THE MOST POPULAR thing ever featured beneath a TW credit was not a meaty interview, breaking news, in-depth feature or exhaustive report. Not something from a book or essay or ‘serious' journalism. Not something creative or inspiring.
Because in terms of sheer volume, measured by the unforgiving metric of audience engagement, there is no competition. Step forward Phil the Pheasant. Who regularly begged french fries from a fast food restaurant near Seattle. Before crossing the highway to peck the pizzeria window in search of crusts. Before visiting the bank, where the tellers would offer leftover bread.
The long-ago story adorned a Sunday page one, above the fold, with an accompanying action shot (that was mine, too). Phil even featured in one very small corner of what was then the still-young world wide web.
Pulitzer Prize-winning, no. But the reaction... wow.
Which is a roundabout way of saying that whatever else might spill from my keyboard, the intention has always been to engage, to connect, with as much humanity, hope and humour as I can muster. To varying degrees of success, it must be said.
My debut work of fiction, S6 – An RB McGehee Scoop, was published by Leamington Books in May 2023 and is available everywhere. The reviews were, I'm happy to report, heartwarmingly positive. The blurb:
The Red Cross is on a humanitarian mission to locate missing oil worker Calum Mackenzie.
RB McGehee, second-tier reporter with Global Press’s two-man Edinburgh bureau, files a couple of paragraphs for the US wire agency and expects to hear nothing further.
There are in any case bigger fish to fry: Scotland is unveiling unilateral carbon reduction measures; a diplomatic confrontation with Norway threatens to escalate; and Frankfurt HQ is cracking down on expenses.
The story, however, refuses to go away. And McGehee – risking life, love and career – is entangled in a desperate race against time to solve the riddle of what happened to the experimental drilling platform S6.
If you are looking for the collected essays of Americanaville, that particular lockdown project has now been relegated to a back burner and unceremoniously evicted from its online home. Given time and interest, it could be resurrected. No promises.
My initial book – the admittedly niche non-fiction work 'Revolution: a short sharp history of Scottish wind power' – was published by Luath Press in 2020. The release coincided with rising awareness of the climate emergency and generated (ha! see what I did there) some debate.
On the back of the release, and despite the roil of the pandemic, I was privileged to take part in the Aye Write book festival in Glasgow, to speak at the National Library of Scotland, and to engage with readers established and new. The book even managed to inspire, at least in part, a song from the band Breabach.
But it was no competition for Phil the Pheasant. That will take some beating – TW