The Strange Tale of Jack Strange

This is Jack Strange. He looks exactly like Jack D McLean. I’ll explain why, and much else in this post.

Jack Strange is in fact a photo of me when I was 40 years old. How long ago was that? – I’m not telling!!

Jack Strange was my first pen-name. I no longer use it. You’re going to find out why. But first, some background.

Back in 2014 I decided it was high time I fulfilled my lifelong ambition to become a published author. So I devoted a considerable amount of time to writing a very bad novel called The Mountains of Frankovia. It was so bad it was un-publishable, and indeed unreadable. (Sharp-eyed readers of my novel Ezra Slef, The Next Nobel Laureate in Literature will be aware The Mountains of Frankovia was used as the title of a very bad book written by the lead character Humbert Botekin. That was a joke on myself).

I deluded myself into thinking The Mountains of Frankovia had merit. It didn’t. I couldn’t delude myself forever and after a while the truth sank in, and I realised my novel was awful. God must surely have been holding his nostrils when I wrote that book because it stank to high heaven.

Undeterred, I wrote more bad novels.

Then something odd happened.

I wrote a good one, but didn’t realise it was good. I thought it was, at best, poor. My confidence had been so shaken by my earlier mistakes that I couldn’t believe there was merit in my own work, even when at last there was. I thought the novel stank, just like everything else I’d written up to that point. I put it to one side and hoped to do better with the next one.

The good novel I thought was no good was called Confessions of an English Psychopath (or COAEP for short). In the fullness of time I understood it had merit and got it published. You’ll see from the many positive reviews it’s had that it’s been well-received.

Confessions of an English Psychopath Book Cover
Confessions of an English Psychopath – the first novel I wrote that was any good, I didn’t get it published for quite a while.

COAEP wasn’t the first book I had published.

When I shelved Confessions, I started work on a crazy novel about a plague of zombie celebrity chefs. When I finished that book I knew I’d written something worth publishing and I got a deal on it with a small outfit called KG Publishing. (Later known as KGHH Publishing). The book was called Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse. It’s achieved near cult status.

Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse – my first published novel

I adopted the pen – name Jack Strange for Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse (or CCZA, as I often refer to it in the interests of brevity).

There were many reasons for using that pen-name. I wanted a short snappy first name, and Jack struck me as ideal. The surname started out as Strangelove because the ending of CCZA has similarities with the ending of the movie Dr Strangelove. However, I decided to shorten it to Strange – which is apt, as the writing could be described as strange.

I wrote a couple of sequels to Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse. It was only after these were published that I re-read Confessions of an English Psychopath and realised it deserved to see the light of day.

The sequels to CCZA were Zomcats and Thatchenstein:

Zomcats – the first sequel to CCZA
Thatchenstein – the second sequel to CCZA

It was while I was wondering what to write after I finished Thatchenstein that it struck me I should re-read Confessions of an English Psychopath to see if there was anything in it worth salvaging. When I did re-read it, I saw it didn’t need to be scrapped; it was good.

Regrettably, I decided to self-publish it. Bad move. I don’t have the skills of a publisher and I don’t think I ever could have those skills. The experience gave me one invaluable thing: a healthy respect for publishers and all they do. Many publishers really put out for their writers. I’ve been lucky enough to land a few of those.

After resurrecting COAEP, I wrote Manchester Vice which was also published as a Jack Strange novel. It was published by Coffin Hop Press, a Canadian outfit run by two Canadian writers from Calgary who did a great job of making getting the book out into the world.

Manchester Vice – first published by Coffin Hop Press

I parted company with KGHH Publishing due to artistic differences. Shortly afterwards it ceased trading.

And sadly, Coffin Hop Press also ceased trading.

That left me with five books on my hands and no publisher.

I approached a number of outfits with them and got an offer on all five from Creativia. Creativia has since changed its name to Next Chapter.

When I signed with Creativia (as it was called at the time) the owner (called Miika) told me they already had an author with the name Jack Strange and he asked me if I’d be willing to change my pen-name. I didn’t want to be awkward, or risk getting a reputation for being awkward, so I agreed. What’s in a pen-name after all? (As Shakespeare might have said).

Miika said I should try to come up with something that involved a middle initial. Those work rather well, according to him. For the surname I chose McLean on the grounds I knew of a thriller-writer back in the day with that surname and I’d always liked it (Alistair Mclean). For the middle initial I went with D, because it sounds good with the name as a whole. What does the ‘D’ stand for? I’ll tell you another time!

Anyways, Creativia/Next Chapter re-released all five of my novels with my new pen-name on the cover:

Jack D McLean

I’m rather proud of it.

And I’m pleased to say, sales are going up. Every time I get a royalty cheque from Next Chapter, it’s higher than the previous one. Sales are almost exclusively hard copies these days, from bookshops, and they’re mainly American bookshops. They seem to like me on that side of the pond.

I used the same author photo for Jack D Mclean that I’d used for Jack Strange.

Which is why they’re spit for one another.

More posts about writing:

Small Presses – My Personal Experience

What is it with Writers and Drink?

How to co-author a novel in 8 easy steps

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