E. Craig McKay lives in rural Canada, near Stratford, Ontario during summer and Almunecar, Spain in winter. Born in Toronto, Craig spent summers at Oliphant Beach until age 16. He graduated from Western Technical High School in Printing and then attended Runnymede Collegiate before completing an undergraduate degree in Philosophy at Brock University, and an M.A. in English at Niagara University.
Craig taught English Literature and Police Report Writing at Niagara College for 31 years. During a sabbatical from Niagara College, he studied and taught at Laval University, Quebec City and later studied and taught in southern France.
Craig is a private pilot, a scuba diver, and directs a wine import agency. He has competed internationally in handgun and shotgun and in 2003 crossed the Atlantic from Spain to Barbados with four friends in a 40-foot sailboat.
He has written professionally since 1969 when he was for four years a movie critic for the St. Catharines Standard. At that time he annually came to Stratford to report on the Stratford Film Festival. He has since published two textbooks and twenty years of articles on wine, food, and travel in several magazines, including Elite Food and Wine Magazine under the names James W. Marsh and Craig Gambarotto-McKay.
In 2008 he began writing fiction as E. Craig McKay, His novel, Hit by the Dealer, 2011, was the first of a three-book series of Crime Fiction which includes Cross Country Hit, 2012, and Hit with the Ladies, 2013. His novella, Arial; Shieldmaiden of Middleworld, was released in electronic form in late 2011 and in print in 2013. Short stories appear in anthologies: Pulp Empire, Villainy, Wynterblue, Rapunzel’s Daughters, Pulp Empire, and Queer Fish. Science Fiction and tales of speculative mythology have been published by Dead Mule, School of Southern Literature, Renaissance Magazine, and the Canadian Broadcast Corp. His murder mystery, Brand of Death, was released in 2013.
Welcome Craig! Please tell us about your latest book:
My most recent book is Brand of Death. It is a Murder Mystery set in 1906 Sedona, Arizona.
It is in the form of a classic detective novel with the five major components (as invented by E. A. Poe and used by Sir A.C. Doyle and many others)
1. The detective Hero is the local doctor, Dr Pendergast,
2. There are two police officials Marshall Hopkins and Jake Witherspoon,
3. The companion is Brad Pendergast,
4. There is a ‘master criminal’ (to be discovered),
5. There is an unusual crime.
Frontier doctors of the late 19th century were the quintessential general practitioners. They brought children into the world and they struggled to keep their neighbors alive in the face of threats which included disease, accidents, natural disasters, and in the troubled times, the occasional gunshot wound.
Doctor Robert Pendergast is the town doctor of a small mining and agricultural community. The town was known as Red Rocks until the early 1900’s. It is s today named Sedona, Arizona. 1906 was the year of the San Francisco earthquake, an event of the type referred to as an act of God. For the townfolk of Sedona death came to their community that year by the hand of man.
Dr. Pendergast turns his talents to the solution of a problem which pits his deductive and resolvent skills against madness and worse.
The setting plays a major part in the development of the storyline which involves cattle rustling, card playing, shootouts, posses, horses, and cowboys. It is in effect what one would expect in a western mystery. I have extensively researched the times and places and have attempted to be true to the spirit of the frontier and as accurate as possible while presenting what I hope is a compelling story.
One unusual aspect of the structure of the story is that I have presented the action from a number of viewpoints. I am personally happy with the results and hope they will prove interesting and entertaining to readers
Is this book linked or connected to any other work you’ve published? If so, how?
Brand of Death is the first in a planned series of Murder Mysteries featuring Dr. Robert Pendergast. The ‘Hit Series’ was Crime Fiction. The progression to a classic detective novel is probably a natural evolution.
Was there a specific incident, inspiration or concern that prompted the writing of this book?
As a college professor of English I offered many elective courses which featured, or dealt exclusively with, some of the great mystery writers. I have long enjoyed and admired the writing of E.A. Poe, Somerset Maugham, A.C. Doyle, Agatha Christie, Dorthy Sayers, Raymond Chandler, and many other authors of more recent vintage. The cinema of Akira Kurosawa, especially Rashomon, was a specific influence on my choice of structure of Brand of Death.
Did the writing of this book surprise you in any way?
I am constantly surprised by the way characters take on a life of their own and how their personalities propel the direction of the action. This effect was more pronounced in Brand of Death, perhaps because of the number of main characters and the strength of their personalities on me.
What do you like best about being a writer?
Writing, and reading, have always provided an entry into alternate realities for me. Both provide access to experiences everyday life seldom provides. Writing especially allows freedom of expression and a medium of connection with a sort of meta-world in which all is possible, nothing is precluded.
Is there anything about becoming a published author that you didn’t expect?
The support and encouragement that I have received from friends and fellow writers has been quite a surprise. I am constantly finding people willing to share ideas and experiences from literature.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Write for yourself and hope others will like the product. Do not be afraid of rewriting and rethinking. Set pieces aside for a period and reread to better evaluate them. If you can find friends who are willing to read your work and be constructively critical, employ their help. Most of all, do not fear rejection.
What’s next for you and your writing?
I am currently researching for a 2nd in the Dr. Pendergast series. The novel will take place mostly in 1908 Arizona. It has a working title of: If Stones Could Cry. It will include some flashbacks to Civil War days in Iowa. Therefore, the burden of research is the most detailed that I have yet undertaken. The process of laying the groundwork and developing outline is extensive, but I am enjoying it. I take a great interest in both layout and cover design. It seems to me an integral part of the process.
Is there a local connection for your book(s)?
Some of my stories have been set in Ontario. Since I am newly arrived in the Stratford, area my connections are yet to be made.
Where can readers buy your book locally?
The books are not in any Stratford bookstores yet. I hope to place books in some stores in 2014. for the moment they can most easily be found on Amazon or Kindle.
Is there a particular place in Stratford you like to write? Why?
I usually write each morning in my home office in Carlingford. I find it comforting to gaze across the open farm fields and watch wildlife while surrounded by my tools of research.
Do you belong to a writers’ group, locally or elsewhere?
I was a member of Writer’s Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador during the four years spent there and since moving to Ontario have joined a local writers group which meets monthly.
Do you teach writing workshops? If so, when and where?
I taught for many years at Niagara College and would welcome the opportunity to meet with young writers. But to date I have not undertaken any such activity.
What do you think is the best resource in the area for writers and aspiring writers?
The best resource for any writer is the vast heritage we have of other writers.
Is there one thing you’d like to see added to our community? Why?
It is too early for me to give that sort of advice. It would, of course be nice to have a venue where developing writers could offer their work directly to the public.
Why do you live and write in Stratford/Perth County?
I live here because my wife and I love the area; I write because I must write wherever I am..
Craig’s full list of books:
Hit by the Dealer (Crime Fiction novel, 1st of the Hit Series Trilogy)
Cross Country Hit (Crime Fiction novel, 2nd of the Hit Series Trilogy)
Hit with the Ladies (Crime Fiction novel, 3rd of the Hit Series Trilogy)
Ariel; Shieldmaiden of Middleworld (Fantasy Novella, !st of Middleworld Series)
There is an except of Ariel; Shieldmaiden of Middleworld at http://www.ecraigmckay.com
Shining Bright (Collection of short stories in large print version)
Brand of Death (Murder Mystery, 1st of The Dr. Pendergast series)
(N.B. Brand of Death is also available in large print as: Dr. Pendergast Investigates)