read John D. often and am always impressed by his ability to tell an exciting tale in a very efficient manner, and to inform in the process. Not easy to do.

Ron McMillan: Your novels, like the MacDonald books (and those of fellow Florida-based author Carl Hiaasen), rail against the profligacy of real estate developers who have changed Florida forever. How important do you feel is your role in highlighting the wrongs being inflicted on Florida?

James W. Hall. I take a slightly different tack on this issue. While, yes, Hiaasen and I share the John D. environmental stance toward Florida, what I try to bring to the novels is a celebration of the beauty and exotic charm of the landscape. I’m trying to find lyrical and poetic ways to capture the place, something Carl doesn’t spend much time with and John D. did very infrequently. The model for me in this regard is James Lee Burke‘s extraordinary descriptions of Louisiana. In trying to capture the exotic natural landscape, I hope to instill in readers some measure of affection for this weird and wonderful place. I’m not into soapbox writing. I figure if I can make a reader see the Florida that I love and care about for a few hundred pages, then I’ve done a good thing.

Ron McMillan: Fifty years after his debut, James Bond is still a youthful fortyish. Robert B. Parker‘s Spenser boxed against Jersey Joe Walcott in the mid-1950s, and nearly sixty years on, is still cracking heads in Boston. Twenty years into your series, Thorn should, by rights, be pushing sixty. Of course each book has to work as a stand-alone tale, but your fans doubtless expect continuity in a central character they have grown to love over the years. What are the peculiar challenges presented to the author of a long-running series?

James W. Hall. Thorn is getting creaky and he admits it. But you can find some incredibly tough specimens in their 60′s and older in the Florida Keys. The lobsterman, the men who live outdoor lives and challenges themselves against the elements. Thorn isn’t a superman. He isn’t a Special Ops guy or a former SEAL. He’s just a healthy guy who has taken care of himself and he manages to survive some serious scrapes more with cunning and guile than with karate or some other martial arts skill.

Ron McMillan: I believe the fourteenth novel in the Thorn series is in the works. What do Thorn fans have to look forward to?

James W. Hall. Just finished the fourteenth. It’s called The Big Finish. Thorn and Sugarman head to North Carolina to do battle with a hog farmer and some other pretty outrageous villains who have targeted Thorn’s son, Flynn and his environmentalist friends.

The Big Finish

Ron McMillan: Do you enjoy reading crime fiction? If so, point us to one or two authors or titles that Rogue Reader website visitors might like to explore.

James W. Hall. I’ve been reading a lot of Daniel Silva lately. Always enjoy the latest Lucas Davenport novel and Jo Nesbo, Laura Lippman, Megan Abbott, and Jim Burke and Don Winslow. This past year I read The Goldfinch and The Signature of All Things, two novels that weren’t exactly crime novels, but were wonderful in very different ways. Next up for me is a Barbara Kingsolver novel that is research related. The next novel might be a standalone or the beginning of a new series. I’ll know in a few months after I’ve written a few hundred pages.

James W. Hall’s website             James W. Hall on Twitter

 

Interview and post by Rogue Reader Ron McMillan, author of Bangkok Cowboyfirst in a new series of Mason Dixie crime thrillers set in and around Thailand.

Follow Ron McMillan on Twitter.

 

 


Blog, Craft, Other People's Books

Asian Crime Bestseller John Burdett on his Inspirations

April 15, 2014 by

johnburdettThe Rogue Reader is delighted to welcome John Burdett, best-selling author of crime novels set in Asia. John worked for fourteen years as a lawyer in London and Hongkong before retiring to Europe. Here he writes how his time in Asia inspired him to write about it and led to him becoming one of the world’s best-known writers of Asian-based crime fiction.

John’s breakthrough crime novel, Bangkok 8, was the first to feature Royal Thai Police Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, and set in motion a series of much-appreciated and oft-imitated crime novels set in Bangkok and elsewhere in Asia. The fifth in the series, Vulture Peak, was published in 2012. John took time out from working on his latest novel to write this guest column:

 

Origins of Inspiration

It is often said that inspiration arises from a gap between opposing forces. The greater the gap the more intense the inspiration – and the more difficult to live with. More or less by accident my polarities turned out to be the most basic, and perhaps the most challenging: East and West.

In 2001 I returned to Southeast Asia after a five year sojourn in Europe. I had spent most of my legal career in Hong Kong and retired early. I had no idea how the Far East had changed my perspective until I tried to live in France and Spain. There is a supreme irony here: those two countries are democracies where individual freedoms are guaranteed. Hong Kong in my day was a benevolent dictatorship left over from colonial times. So why did life in Hong Kong seem to bestow so much more individual freedom than Western Europe? The question gnawed at me. I was on the trail of my demon. I had to return. This time I chose the much more laid-back Thailand, which I had visited many times as a tourist whilst in Hong Kong.

I decided to write a police thriller based in Bangkok. I knew nothing of the vast and ancient profession of prostitution and had no intention of writing about it. However, there was a rumour that a branch of the Royal Thai Police Force was dedicated to helping tourists and spoke English. Since a huge proportion of tourists in Bangkok are English-speaking men seeking thrills and adventure in the red-light districts, I hung out there. I never did find an English-speaking cop, but I managed to strike up a number of friendships with the bar girls. They were not at all like the cliche of hard-bitten women for whom sex has become a loveless industry. On the contrary, they were almost all daughters of subsistence farmers from the Northeast of the country whose families had fallen on hard times, largely due to manipulation of the price of rice at the international level. They did not think of themselves as prostitutes. The were looking for a foreign (‘farang’) husband and where better to find one than in the bars of Pat Pong, Nana and Soi Cowboy? Often they were successful. A girl who was selling her body in the bars might disappear for a month, then return in triumph to show off her new farang husband.

But how did they cope, psychologically, with this supposedly devastating degradation that experts, who are invariably Western, darkly predict must leave life-long scars? The answer was, to a very large extent, Buddhism. They were mostly devout, made homage to Buddhist images before starting work and accepted without question the law of karma. Karma means cause and effect operating at the moral and psychological level. It is therefore controllable. If you want a better life build one by starting now. They were generally truthful, honest, hard-working and cheerful. They were confident this attitude would pay dividends and sometimes it did. What impressed me, though, was the inner freedom they seemed to enjoy. As a lawyer I had worked with people from all walks of life in London and Hong Kong. I had spent time with billionaires, middle-class professionals, crooks and exemplary members of society: none of them seemed as happy as these working girls.

I investigated further. It wasn’t only the bar girls whose mental control was impressive. Far away from Bangkok, in the countryside, people often lived in an economy of barter: no one had any cash to spare. But they were free. I had spent most of my adult life chasing money in order to get free and I was jealous. Later, when I began to write my books, I realised how fortunate I was. I had found my abyss, my Great Gap, my Big Bang. There was no way I was going to resolve this riddle in one life time, but the psychic energy it released has so far produced six books, all of them best sellers.

John Burdett, Le Lot, France

John’s website

Bangkok 8 cover

 

 


Blog, Fan's Note, Other People's Books

Crime busters’ musical interludes

April 12, 2014 by

Billie Holliday

When I found myself thinking about how frequently crime fiction’s central figures retreat to their living rooms and put on their favourite music – often so that the author can simultaneously reveal the protagonist’s inner thoughts and review the case helpfully, I asked my friend Charles Philipp Martin, author and classical and jazz musician and jazz radio host, why he didn’t make his central character in Neon Panic a music fan.

I went out of the way to make my hero unmusical,” he said. “The last thing we need is another detective who comes home, pours a bourbon and puts on Ray Charles. But I’m a spoilsport.”

I suspect that Charles, as my mother used to say, might be cutting off his nose to spite his face. Sure, detectives and musical interludes are all too common – and have been since Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes used to indulge in a little medicinal cocaine and make his Baker Street living room ring to the tones of the Stradivarius that he snapped up for 55 shillings in 1860. Readers, myself included, love these musical diversions, which tell us more about the hero, allow us to share our enjoyment of his/her musical taste – and help us iron out the bumps in what can be a complex narrative.

Authors love them, too. When Andrew Vachss doesn’t have Burke feeding his oversized killer dog gallon tubs of ice cream, he frequently refers to his love of blues maiden Susan Tedeschi. Ian Rankin‘s Rebus, like his creator, is a noted fan of old school British rock music, including the Rolling Stones, The Who and Cream.

Colin Dexter‘s Inspector Morse favoured classics, in particular that of Wagner. Also in England, John Harvey‘s Nottingham police detective Charlie Resnick, a solitary soul who survives on the companionship of cats and seems to exist mainly on a diet of sandwiches, is a traditional jazz buff, happiest at home with LPs of Billie Holiday or Charlie Parker. Harvey commonly talks about the strong influence of jazz music upon his writing, and even his website URL is  ‘Mellotone’

About as far from Nottingham as you can get, Michael Connelly portrays his hero Harry Bosch as a man who might be good friends with Charlie Resnick. Bosch likes nothing more than retreating to his cantilevered home overlooking L.A. and putting on John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins or Art Pepper.

Connelly has gone further to link jazz and Harry Bosch. In 2003, he gave away a CD of Harry Bosch’s favourite music to promote his book Lost Light,  and excerpts from The Overlook were put to original jazz from Frank Morgan for a unique YouTube promo clip.

Crime fiction and music are inextricably linked. I, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way.

Posted by The Rogue Reader Guest Editor Ron McMillan, author of Bangkok Cowboy 

Ron McMillan on Twitter


Blog, Other People's Books

Tartan Noir – Five Scottish crime authors to look out for

April 7, 2014 by

_10B5635

We Scots are understandably a little smug about the cleverness of forefathers responsible for more than our share of landmark breakthroughs over the centuries.

How smug? Look up the origins of the telephone, fax machine, penicillin, insulin, radar, the steam engine, car tyres, the waterproof mackintosh, the hypodermic syringe and the vaccine for typhus. And if those aren’t significant enough, consider the electric toaster, the flushing toilet and the refrigerator. All invented by Scots.

In the world of crime fiction, too, Scots have fought well above their weight, with names like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, John Buchan and Alistair MacLean in days gone by, and present-day best sellers Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, Irvine Welsh and even honorary Scots J.K. Rowling and Rhodesian-born Alexander McCall-Smith.

The stars of the present day are world-renowned, but what of authors who might not be on your radar? Here goes with five, slightly lesser-known Scottish crime authors – but whom any fan of what is becoming known as ‘Tartan Noir’ would do well to seek out. Note that several of the five are, in fact, actually established authors with multiple titles behind them and well-deserved international reputations. Even so, their presence in the American market might not yet match their recognition in Britain and Europe. But it is only a matter of time.

  1. Tony Black

Tony Black The Inglorious Dead

Journalist, editor and novelist Tony Black was born in Australia, but grew up in Ireland and Scotland. I recently came across his novella The Ringer, a dark portrait of the urban Scottish underbelly that sizzles with authenticity. Its narrator, Stauner, is easily the most detestable central character I have read in a very long time. Black’s prolific output of novels and short stories is gaining recognition from high places. Irvine Welsh calls him ‘my favourite British crime writer’. High praise for a crime writer who is most definitely on the way up, and for whom wider recognition surely beckons. His tenth book, The Inglorious Dead, is published this month.

Tony Black’s blog

Tony Black on Twitter

 

  1. Malcolm Mackay

malcolm-mackay

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter announced the arrival of a hot new prospect to Tartan Noir. Malcolm Mackay is from Stornoway in Scotland’s Hebridean islands, has barely turned thirty years old – and already has a trilogy of crime thrillers published, with more on the way. The second in the trilogy, How a Gunman Says Goodbye, won the Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award for 2013. Mackay might not yet have made his name in America, but it won’t be long.

Malcolm Mackay on Twitter

 3. Paul Johnston

Paul Johnston portrait

 

 

I first came across Paul Johnston’s inspired series of Quint Dalrymple crime novels more than ten years ago. He started out with Body Politic, which introduced investigator Quint Dalrymple and the dark dystopian world of a post-apocalyptic Edinburgh in the 2020s (I bet he wishes now that he made that the 2040s). It won Britain’s John Creasey Award for Best Debut Novel.

body_politic

 

 

The prolific (there’s that word again) Johnston has gone on to write three separate series of crime novels. The Alex Mavros books are set in Greece, where Johnston lives, and the Matt Wells series, set in London and the United States.

Paul Johnston on Twitter

 

  1. Craig Russell

Craig Russell portrait

 

 

Ex-Glasgow policeman Craig Russell is well-known in the European crime fiction scene for his Murder Commission series set in Germany and featuring Jan Fabel as a troubled investigator. I hadn’t heard of Jan Fabel when I ‘discovered’ Russell’s Glasgow-set series featuring displaced Canadian PI Lennox. I found a copy of the first in the series, Lennox, in a second-hand bookstore in Vientiane, Laos – and was very glad I did. The book takes place shortly after World War II, and Lennox is a private eye who juggles competing clients from the cut-throat Glasgow underworld. My earliest memories of urban Scotland are from near Glasgow in the 1960s, and the Lennox books resonate beautifully with period character.

Craig Russell on Twitter

  1. Caro Ramsay

ramsay_absolution

 

 

About fifteen years ago I was living in Scotland, and a very enthusiastic member of a Writers’ Group at the local library in the town of Paisley. The Group occasionally got together with other Groups from neighbouring towns, and so I became aware of Carole Mitchell, whose success in selling a manuscript to a mainstream publisher for a reputedly large advance was the stuff of local legend. The manuscript eventually became her debut novel, Absolution. Now writing as Caro Ramsay, and despite holding down a high-pressure full-time occupation as the owner of an Osteopath centre, her career has gone from strength to strength.

 

Readers should be aware that this short list only scratches the surface of crime fiction talent emerging from Scotland. Anyone interested in seeking out more Scottish crime authors could do worse than starting with the Tartan Noir website or this list from the Books From Scotland site. Prominent in such lists is Louise Welsh. Louise doesn’t feature here only because The Rogue Reader has an exclusive interview with her lined up in the coming weeks.

Posted by The Rogue Reader Guest Editor Ron McMillan, author of Bangkok Cowboy 

Ron McMillan on Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

 


Blog, Fan's Note, Other People's Books

A Fan’s Note: Owen Laukkanen on Gangster Rap and Crime Fiction

April 7, 2014 by

Today, we welcome author Owen Laukkanen to reveal how the hip hop beat of gangster rap drives his high intensity thrillers…

I grew up on rap music. I was your typical middle-class kid, playing hockey and going to piano recitals and turning the radio dial to WJLB Detroit (“Where hip-hop lives”) whenever my parents were out of earshot. Strange as it sounds, rap music is as responsible as books and violent movies for pushing me into writing crime fiction.

The gangster rap I discovered as a rebellious teen was just as violent and cinematic as the mob movies I was watching—hell, some of them were influenced explicitly by the same. The songs that resulted were gritty, three-minute noir sagas, populated by desperate, small-time crooks straight out of your favorite pulp magazine. Their creators were dark, funny, and inventive with language—just the kind of role models an aspiring crime writer needed. These days, when I need a hit of quick and bloody inspiration, these are the songs I put on:

Note #1: It probably goes without saying, but these songs are loaded with explicit content and adult situations. Be warned.
parental_advisory_explicit_content_lge_logo
Note #2: I’m leaving out a lot of classics here, I know, especially from the West Coast. I grew up to East Coast rap, though, and this is what I vibed to when I was just finding my way.

notorious b.i.g. somebody gotta die

1. The Notorious B.I.G. – N***as Bleed
Your classic double-cross story. In the first verse, Biggie’s alter ego, Frank White (a shout-out to Christopher Walken’s New York crime kingpin in King of New York) preps for a seven-figure drug deal at a local motel. By all accounts, Frank’s dealing with some shady cats, both on his side and the other, but that doesn’t stop the wheels from turning:

Think about it now, that’s damn near one point five [million]. I kill ‘em all, I’ll be set for life.
(Frank, pay attention…promise you won’t rob them.)
I promised, but of course you know I had my fingers crossed.

From there, the heist is on, and it plays out like a scene from a Brian De Palma movie, complete with bloody, climactic shootout and a funny and unexpected finale.

Fishscale-Ghostface

2. Ghostface Killah – Shakey Dog
Another heist story, another double cross, albeit with lower stakes and an insane, frenetic energy. Ghost enlists some dude named Frank to help him rob his cocaine connection in some shady tenement in uptown Manhattan. This thing is a song in the loosest sense of the word – there’s no chorus here, just Ghost describing the preparation, the characters in play and the stickup itself with a crime-writer’s eye for detail and dialogue. The writing itself is laugh out loud funny, and Ghost’s breathless storytelling propels the listener full ahead to the last line of the song, when he pulls the rug out from under us and stops the action dead on some Sopranos finale tip. There’s a sequel, featuring Raekwon, but like all sequels, it pales in comparison to the original.

read more →


Blog, Craft, Shorts & Excerpts

Yin Yang Tattoo by Ron McMillan

April 2, 2014 by

In 2010 my first published novel, Yin Yang Tattoo, was launched in paperback by Sandstone Press in the UK. I sat around for a few weeks waiting for reviewers to beat a path to my door, a path that never saw a single footfall. With the awareness slowly dawning that this was going to be a lot more difficult than I had ever imagined, I started pitching the book as aggressively as I could, searching out potential print media review sources. I quickly found out how near-impossible the new task was. Thankless? You bet your ass it was thankless.

Document 1

I succeeded in securing reviews at a handful of websites. The highly-regarded Scottish Review of Books called it a ‘superior thriller’; a blogsite devoted to all things Korean kicked me square between the legs with the aside that it wasn’t in the same league as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. And a sweet review in the online crime fiction website Shots Magazine deemed it ‘lean and pacy, just what you want a thriller to be’.

Much later, two other online reviews, one at Asia Times Online, the other at the Asian travel blog site Wowasis, were more than generous with their praise, but long before they arrived I found myself in classic published author limbo. Few reviews, nobody discussing the book, zero market awareness. Even worse, I suffered the ignominy of securing an invite to the Hongkong International Literary Festival, only for the invitation to be rescinded after the festival chairman read the book and deemed it  ‘altogether too highly coloured for our kind of festival – pretty strong meat.’ I can now laugh at it – wear it as a badge of honour, even – but at the time it hurt.

I decided it was time to do something different. I searched YouTube for inspired book promotions, and found none. Authors standing at a lectern reading out chunks of their novels didn’t strike me as particularly ground-breaking. And so I set about making my own clip. I asked around and found a young illustrator who was a devotee of the graphic novel. Azlan Ahmad McKechnie agreed to do the artwork for the clip, and a musician friend in Bangkok, Keith Nolan, composed the backing track as a favour that, over the years since, has seen me purchase coffees too many to count.

I’d love to say the clip created an avalanche of sales, but that, sadly was not the case. Nevertheless, I think it stands up as a clever piece of online promotion.

[Note: URLs for Azlan Mckechnie and Keith Nolan embedded in the clip are no longer current. My website URL remains alive and well.]

The text for the narration follows.
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Blog, Craft, Other People's Books

How To Be A Writer – by Matt Haig

March 25, 2014 by

Matt Haig The Humans cover

Matt Haig (@MattHaig1) is a young author whose output covers both children’s and adult fiction, and whose latest book, The Humans has been nominated in the ‘Best Novel’ category for the 2014 Edgar Awards

I came across this YouTube link he put up on Facebook. Apart from being very well done, it is also one of the most subtle pieces of marketing I have ever enjoyed. Despite hardly seeing The Humans on screen for more than a few seconds, I was immediately inspired to go looking for it – and ‘discover’ an already famous author. Very, very clever.

By Ron McMillan, Rogue Reader Guest Editor, and author of Bangkok Cowboy, the first in the new Mason & Dixie thriller series. @MasonDixieBooks


Blog, Craft, Other People's Books

Every Dog Has its Day

March 22, 2014 by

John Logan.  Writer

This entry has turned into rather a long one, but for that I make no apologies. I am quite certain that many Rogue Reader visitors share, as well as a love for crime fiction, a desire to write crime fiction. This is a story of one writer’s journey, more than a decade in the making, to the point where he can at last point to his earthy, atmospheric, highly original crime novels actually living and breathing out there on the market – and selling well.

It’s quite telling that a fair percentage of people continue to be deluded about the financial wellbeing of authors. They somehow still retain the illusion that anyone with a book published must be rolling in greenbacks. Maybe not as rich as Dan Brown or J.K. Rowling, but still seriously comfortable, right?

Wrong. Here’s a startling fact, revealed in an article in The Guardian a few weeks ago: most writers earn less than one thousand dollars a year from their writing.

Sure, the arrival of ePublishing has changed that for some hard-working souls – see below – but for many the Holy Grail of writing is to be published ‘traditionally’, i.e. in print. John A.A. Logan is a Scottish writer from the northern city of Inverness. I came across John on Twitter, and what I read convinced me to download his novel, The Survival of Thomas Ford, that reads like a tautly-crafted stage play with a minimalist cast of beautifully-drawn characters. The book made me think of the film, Dead Calm – with its cast of three – Nicole Kidman, Sam Neill and Billy Zane, from the novel by Charles Williams. The Survival of Thomas Ford is that good.

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Blog, Craft, Shorts & Excerpts

Yin Yang Tattoo by Ron McMillan

April 2, 2014 by

In 2010 my first published novel, Yin Yang Tattoo, was launched in paperback by Sandstone Press in the UK. I sat around for a few …
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Blog, Reviews & Press

“Bangkok Cowboy” a Nook First Pick of the Day

June 6, 2014 by

Congrats to Ron McMillan – his Thailand set thriller “Bangkok Cowboy” is the B&N Nook First Pick of the Day! NOOK First: Compelling Reads from …
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