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Author of the Month

Name: Craig Russell

First Novel: Blood Eagle

Most Recent Book: The Long Glasgow Kiss

'“The sardonic sleuth is a fantastic character, beautifully portrayed by a master craftsman.”'

Synopsis:
1950s Glasgow is not a place where you would choose to be unless you were born there. Lennox, a private investigator who walks the line between organised crime and the police force, calls it home - despite being half Canadian.

Jimmy “Small Change” MacFarlane, a bookmaker and greyhound breeder, is brutally murdered. Lennox has a cast iron alibi as he was busy seducing MacFarlane’s daughter at the time of the murder. He is thus drawn into investigating the murder and soon discovers that he was into a lot more than bookmaking - he has connections to one of Glasgow’s crime lords. Willie Sneddon is one of the 'Three Kings' and he hires Lennox to investigate who is trying to scare off a boxer he is sponsoring.

Sneddon is not a man whose wrong side Lennox wants to be on, yet he finds himself battling on all fronts as he also picks up a missing person case which is indelibly linked to the situation. To cap things off there is a bigger fish swimming in Glasgow’s small pond and he is large enough to dispose of the Three Kings as if they were minnows, but Lennox is the only man who can locate him...

Review:
Once again, enquiry agent Lennox rides to the rescue in an enthralling tale of gangsters, crooks and dubious police practices. The Long Glasgow Kiss is the sequel to Lennox and is a better book an all levels. This is no mean feat, considering how excellent the first book was.

Russell writes in the first person and this gives him great license to fully depict all of Lennox’s thoughts and observations. The sardonic sleuth is a fantastic character, beautifully portrayed by a master craftsman. He has a heart of gold buried deep beneath a fierce exterior, a winning way with the ladies and an eye for detail and observation that are terrifically voiced with his usual sarcasm and wit. Sneddon, twinkletoes, Superintendent Willie McNab and Johnny Cohen all re-appear along with some new characters. The pick of these is Tony the Pole and his exchanges with Lennox are spellbinding.

The dank, dark atmosphere of post war Glasgow is almost a character in the novel and Russell has his finger on the pulse of Scotland’s second city. Many of the things he says are true to this day, although not in the exaggerated sense of those tough times. Using the gloom and depressing times as a backdrop lets the author set scenes that would be horrific in today’s world, yet are almost commonplace in the brutal world he describes. The pace is riproaring and I was late getting other reviews in because I simply could not put this book down! Craig Russell and Lennox do the same job for crime fans as the vuvuzelas do for background noise. They are here to entertain us and cannot be ignored.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating



Questionnaire

1) What makes a truly great crime/thriller novel?
For me the most important ingredient of a great crime thriller is a character that you can sympathise with, and who is fully developed and three-dimensional. A lot of crime and thriller writing is about putting an ordinary person in an extraordinary situation.
2) Now that the crime/thriller genre represents the largest section of fiction sold in the UK and Ireland, do you think we do enough to celebrate the quality and diversity of the writing?
The answer to this question is ‘no’ and ‘yes’. I think that crime writing and thriller writing is a very broad church, embracing multiple styles. Yes, it deserves to be celebrated more than it is.
3) How did you research 1950’s Glasgow and the general post war feel of the city?
These are both big concepts which I felt in combination represented something very evocative. What I wanted to do was to place the character in a very special place and time and to do that I had to research a minutae of detail and spend a lot of time reading every kind of newspaper and periodical from the time that I could find. It was a very strange experience which has left me a fan of Edmundo Ros and Mel Torme, something which has scarred my children!

As for Glasgow – having lived for ten years just outside the city I was very familiar with Glasgow, but in many ways writing the Fabel series in comtemporary Hamburg was much easier. Of course Glasgow has changed considerably socially and culturally since the 1950s.
4) Why did you choose Glasgow as the setting for Lennox’ adventures?
I gave a great deal of thought to many locations for the Lennox series. Glasgow leapt out as the number one UK city in which to place a Noir novel. These novels are often placed in America - and Glasgow is probably the most American city in the UK. It has an absolutely unique sense of humour which I was able to use as a background for a wise-cracking protagonist. And, of course, Glasgow was a very different place, going through amazing changes throughout that period.
5) What inspired you to make the leap from modern day Fabel to 1950s Lennox?
I thoroughly enjoyed writing the Fabel series. Fabel is a policeman with all the forensic and analysis resources at his disposal. As a counterbalance I wanted to write something that took me back to a period where my protagonist could not solve crimes with DNA analysis and even the simple resource of a mobile phone when placed in danger. It also allowed me to develop a character in a very different social and cultural context. Added to that was my personal fascination with the 1950s as a decade.
6) How do you come up with so many wisecracks to put into Lennox’s mouth and thoughts?
Sometimes being an author is like having a multiple personality disorder, an observation I have heard other writers make. Lennox is very much his own fully developed personality who seems to live independently of me in my head. All of his cynical wit and wise-cracks seem to self-generate and I often find myself envious of his quick wit.
7) Are there many more books planned with Lennox as a character? You were originally supposed to have a trilogy as with Jan Fabel but Fabel has featured in five novels to date. Which character is easier to write, Jan Fabel or Lennox?
On balance Lennox is much more fun as a character to write but I get a great deal of satisfaction from cultural depth of the Fabel series. With both protagonaists I have settled into their shoes and I am very happy to continue to develop them.
8) Where do you see Lennox in a few years time? Will he remain in Glasgow or return to Canada?
In my head I have an arch of development for Lennox that sees him well into the 1960s and perhaps beyond. I have made no clear decision about his return to Canada but I would like at some point in the future to take him back there for a novel.
9) In a dream scenario who would you like to direct and star in a film/TV adaptation of your book?
Of course the Fabel series has already been made in a firlm series for German TV and I am quite happy with the result that the screen writer and director have come up with. I think it would be difficult professionally for me to be closely involved in screen adaptations.

As for Lennox, I have sent a copy of the book to Gerard Butler for his consideration. Obviously he isn’t as good looking as I am, nor does he have the same screen presence, but I am sure he would do!
10) What is your favourite movie adaptation of all time of a crime/thriller novel?
Out of the Past as it is known in Britain, which was an adaptation of the novel Hang My Gallows High. It starred Robert Mitcham, and is about a garage owner whose murky past as a private detective comes back to haunt him.
11) What is your favourite crime/thriller novel of all time?
The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler.