Monday, June 12, 2017

Catching criminals in real life and on the page: an interview with Angus McLean

Welcome back to the 9mm interview series! After a bit of a break, I'm very glad to be continuing this fun series, chatting to terrific crime writers from all over the world: about books, writing, their lives, and other interesting things.

Thanks for all the positive feedback, and your suggestions and critiques, about the series over the years. It's been quite a twisting, fascinating journey. As of the last instalment back in March, I've published 9mm interviews with 165 different crime and thriller authors, hailing from more than 20 different countries. We began with Lee Child back in 2010, and have sprawled all over the crime landscape since (including some authors who are, sadly, no longer with us).

I'm very grateful to all the crime writers for generously giving their time. Along with the 9mm interviews already published, I've chatted to many other crime writers, famous and on-the-rise, at crime writing festivals and other events over the past year. I will be publishing 9mm interviews with many of them over the coming months - as well as other writers from all over the world.

You can see the full index of author interviews here. If you've got a favourite crime writer who hasn't yet featured in the series, get in touch or leave a comment, and I'll make it happen.

Today, I'm stoked to bring you an exclusive interview with a New Zealand author who hasn't given many interviews in the past; he's a serving New Zealand police officer writing under a pseudonym.

I met 'Angus' at a gathering of New Zealand crime writers in Devonport when I was back in New Zealand in January. He was kind enough to agree to do this interview. McLean has published 11 books since 2014 - he has two main series (the Division series and the Chase Investigations series), along with a couple of others. Many of his books are novella length. As he says on his website, he writes the kinds of books he likes, and hopes others like them too. He adds, "Angus McLean is the pen name I use for my writing, to keep my writing life separate from my other working life. Maybe at some stage I’ll drop the pseudonym, but for now, the anonymity it brings suits me."

But for now, Angus McLean becomes the 166th crime writer to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
I have two that I can't choose between, one classic and one classic-to-be. Sherlock Holmes was one of my first detective heroes as a kid, and I still read the Conan Doyle stories from time to time. I also watch the Cumberbatch/Freeman TV series, which is fantastic. The second is Connelly's Harry Bosch. I've got no doubt that in time he will be viewed as a classic of his generation too. Both great characters from very talented writers!

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
I can't recall the title of it, but it was a Robin Hood book I read at about 6 years of age. In a lot of ways he was a similar type of character to the private eyes of the pulp era - a flawed but ultimately honourable man trying to do the right thing, operating under his own code. Robin Hood, knights, cowboys, private eyes-all cut from the same cloth.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I wrote a lot of stories as a kid, some of which I still have, scribbled in longhand and stapled together - some I even drew covers for. I have a couple of novels tucked away that will probably never see the light of day, but were great practice. I can't think of a time when I didn't write.

4. Outside of writing, touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
Oh, to be touring! I have a fantastic wife and a fun-loving little boy who keep me very busy at home. Our son is a real little story teller, which I love. He has a wonderful imagination. We do all the normal family things, trying to get work done on the house, catch up with friends and family, hit the beach in summer and go for bush walks. We are lucky to live in a country with wonderful tracks to explore. I'm a keen-but-unskilled DIYer, and fancy myself as a bit of a cook. Aside from all that, I work full-time as a police officer, which can be very demanding. It also gives me lots of inspiration for writing too, although many of the sights you see as a cop are just too bizarre to be believable!

5. What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
Get out there and walk. Take a train into the city and go exploring. Auckland actually has some really interesting old buildings, little pockets dotted around that you never knew were there, quirky little shops you've never heard of. Beat the feet and spend a day exploring. Plenty of parks to go to as well, if you want to avoid the city crowds

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Jason Statham or Daniel Craig, for sure. Total action man, driving fast and blowing things up. Ha ha, probably more likely Colin Firth or Martin Freeman. The bloke next door and a bit more nerdy!

7. Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
My latest, The Shadow Dancers. I really enjoyed writing it and although it is part of The Division series, which are quite action-oriented spy thrillers, the lead character Moore is a man on more of a personal journey than I normally write about. "Matured" sounds a bit pretentious, but I think I kind of found my groove as a writer with this one.

8. What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when your debut story was released to the public?
I published my first ebook, Old Friends, in July 2014. Seeing it out there on the net, available for the world to see, was quite a surreal experience. I had to keep going back in to look at it, I was just amazed that I'd done it. In fact I was so excited that I published the second in the Chase Investigation series, Honey Trap, a couple of hours later. Having both of them out there was a huge buzz, I couldn't put it into words so just grinned like a fool and kept reminding my wife that I was now a published author. I think she got mildly over it after the first few hours. I remember walking on the wild side and eating a lot of chocolate. Crazy.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
In January, I met a group of Auckland-based crime writers, and it was another pretty surreal experience. They were all such nice people and interested to meet each other, not the slightly-twisted weirdos you may imagine crime writers to be. They plot murders all day then pop out for a cold one with a bunch of other psycho-lovers. Sitting between Ben Sanders and Craig Sisterson, chatting about our work. It felt like I was a busker invited to party backstage with the Rolling Stones.

Thank you Angus. We appreciate you chatting to Crime Watch

You can read more about Angus McLean and his books at his website, and follow him on Twitter

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