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Pandeminomicon: musings from Stuart MacBride

The thing about being a writer, is that I spend most of my time at home. I’ve been in voluntary lockdown since about 2005, antisocially distancing, squirrelled away in my own little world, making up lies about people who don’t exist.

Well, it pays the bills.

You’d think that things wouldn’t have changed all that much for writers. Yes, we can’t get out to do events at festivals and libraries and bookshops anymore, but we’re mostly homebodies anyway, so what is there to whinge about? This is just business-as-usual. Only it really hasn’t been.

I think as a lot of people experience ‘working from home’ they’ve found it’s not quite the happy-go-la-la activity it might appear to be from the outside. And it’s been made a thousand times worse by having to negotiate a pandemic at the same time. Here you go: educate your kids, deal with all your domestic worries, be stuck inside all day with your partner, do a full day’s work, oh and while you’re at it: try to avoid bringing home a potentially deadly disease to your loved ones. It’s no wonder there’s been a huge uptick in stress-related conditions across the globe.

Then there’s the question of what we do with all this…

For years I’ve been saying that crime writers reflect the fears of society. That’s why 1970s crime fiction is so different to 2000s, or 2010. It holds up a mirror to our collective psyche and asks, ‘What are you afraid of?’

Only, what do you do when society is, quite rightly, really sodding concerned about a virus that’s officially killed four million of us (though estimates say the real total is probably more than twelve million)?

I did what any sensible writer would: I asked my wife, Fiona.

Should I set the next book in these horrible Plaguetimes, with everyone in facemasks, social distancing, most of the businesses shut, people stuck at home, constantly washing their hands, while the media brings us news of more bodies than even the most horrific serial killer could dream of?

And she said, ‘No.’

Fiona’s opinion on this one was, we’re all living through it, no one wants to read about it. What we need is something to lift us out of our current predicament. Something fun. Something that would make people laugh.

So I sat down and wrote what I hoped would do that – ending up with two short novels and a pair of complementary novellas that didn’t mention Covid-19 once. They were unashamedly a little bit silly, while still being a tad on the grisly side, featuring Detective Sergeant Roberta Steel and her somewhat odd sidekick, Tufty. The kind of stories that took a lopsided swipe at Dracula, Scooby-Doo, Agatha Christie, and The Ladykillers. Not all at the same time, though, that would be too silly even for me.

I really like them, and hope that one day I’ll get to share them with everyone.

But, in the meantime, I had to get on with the day job and produce a proper full-length police thriller. One that didn’t include haunted funfairs, mummies, or anatomically impossible taxidermy. And still the question remained: what the hell was I going to do about the pandemic?

So, in my world, I’ve decided to set the book (I’d tell you what the title is, but by the time it gets out into the wild, it’ll be called something else) in the near future, when all this crap is behind us and we can all get on with our lives. No more lockdowns, no more not getting to meet friends, no more not getting to hug loved ones, no more disinfecting everything that comes home from the supermarket…

There’s still an element of ‘crime fiction as a mirror’ about it, but a lot of ‘crime fiction as an escape’ too. Maybe not quite as much of an escape as Tufty the Vampire Slayer, or The Horrible Haunting of Tartan Haggis MacFunland, but an escape nonetheless.

Let’s face it, after these last few years, we all deserve one.

No Less the Devil

Stuart MacBride

Photo of crime thriller author Stuart MacBride
Photo of crime thriller author Stuart MacBride
Stuart MacBride

Stuart MacBride is the Sunday Times No.1 bestselling author of the Logan McRae and Ash Henderson novels. He’s also published standalones, novellas, and short stories, as well as a children’s picture book.

Stuart lives in the northeast of Scotland with his wife Fiona, cats Gherkin, Onion, and Beetroot, some hens, horses, and a vast collection of assorted weeds.


    Have you given up on Logan, Steele &Co?
    It’s been years.
    And you really need a follow up on Halfhead.
    Dr. Westfield’s story is fascinating.

    Hi Stuart. I was chatting to a Belgian man in spain who manages a large pig farm I happen to say “Good way to get rid of someone” and he replied “only if you smash the kneecaps first” Apparently pigs can’t break the kneecaps?! Just thought you would like to know. Keep writing. X

    Your books helped to make my stay in US Federal prison oh so funny. . . and I thought I was surrounded by a bunch of loonies!

    Love your books, my fav series being Logan. Poor old Logan! With Tufty and Steele and all those other characters…makes my day LOL.

    I really love ALL your books, but in particular Logan & Roberta. The humour you inject into these sometimes grisly stories are true laugh out loud lines – Roberta’s crude comments/observations are a delight. How I’d love to see a TV series, although they’d have to be shown after the watershed. I see the actress who played Valerie Pollard as Roberta, but with Aberdonian accent of course.
    I eagerly await each new book.

    Retired. Sold up. Downsized. Moved to the country. Donated dozens and DOZENS of my much loved collections of novels to op shops etc. Then I discovered Stuart Macbride’s Logan Macrae and Ash Henderson. Bought all the novels in paperback. Devoured them. Am now as addicted as I have ever been to any writer, any characters, in my life before. Hanging out here for the next installment! Great stuff. Many thanks.

    I’ve of course read all Stuart’s books, some of them more than once. He is my go to author if I don’t know what to read next. I’ve also managed to get my daughter hooked on them too.
    I love the standalones, but need to know what Logan is up to next, so keep going! (Please!)

    Absolutely hooked on both series. Love the Scottish noir and humor. Picked up the first by pure chance at a resort in Crete and have read nearly all. A nice change of pace from my regular diet of US crime and a nice reminder of growing up in the uk. My wife is a piper – love to see that incorporated into a story- they are as cutthroat as any crime family!

    My favourite author by a mile. Love Logan and Roberta and really enjoy the black humour. Can’t recommend Stuart’s books too highly

    I’m not an avid reader prefering to be doing things, than sitting reading however Stuart MacBride has changed all that, I’m just hooked and being an Aberdonian I can totally relate to characters and places, his books catapult me back home. Love the characters and so very descriptive writing. Shelves at home are filling up. Thank you Stuart can’t wait for the next of your brilliant books I’ve now introduced my aunt in the US to. Thank you.

    Love all your books. I always felt that you had Michelle Gomez in mind as your model for Roberta!

    I live in Australia and have read almost all of your books. I am now hanging out for your next one. As far as I can see, you are one of the best crime writers in the world!
    Please write faster . . .!

    I’ve just discovered the Logan McRae books and I’m hooked! love the dynamic between Logan and DS Steele, just ordered the rest of the series, This should be made into a tv series, waayyy better than anything on the box,

    Hi loved all the Rebus books,and yours even more,I thought Coffin Makers utterly brilliant and screaming out to be filmed.

    I cannot remember how many books I have read, it is well in to the thousands, I am no literary expert but I can honestly say that Stuart MacBride is top drawer and would recommend to anyone to read his novels.

    I love Logan he always seems to be put upon but comes out top in the end. No matter how gruesome the stories are the humour is always wonderful.
    Please keep writing your great stories. Thank you.

    Congrats on the McIlvanney prize nomination – fingers crossed you win not just for the Coffinmaker’s but you deserve it for the your whole body of work!

    I love Logan he always seems to be put upon but manages to come out top in the end. I love the humour no matter how horrible the murders are the humour is always there. I feel good after every book I read. Please keep writing your wonderful stories.
    Thank you.

    I remember my sister in law giving me two of Stuart MacBride’s books to try , I’d not read any before . I read them then bought all that I didn’t have and all those since ….my favourite crime author!

    I love the Logan and Ash books, the humor is Great, the plots, the style of writing. Best crime writer by far. And i listen my books, not in Dutch but in Scottish and the carareters really come alive

    I have thoroughly enjoyed the Logan McRae novels. I have read all of them whilst in quarantine with Covid. Thank you for the excellent characters and the wonderful humour. Your books have made a really difficult time a lot easier to bear.

    And I would like the second the first comment by commending Mr MacBride on his books, storylines and unflattering images of Roberta’s bad suits and matching bad hair…
    Stuart brings actual character to the characters and a sense of just how really cold and wet Scotland can be.
    Looking forward to the next instalment. Hugely.
    Thank you Stuart.

    Best Scottish crime writer by far. I absolutely love the Roberta Steel and Ash Henderson characters.

    Can’t wait for the next installments featuring Tufty, auntie Roberta and Logan of course. My all time favourite author Stuart!! Keep up the fantastic job

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