Five Facts About Charlie and Delaney by Owen Mullen
Today I am pleased to welcome Owen Mullen on to the blog with a fantastic guest post! He’s telling us five interesting facts about his protagonists, Charlie and Delaney!
Tartan Noir or Bayou Noir?
An old adage advises budding writers to write what they know. When I started writing crime fiction, with that in mind, it was an easy decision to set Games People Play in Scotland. Having lived and worked there most of my life I was walking familiar territory.
Yet the main character, Charlie Cameron, was born under a blue sky on a sunny day two thousand miles away, on the island of Crete. From my studio window, over-looking Souda Bay, I was able to imagine the dark heart of Glasgow and the unique spirit and humour of the people: an ideal basis for Tartan Noir.
Charlie has become a big part of what I do, and although I went on to explore other stories in other places, he is never very far from my thoughts. Understandable considering the hundreds of hours I’ve spent in my head, in a sense, living with the characters. So far there are three books in the series. Games People Play, Old Friends and New Enemies, and Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead.
Vincent Delaney was a different proposition. Having been to New Orleans several times I was drawn to write a story set in the Deep South, in a city I believed I had a flavour of rather than somewhere I knew intimately; that was the first challenge. The second was to make sure the protagonist was different. Charlie Goes Way Down South wasn’t what I wanted to create. Fortunately, with the sights and smells of Louisiana embedded in my memory it wasn’t impossible and creating Delaney was fun.
If you haven’t read about these guys, here are five facts to help you to get to know them better.
1] In the first two books Charlie has an office above New York Blue, an American diner in the Italian Centre, not far from George Square. But in the book’s original draft he owned NYB. Charlie never saw himself running NYB [the reason Jackie Mallon was created]. In the early stages, when Games People Play was coming together, he had no idea what he wanted to do with his life except pissing-off his father was high on his To Do list. That changed because my agent found it difficult to believe somebody would chose to spend his time mixing with gangsters in the underbelly of Scotland’s second city when he could be safely serving espresso.
One more thing: it isn’t generally known that although Games People Play was published first, Old Friends and New Enemies actually original kicked the series off.
Why it changed is a yarn for another time.
2] Charlie is a good-looking guy: women are attracted to him. But holding on to these ladies isn’t his forte. He’s had his heart broken more than once. From time to time we see him in a scene that involves sex. Writing sex takes skill: it can be twee or gruesomely descriptive. For me there’s a place in the middle and, where Charlie is involved, I try to make those scenes erotic without becoming comical. [I accept that how the reader judges it is up to them]. But, like the other elements of the stories – characterization, dialogue, plotting, etc, it must be believable, entertaining and authentic.
3] Charlie’s family own [or at least they did own] Camerons Distillers. In the book, Charlie is at some point asked if he is related to ‘the whisky people’. His reply is always the same: ‘Wish I had their money.’
His relationship with his father has never gone well. ‘Too alike or too much the same, my mother would know.’ The reason is revealed in Games People Play. Also, politically he is at odds with his old man who is chairman of the Conservative Party. Charlie doesn’t tell us how he votes though, if I had to guess, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be them.
4] Charlie’s passionate about Scotland, so am I. So it is no surprise to find the stories set in the many scenic and historic parts of the country; in Games People Play, Scotland’s first and second cities serve as intriguing backdrops to the tale; in Old Friends and New Enemies, the reader finds themselves on the banks of Loch Lomond, travelling through Glencoe and on to the beautiful Island of Skye; from the Saturday morning Farmers’ Market in Edinburgh to Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery in Glasgow. Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead, the action moves between the West End of Glasgow to the Scottish Borders.
Any day now I’m expecting the Tourist Board’s cheque to arrive.
5] Charlie’s sidekick [best friend might be pushing it] is Patrick Logue: Glasgow wide boy personified. Patrick – a borderline alcoholic with a singular view of life – could hardly be more different from Charlie. Always on the lookout for the main chance and perpetually potless, nevertheless his people skills have few equals. His street connections mean he can go where Charlie can’t and, together, they wage a two-man war against the bad guys. Everybody knows a Pat Logue, a self-styled man of the people who would take the sugar out of your tea in the morning and, if you needed it, empty his pockets for you in the afternoon.
1] Vincent Delaney, known to everyone except his sister as Delaney, is very different from Charlie; his best friend is Lowell, his dog. They share a love of rock and blues music. [Lowell howls the house down if Country comes on the radio]. He thinks all of his cases through by talking to the dog, and frequently tells us Lowell’s opinion on the world around them. He can be seen in the morning cycling to his office vamping the harmonica on a holder round his neck, with Lowell padding along beside him. They make a great pair.
2] Delaney is in a band with some of his former colleagues, he plays guitar and sings and they have a residency in a bar in the Quarter frequented by cops. He has a great soul voice and frequently brings the house down. His good friend Danny Fitzpatrick is on bass. [A Fender Jazz – just like I used to play]. They go back a long way and often argue over who is the better musician. [ if only they knew I’m better than both of them] Danny wants Delaney back in the NOPD and doesn’t stop trying to persuade him.
3] Delaney is an ex-NOPD detective in New Orleans. In a shoot-out seven years earlier, he killed Cedric Boutte. Boutte was armed but the NOPD was having a public relations disaster at the time and cast doubt over the killing. Delaney baulked at being used as a sacrificial lamb and left, even though his ‘cases solved’ record was the best in the department. He doesn’t regret his decision never intended to go back, until a call from his old department asking for his help changed his mind.
4] Just about anybody who knows N’Orleans will tell you it’s a fascinating city with a singularly seedy past. What is less well-known is that in 2017, it had the fourth highest murder rate in the USA. Baton Rouge, where And So It Began starts, is seventh in that infamous chart. If you’re a private eye in the Big Easy, you need to be able to handle yourself, and Delaney can.
Delaney’s office is in The French Quarter, where the action is. Every time I’ve been there, two police cars were permanently parked in Bourbon Street. Because of its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, the city is humid and down in the bayous, alligators and snakes live in the sub-tropical heat. The scene is set for some great Bayou Noir.
5] Music is Delaney’s big hobby, but football comes a close second. He supports the Saints and, during the season, he’ll be in the stands at the Astrodome. In, And So It Began, the first book in the series he watches the game with his old friend, Cal Moreland and, when I wrote the book originally I researched American Football and got pretty into it.
Charlie and Delaney are private detectives in the classic mould: good guys who navigate their way through a violent world using their own instincts and values to guide them. I hope people have as much fun reading them as I did writing about their adventures.
About the Author
…McIlvanney Crime Book Of The Year long-listed novelist…
And So It Began earned a coveted
…Sunday Times Crime Club ⭐Star Pick…
When he was ten, Owen Mullen won a short story competition and didn’t write anything else for almost forty years. In between he graduated from Strathclyde University with a Masters in Tourism and a degree in Marketing, moved to London and worked as a rock musician, session singer and songwriter, and had a hit record in Japan with a band he refuses to name; on occasion he still performs. He returned to Scotland to run a management consultancy and a marketing agency. He is an Arsenal supporter and a serious foodie. A gregarious recluse, he and his wife, Christine, split their time between Glasgow – where the Charlie Cameron books are set – and their villa in the Greek Islands.