I’m delighted to welcome Mark Farrer to my blog today as he shines the spotlight on one of his characters as part of the blog tour for The Good, The Bad, and The Rugby.
Hi Mark! Thanks for joining me, please introduce the character in terms of job, relationships, family etc. …
Mungo James Cullen – referred to only as Cullen throughout all my books, apart from the odd slip of a close friend (of whom he has few) who will occasionally call him Mungo. Cullen is not a big fan of first names (or familiarity, come to that).
Cullen is an itinerant. He sleeps rough in the bothies, abandoned buildings, and barns across the Scottish Borders. He also has a tent and an old scruffy caravan he uses for storage which he occasionally returns to and sleeps in if need be. He is self-contained and self-reliant, wishing to live and remain off-the-grid, unwilling to deal with the world and happy to live a solitary existence. He is the archetypal loner who rides into town, rights a wrong and then rides off into the sunset leaving everyone else to pick up the pieces. Albeit without a horse, and in Scotland. He typically wears old hill-walking gear and a leather cowboy hat. He is in his mid-fifties.
He was a police officer some ten or so years ago who was retired from the force on mental health grounds. The reader is unsure of the reasons for this, or the accuracy of the actual truth as to what happened and why, and this is to be slowly revealed over the course of several books. He had a wife and a daughter – we find out his wife died in the first book, but we don’t know why or what happened to his daughter.
Since adopting this lifestyle, he has acquired few friends – the only one of note is “Big” Paul McInnes, who usually gets dragged into Cullen’s schemes to assist where muscle or direct interaction with others is required.
When did you create Cullen?
The initial inspiration for Cullen came to me when I was spending a lot of my time hill-walking alone at weekends in the Scottish Borders. This was about four years ago, although I still enjoy walking – albeit now with my partner, Claire.
I liked the idea of a character who had a strict moral code, was immensely resourceful and capable, kept himself to himself, but annoyingly found that the world he was hiding from somehow refused to leave him alone in peace. So, in each book (this is my third Cullen novel and fourth Cullen story overall) he would find himself accidentally drawn into some baddie’s chaotic scheme, decide he didn’t like what he saw and then would take steps to ensure that justice was done.
Did you write the book to accommodate Cullen or Cullen to accommodate the book?
The former. When I started writing my first book I hoped it would be a series all featuring Cullen, albeit not as the main character but as the fulcrum around which all the various plot strands revolve and resolve. I have a spreadsheet full of ideas for future books, themes, scenarios, sites for climaxes, etc. The Cullen books are all based in present-day Scotland, and each have a particularly Scottish theme or backdrop: eg., salmon farming, textiles mills/fashion, Scottish Legal System, Rugby Sevens, and so on. Future ones might include: Biosciences (e.g, Dolly the Sheep), windfarms and North Sea Oil, Hogmanay & The Edinburgh Festival, Whisky, etc.
What do you like most about him?
I like his resourcefulness, his taciturnity and persistence; his willingness to do what is needed (whether it is strictly legal or not) to make sure the right thing is done, and bad people get their just desserts. He has a strict moral compass, and this encompasses a degree of measuredness in his approach (albeit not what you or I might call measured). For example, he would hurt someone but never kill them, hit them but never use a gun, steal something as long as it could be returned – and he would only do these things because otherwise the baddie would go unpunished.
In short, he takes an injustice (big or small) that you or I might foam or rage powerlessly over, deals with it calmly and effectively, and then disappears again without fuss. He is a kind of Scottish man-with-no-name (as in the Clint Eastwood westerns), which is why all the titles of the Cullen books are puns on Eastwood films (Dirty Barry, Where Seagulls Dare, A Fistful of Collars, and now The Good The Bad & The Rugby)
What do you like least about him?
As a character to write about I think he is a bit boring, and not very funny, actually. He is an active doer, but he has no internal monologue as such and his personal narrative (even though it is mysterious to the reader) doesn’t seem that interesting to me. He has no real character arc. In each book, he appears, fixes stuff, then disappears until the next one. There is no character development really and he is witty and dry in his humour, but the humour comes from the actions of others and their responses to his actions. He never explains himself, he just comes up with a plan and then uses other people to help execute it. I have never (and probably never will) write a scene from his POV because I find him too much of a cypher. It is much more interesting and amusing having scenes with him in narrated by someone else, as they can then look at him, react to his idiosyncrasies and try to work him out.
Did your early readers/editorial team like him to start with or did you have to change him in any way?
I haven’t changed him in anyway at all but I’m not sure whether Cullen himself is the real draw of my books. He was partially inspired by a Carl Hiaasen character called Skink (hence the name Cullen – Cullen Skink!) who is a mad loonie who lives in the Florida Everglades and appears in a cameo role in many of Hiaasen’s books, usually to help a damsel in distress at a key point in the narrative. I wanted someone not quite as batty, and in not quite so small a cameo role, but not necessarily the hero. The star of the show in each of my books, I think, should be the farcical storyline and the zany characters and how their stories intertwine and resolve. Cullen is the still black hole at the centre of a maelstrom of chaos, where several idiots or incompetents are trying to implement some half-baked scheme while he sits calmly in the middle, ready to stop them and tie up all the loose ends.
Do they have any similarities with anyone real?
He is, in some ways, an extremified version of me. He is more determined, capable, stronger, knowledgeable, resourceful than me; he is fonder of solitude then me, happier with discomfort than me, braver and better-looking than me! But his anger at seeing an injustice go unaddressed comes from me – it’s just that I would sit and seethe or write a letter to someone expressing my outrage; Cullen would calmly make a decision and then do something about it. Writing his books allows me to create an injustice, feel angry about it, and then deal with it – all without leaving my chair!
What are your plans for them?
I am plotting out my next novella (provisionally entitled Bronchial Billy) which will be set between the events of novel #1 (Where Seagulls Dare) and novel #2 (A Fistful of Collars). Then I will write a third novella (title tbd) which will be set between novels #2 and #3 (The Good, The Bad & The Rugby) and publish the 3 novellas as a single volume. I will then start work on novel #4 (provisionally entitled Two Fuels For Sister Sarah). There will be more Cullen books thereafter, I just haven’t thought that far ahead yet!
I will reveal a little more about Cullen in each one but haven’t worked out yet whether his full story will ever come out or, if it does, how far into the series it will be before it does. Or how many books there will be in the series.
Would you be friends in real life?
Cullen doesn’t really “do” friends – at least, not in a traditional way. He believes in loyalty and trust and once you are “in” with him, you are “in” with him for life. But you might not know it! You could call on him for help (if you could find him) and he would unquestioningly oblige. But it is more likely that you wouldn’t hear from him for years and then, one day – out of the blue – he would turn up at your door and ask you to assist in some new scheme he is involved in, as if no time at all had passed. And he would expect your assistance in return.
If I ever find myself in a position where I would need a friend like him, he would be an extremely useful friend to have – but I hope I never find myself in such a spot!
Huge thanks for joining me, Mark. Cullen sounds super!
Here’s the blurb …
Getting to the truth. By trial… and eror error.
Cullen is on jury duty, and the sleepy Scottish town of Melrose is experiencing a rare crime wave: the famous Rugby Sevens trophy is stolen, a dead body is unearthed, there is a spate of petty arson, and someone drives a van into Gloria’s front room.
Why? And what is her husband doing every night up on Eildon hill?
In this hilarious crime romp, misguided loyalties, thwarted love, and unbelievable gullibility reach crisis point on the one day in the year when the world pays a visit to Melrose.
At the final whistle, Cullen will ensure that justice is done.
Because sometimes twelve good men just isn’t enough.
You can get your copy over now over at Amazon:
About the author …
Mark was born in Liverpool, studied Computer Science at Hull University, then had a successful career in IT management in London and the South-East for twenty years before moving to Edinburgh in 2001. He continued working in IT until 2015 when he decided to retire from the rat race and focus on becoming a writer. He now spends half his time writing and the other half worrying why he is not yet making money from writing.
The Good, The Bad & The Rugby is Mark’s third comic novel featuring a morally righteous loner called Cullen. He also has a perma-free novella on Amazon, called Dirty Barry, which tells how Cullen and Big Paul first met. He is currently at work on a second novella, called Bronchial Billy.
Mark has three children, one at University, one on a gap year in Ghana, and one still at High School. He lives with his partner Claire, a photographer, near West Linton, in the Scottish Borders.
He likes: his Mini Cooper, songwriting, playing piano, vanilla panna cotta, The Beatles, woodburning stoves, wittertainment, Bill Bailey, #sadmanonatrain, fruit gums, Carl Hiaasen, The Wire, spicy food, Van Gogh, Lindsey Buckingham, oaked chardonnay, House MD, long walks, cinema, reading in bed, florentines, Only Connect, board games, Otis Lee Crenshaw, Budweiser, GBBO, India, cheese, David Armand’s mimes, bookshops, Scandi Noir, Diet Coke, The Economist, Blackadder, good sausages, Dickens, Helena Bonham-Carter (secret crush), the Times crossword, the song mmmbop, and pies.
He dislikes: ITV, pinot grigio, tattoos, ballet, ready meals, rap, religion, clutter, artificial raspberry flavouring, marmite, jazz, under-powered showers, people who don’t look after their stuff, opera, sprouts, and waste.
And mashed potato.
He really doesn’t like mashed potato.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mark-Farrer/e/B074S4XMGL/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1