Q&A with Jim McGhee

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for The Major Minor Murders. I’m sharing my Q&A with the author with thanks to Zoe O’Farrell for inviting me on the tour and to Jim McGhee for answering my questions!

Have you always wanted to write?

Yes. It was always assumed.

What were your previous jobs? Have they helped you with your writing process?

Early short-term jobs abroad like labouring, English-tutoring and stints as a barman/waiter no doubt gave perspectives but my main career was as a daily newspaper journalist. It was second nature to bash out words under pressure to hit deadlines.That helps when I’m setting myself targets in building a book, chapter by chapter.

What was your inspiration for The Major Minor Murders?

I wanted to flesh out the main character, Barney Mains, by bringing in his family. I lost my only brother years ago and although we rarely met up, I still miss him. Barney is pressed to investigate his estranged brother’s disappearance and discovers how much he has missed. The fact that he believes his brother Ricky is either a murderer or dead is neither here nor there! And while family is a main theme, it has to fit into the overall series concept of adventure in exotic settings and corruption in high places; one rule for them, another for the rest of us. Oh, and did I mention murder?

How do you construct your characters? Do they have traits of people you know?

Strangely I’m not conscious of drawing from people I know. The main character, DI Barney Mains, takes his name from a farm sign. It’s a name which suggested a dour, older police detective who might be a bit of a plodder but couldn’t help doing the right thing even while he hated himself for it. That brought counter balance in the form of a female sidekick who’s a sparky young high-flyer. And since much of the action is in France, there just had to be a brilliant French police captain. The main characters each seemed to grow back-stories as early drafts carried them along. And even baddies have lives. Creating everyone’s back-story, creating relevancies, is part of the joy of the writing process. Sometimes, hopefully, it works and readers see a whole person, however invented.

What does your writing process look like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Mainly pantser. I do extensive notes, flying off at tangents until I decide on the issues I want to use, the general types of characters and visualising some key scenes. But then it’s seat of the pants time and everything can change. It’s a blast when you get to a stage which demands a completely new – blindingly obvious! – direction.

How did you research The Major Minor Murders? Did you enjoy it?

I’m a compulsive researcher online. I love to discover new facts I can use. The challenge is to focus in on the essential information amongst all those notes and bookmarked web pages.

Who are your favourite writers? Are you influenced by them?

I suppose I must be influenced by them. I picked up an old Ian Rankin book the other day and immediately identified with the wry Scots sense of irony of his incomparable detective Rebus. Rankin has to be one of my favourites. Otherwise, Kurt Vonnegut, Peter Temple and if only for my favourite book, Roger Zelazny (Roadmarks, a bizarre time-travel caper with a great hero and an intelligent, speaking book. Also love the Roadmarks cover version with a dragon above a car.)

If you could invite three people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be and why?

Putin, so I could ask him why. Trump, because I can’t believe he exists. Boris, because that might make him the most honest man for once.

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with and why?

Any TV chef. These shows do my head in. Or anyone with a backpack. 

Who would play the main character/s in a film version of The Major Minor Murders?

Closest I’ve got so far for the lead, Irishman Jamie Dornan, or Scot Richard Rankin from Outlander.  

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love to sculpt in wet clay and work, read or write in my garden. And I walk miles every day with my six-year-old Irish Terrier, Jack.

What is next for you?

Still to decide. Another Barney in France at some stage, Maybe a totally separate platform for his sidekick Ffiona McLuskey in Edinburgh. Maybe chill with some more short stories. Maybe something completely different.


Book? Roadmarks by Roger Zelazny

Film? Being There, with Peter Sellers

Band/Singer? Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

TV show? Bosch

Colour? Orange

Place? Villefranche-sur-Mer

Biscuit? Sesame


The Major Minor Murders is available from Amazon.

You can follow the rest of the blog tour here:

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