Created by Russel D. McLean
Before Dundee gumshoe J. McNee took on his first case in The Good Son (2008), another Scots private investigator operated out of the offices at 1, Courthouse Square, Dundee. His name was SAM BRYSON, and he was crime writer Russel D. McLean’s first attempt to create a hardboiled detective in a modern Scottish setting.
Sam shares a lot in common with McNee–he’s cynical, world weary and not averse to the odd moment of violence. But unlike McNee, Sam’s darker side is tempered by a loving relationship with his long-term girlfriend – an American philosophy professor called Ros–and a number of close friendships that define his world and stop him from falling deep into the darkness that always seems one wrong step away.
Sam first appeared in the short story, “The Death of Ronnie Sweets,” where he was asked to look into a violent assault by the distraught parents of a young student. His second appearance introduced a fictional Dundee underworld, notably the long running rivalry between two sets of brothers–the Kennedy’s (named by their crime-lord father for JFK and RFK) and Omar and Yafit (whose surnames are never known). Sam would encounter both sets of brothers across several stories, refusing to take sides in their turf wars.
Sam is idealistic (perhaps foolishly so), and given to fits of violence when things don’t go his way. It is implied in early stories that he may drink too much, but this is soon tempered (perhaps due to Ros’s influence). He is loyal to his friends and loved ones and will do anything to defend them, as witnessed in “What Friends Are For.”
“Davey’s Daughter,” first published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine in 2008, was supposed to be the final Bryson story. But he returned on 2011 with the story “Flesh and Blood,” published in the e-collection Collateral Damage. Further stories are planned with the character depicting the events that would lead to his leaving the Investigation racket.
The author has written for Crime Spree Magazine, The Big Thrill, At Central Booking and Crime Scene Scotland. His short fiction has been published in crime magazines and web sites (including Thrilling Detective) in both the U.S. and the U.K. He lives in Dundee, Scotland. Where else?
Continuity fans will note that J. McNee makes an appearance in the story “Davey’s Daughter,” while Sam appears briefly in the first J McNee novel, The Good Son, to metaphorically hand over the keys to the office. This sets the Bryson stories several years before the events depicted in The Good Son (the story, “Flesh and Blood,” gives the date of events as being 2006). There are also appearances by characters who would later become part of J. McNee’s supporting cast in several of the Bryson short stories. Constable Susan Bright is seen to briefly date Bryson’s protégé, Jamie, in the story “What Friends Are For,” while DI George Lindsay is namechecked in “Dudman’s Word.”
- “…the stories exhibit such a sharp and honest voice it’s hard to believe they were written by a man in his early 20s. They are dark stories – sometimes very dark – but that darkness is balanced by both a dry Scottish wit and a genuine sense of concern for the people involved”
— Sean Chercover, from the introduction to The Death of Ronnie Sweets
- “The Death of Ronnie Sweets” (June 2004, AHMM)
- “Dudman’s Word” (December 2004, AHMM)
- “Coughing John” (July/August 2005, AHMM)
- “Regrets” (December 2005, AHMM)
- “Like a Matter of Honour” (June 2009, The Thrilling Detective Web Site)
- “What Friends Are For” (April 2008, AHMM)
- “Her Cheating Heart (Summer 2008, Spinetingler Magazine)
- “Davey’s Daughter” (September 2008, AHMM)
- “Flesh and Blood” (2011, Collateral Damage)
- “The Water’s Edge” (November 2015, AHMM)
- Russel McLean
The author’s offical site.
- “My Pal, Sam Bryson”
Russel explains why he decided to bring Sam back…
- Scotland the Brave