By Russel D McLean
As I write this, I am finishing up the latest draft of CRY UNCLE, the last McNee novel. The draft is due to submitted just before MOTHERS OF THE DISAPPEARED comes out in April. I feel a little odd about this one. Its the fifth McNee and I always said that I had a five book plan. One I've almost stuck to. So this, in a way, is the end.
Its not necessarily the very end. But its the end of the particular arc I wanted to write. It ties up a lot of loose ends. It brings a kind of emotional closure to certain aspects of the series. And of course it does open up the possibilities for new paths to be followed. If people want it, there may be room for more in the series. I just don't know how they would look. Yet.
To tell the kind of story I wanted to tell took a lot of ambition for someone who's not as concerned with plots as he is style. I always wanted the writing and the emotion to win out over any kind of whodunnit chicanery or clever-clever reveals. I never minded if people saw the twists coming but I did want them to be interested in the characters and where they were going. McNee has changed as the books have gone on. By the end of book 3, he had come to terms with his part in the death of his fiancee. He had started to quell the anger that he had felt for years. In fact, without giving too much away, the point of book 3 was to show that with a very specific kind of emotional switch that happened in the final act as McNee saw someone else go through the kind of anger he had experienced and realised how destructive that could be to someone.*
Book 4 therefore should start with McNee in a good place. But having had him come through that, I didn't think it was fair that he should have an easy time of it. And besides there were, as someone pointed out, still a few loose ends dangling from as far back as THE GOOD SON. When were they going to bite him on the arse?
They do. Right at the start of MOTHERS, a very bad decision we saw McNee make several years ago is rearing its head. Consequences are finally asserting themselves. He has started to forgive himself. But can others forgive him?
We also explore a little more the time before he left the force. The book is very much about McNee's past both in the chronology of the books and his past as a cop. We learn that before he left the force he was involved in a very high profile investigation along with his now dead mentor, Ernie Bright. But while that case was close, it looks like the wrong man may have been arrested. The wrong who pleaded guilty. I've always been fascinated by the idea of miscarriages of justice, and the idea that an innocent person might have reasons for pleading guilty. So this book looks into that. Not in a legal sense. I've never been one for that although I do think that this book might actually have more research than some of the others have when it comes to procedure. Its all about emotional consequences, however. And on that level I think it works very well.
McNee still has some very dark places to go. But I'm so very pleased that both Five Leaves and now Severn Publishing have given me the chance to write the books I wanted to write. Of course the series looks different in some ways from how I imagined it back at the start. But the thrust of that five book arc remains the same and I'm very glad to have done what I set out to do. You may be just about to enjoy book 4, but for me, book 5 is nearly complete and that brings with it a kind of beautiful bitter sweet feeling.
This may not be goodbye for McNee. But for me, it marks a kind of ending. One that makes me both smile and feel a tiny bit wisftul.
*I make no claims that I succeeded in doing this, but that was the intention