Author Sean Cameron has coined the term ‘Daft Noir’ to describe his books.
Sean is a UK transplant, now living in Los Angeles with his wife and wee daughter. As you’ll hear in our interview, he grabs writing time whenever he can, given that parenting comes first – and with a toddler that can be complicated!
He’s got plans for several more books in the Rex and Eddie series. You’ll hear him talk about the particular challenges of his hapless detectives, and why solving mysteries without a license is kind of like being Batman. ;-)
This episode of It’s a Mystery Podcast is sponsored by the brand new Town Called Horse short mystery, Water Horse.
The Town Called Horse is reeling when its connection to the outside world is cut off. Arthur ‘Sully’ Sullivan’s passenger and freight ship has burned in the night. There are no witnesses, no clues, and any evidence that might have existed has been swallowed by the lake.
Links and resources mentioned in this episode
- Click on any of the book covers to go to Sean’s books on Amazon
- Rochester UK’s Dickens Festival
- You can help Sean choose the theme music for the Rex and Eddie audiobooks
You can also click here to watch the interview on YouTube.
Transcription of Interview with Sean Cameron
Alexandra: Hi mystery readers, I’m Alexandra Amor, this is “It’s a Mystery” podcast and I’m here today with Sean Cameron. Hi Sean.
Alexandra: How are you today?
Sean: I’m good, how are you?
Alexandra: I’m good, thanks. So let me let our listeners know a little bit about you.
He’s the author of the British comedy series Rex and Eddie’s Mysteries. The books follow Rex and Eddie, a pair of inept private detectives who bumble their way through cases in the drowsy town of Cloisterham. Filled with witty dialogue, silly hi-jinks and clever twists, this daft noir series is equal parts a British comedy and gripping thriller.
Born and raised in Rochester, England, Sean lives in Los Angeles with his American wife and toddler.
First off Sean, I love the phrase ‘daft noir’. Did you make that up?
Alexandra: Oh you did. It’s awesome, it’s incredible.
Following on from that, when you thought about writing books, had you thought they would be in this tone, or did this surprise you?
Sean: I’ve always written things in that sort of silly tone. And originally I just wanted to make something about two guys that wanted to be detectives but could never find a legitimate like exciting case and it would be about their frustrations.
But then I realized that that wouldn’t be as interesting, so to just throw them in the deep end instead and watch all that stuff happen made it like a solid noir and also very daft.
Alexandra: Yes, fantastic.
Tell us then a little bit about Rex and Eddie. Eddie is a security guard but it’s Rex that has the idea to go into the private detective business.
Sean: The first book starts they’re both security guards in a rundown shopping mall. Eddie is quite satisfied just keeping the peace, not doing anything but Rex is always looking for the criminal element so he’s always eyeballing the customers going around being like that, customer is doing this and that person…so he’s always trying to get involved and that sort of leads to them getting fired and they’re like in need of a new job and they basically…the idea is they’ve always worked together, they’ve been friends, best friends as long as they can remember and they’ve always worked together and now they pretty much have run out of job options so they have to go into business themselves.
Alexandra: I saw this quote that Rex says, “Batman didn’t have a license either.”
Sean: Yes that’s right.
Alexandra: “So why shouldn’t we go into business for ourselves?” That’s awesome. So they just sort of operate independently, they don’t go to private detective school or anything?
Sean: No typically you don’t actually need a license in England but I think it would be…it’s useful to have one.
They’re basically amateurs that pay rent for an office so that’s what makes them look professional and so they have an office.
Alexandra: Tell us then a little more about the first book. What do they encounter?
Sean: The first book is called Catchee Monkey and that’s catch with two Es at the end. It’s the softly, softly, catchee monkey is like the phrase, it’s like an old Boy Scout’s phrase.
Alexandra: Oh okay, I didn’t know that, all right.
Sean: Yeah but they don’t really do anything softly, softly, they’re very gung ho.
Rex and Eddie are two friends and a newly formed detective agency but they’re not really getting any cases yet. They have a phone, they have an office, no one is calling.
But they find a chalk outline in the office when they rip up the carpets and after doing a bit of research online they find out there’s actually a reward for for any information about the murder. So they decide to take it upon themselves to solve the case.
Alexandra: I like this sort of intrepid, do it yourself sort of attitude.
I read the first bit of “Catchee Monkey” and the prologue just killed me, or it might have been chapter one with the cleaning fellow who finds the body.
Alexandra: And it was very funny. I love when there’s humor in mystery novels and it’s a really razor sharp line to walk.
Do you find that you have to work at being funny or does that just come naturally to you?
Sean: I think I had to work on it my whole life. Like I remember being like maybe 19, 20 years old and talking to my cousin and my cousin was like “You’re funny. You used to try to be funny but you’re actually funny now,” so yeah I think I worked on that craft for awhile now, so I spent many years just not being funny but trying.
Alexandra: Well it’s such a nice thing to bring to books like this.
They’re set as we mentioned in the town of Cloisterham and there’s a Charles Dickens connection there. Tell us about that.
Sean: I’m actually from a town called Rochester in Kent in the southeast of England and Charles Dickens lived nearby and he set a lot of books in Rochester like “Great Expectations” is set there.
I’ve walked past Miss Havisham’s house like a million times and stuff. And there’s a Dickens festival every year, I think twice, the spring and summer, the spring and the winter there’s Dickens festivals where people would dress up like the characters and stuff.
But his last book, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” is set in Cloisterham and I think that the reason he chose to do that is because he wanted to make fun of Rochester a little bit so he changed the name to Cloisterham. And he changed a few names, like there’s a building called East Gate House so he called it West Gate house.
So in my book series I decided to set it in Cloisterham so I can make fun of it in the same way and I can also flip the names of things in the same way. So instead of Splashes swimming pool they go to Waves swimming pool and things like that.
Alexandra: We mentioned in your introduction that you live in Los Angeles now.
Alexandra: But you obviously know enough about the town that you can remember what it was like.
Sean: That’s right. I mean I go back every year or so to see my family, all my family is still there.
Alexandra: Oh okay.
Sean: So now it’s like when I’m writing a book it’s like I’m going to set it in that building. Sometimes I have to go on Google Maps just to find the image of it and other times when I’m home I just go around taking photos and get a feel for that area again.
Alexandra: And we mentioned also in the introduction that you were a music journalist at one point and music is obviously important to you.
I was on your blog and you’ve posted a couple of interesting things, one of them was a playlist of music that you listen to while you’re writing the books.
Sean: Yeah that’s right. I’ve got a Rex and Eddie soundtrack that is music I write to and suggest that people can use it whilst they’re reading as well.
Sean: And it’s a mixture of sort of thriller and mystery things, mystery soundtracks and sort of upbeat songs that seem like they should have a car chase to them.
Alexandra: And then the other thing I noticed you have on your website is too you mention that you’re in the process of producing audio books to go with the books. And so one cool thing is you’ve got a little place there where people can vote, so you’re choosing music that will go like in between.
Where does the music go in the audio books?
Sean: It’s the introduction music, like the theme tune.
Alexandra: I voted for “The Builder,” there are two options.
Alexandra: Yeah, and that one is way ahead by the way, I don’t know if you’ve looked lately.
Sean: Yeah. It’s way ahead. It’s cool because it’s like I’ve got my newsletter so I got to ask my newsletter followers like, “Hey, click this link, tell me which one you want,” because they’re going to be the customers so it’s good to get that sort of instant feedback from the readers like how they think it should go.
Alexandra: Tell us a little bit about audio book production.
I’ll just say in advance for anybody listening…so when Sean, when an author like Sean or myself is independently published it’s up to us if we want to produce the audio book and there are a couple of ways to go about that.
We can hire narrators or we can do the audio book production ourselves which involves much more technology and that kind of things.
Tell us a bit what that experience has been like for you.
I used to sit in the booth and have the presenter in the booth and give them the script and say, “Do it like this, do it like that. And how are those levels?,” and stuff.
So I got to experience being the producer of audio in that way as well, so I decided to jump in and do the audio myself for these books. And also I deliberately set Rex and Eddie in the same town I grew up in so that everyone would sound like me. Like if I was making a book series set in the Old West, I wouldn’t be the best voice for that.
Alexandra: No, exactly. Or in Australia.
Sean: Yeah. No, can’t do that. It’s even to the point where if I’m writing a book and I’m like, “I’ll have an Irish villain, I’m like actually maybe I won’t have an Irish villain because that will set me up down the line.”
I’ve got the kit and I’ve been experimenting with it and just trying to get into the flow of it. So I’ve not gone all in yet but yeah.
Alexandra: Giving it a go, yeah?
Sean: Giving it a go and then working out the best way to move forward. Like there’s the whole process with uploading it to Amazon’s ACXs so they can…we upload it to ACX which is Amazon’s company for audio books, they can tell you what the quality is like, whether it needs to be better or whatever. So you just do a 10-minute chunk, upload it, see how they feel.
Alexandra: Oh okay, I didn’t know that.
Alexandra: What’s it like reading your own work? Is it easy, is it challenging?
Sean: It’s quite fun. I think that I’ve done a live reading before, there was an event in Burbank, I got invited to do a live reading and then I got all sort of neurotic about which 10 minutes to choose, that where you could drop in and understand the characters and the stakes but still actually come out of the 10 minutes with an emotional storytelling payoff.
But I picked a 10 minute section which involved Eddie sneaking into the back of someone’s garden to try to find out what they were up to and then getting chased by the dog and all this other stuff and when I was reading it live it was great because I got immediate feedback because it’s a comedy book, you can tell if someone finds it funny because they’re laughing.
So that was great. I think locking myself into a little room for a couple of hours you don’t quite have that.
Alexandra: And speaking of locking yourself in a little room, so the other thing with audio books is too you have to be really conscientious about the sound quality and you can’t just be anywhere because the sound can get quite echoey.
Do you rent a booth or how do you do it?
Sean: I decked out a cupboard.
Sean: I don’t know how effective it is but this is my foam, I’m holding up a foam piece right now, I was just holding that around my microphone that I’m using for this interview.
Sean: But I’ve got a cupboard that’s covered in that.
Alexandra: Oh so you’ve covered the walls.
Sean: Yeah I’ve covered the walls. And I’ve got my popper to make sure I don’t pop when I do it. My main thing is just making sure that I don’t speak too fast and that I speak clearly.
Alexandra: Yes, yeah. I’ve had a similar experience doing a little short reading, I think mine was five minutes or something, and it’s difficult to choose a piece of writing that you can squeeze into that amount of time and then as you say have a little arc on its own and not just leave people right in the middle of something.
What I found when I was doing it was that I had trouble reading and breathing at the same time.
I would get ahead of myself and I would forget to breathe and then I would have to take this big sort of gasping breath, but I imagine with practice, like anything, you get better at it.
Do you enjoy it?
Sean: Yeah, I enjoy it. I think it’s a really fun process and I actually…like picking the theme tune before getting really deep in the recording was kind of like a way of gearing myself up, that I’ve got this music that sort of summarizes the tone and vibe that I want the thing to have so I can just match that energy.
Alexandra: Well said. That makes complete sense.
There are three books in the series now, remind us of the titles. So “Catchee Monkey” is first.
Sean: Yeah the first book is Catchee Monkey and then the second book is Feline Fatale which is about trying to find a missing cat and then the third book is The Office Spy where they get hired to try and find a corporate spy that’s leaking out secrets to a competitor.
Alexandra: And then you have a fourth one that’s coming out just about the time that we’re going to release this podcast.
Tell us a little bit about that. It’s “The Third Banana.”
Sean: It’s called “The Third Banana” so it’s the fourth book but it’s called “The Third Banana” which is a bit confusing, but “The Third Banana” is Rex and Eddie are like hired to follow a guy because his sister is a bit worried that he seems a bit tetchy.
He’s like involved in something and whilst they’re trying to watch him they actually end up witnessing his kidnapping, but they’re a bit too slow to do anything about it. So they’re trying to find out who kidnapped him and have it out.
But it turns out that their case converges with a case of another man who is actually a legitimate detective, like he’s got the experience, he’s got the strength, he’s got the look and all the rest of it so they kind of keep ruining his case and it’s about them going head-to-head and sort of Rex and Eddie feeling inadequate to him.
Alexandra: The other thing I noticed about the books is they’re a little bit shorter. I’ve been writing shorter mysteries this year myself as well.
Was that a conscious decision on your part or was it a marketing strategy?
Sean: The first book was meant to be 25,000 as a novella, but I was setting everything up and it just blew up to 40,000 and then the two sequels stayed at 27,000 but “The Third Banana” is actually 65,000 so that’s more of a novel now that they’re really getting involved in bigger cases and stuff.
Alexandra: Is this your first venture into writing?
Other than the journalism and stuff that you did, had you tried any other kinds of novels or other kinds of mysteries?
Sean: I’d always tried to work at writing screenplays and writing in the script form and sending those out. And then I did get a job as a writer for a video game at one point which was script writing and stuff. That helped like sort of hone my writing so I could get a lot across in a very short space of time.
Because with screenwriting you have to make the statement and move on. And it was a good way to practice dialogue because you got that rat-a-tat going forward, so my books are dialogue heavy. Dialogue shows a lot of character and moves the plot forward.
But then whereas Kindle sales and the whole indie writing, indie publishing stuff grew I just sort of got more drawn to that and was paying more attention to that, but I decided to write something.
I did write one thing that was more of a paranormal mystery. I just wrote that but it was setting up the world because it was a paranormal thing, you kind of have to set up the real world and then like an imaginary world and the rules of what the paranormal thing is.
But I was getting a bit involved but I had already written Rex and Eddie as a web series, like I had made these short little videos about two guys in a car on a stakeout, and I was just like, “I know Rex and Eddie, they’ve been in my head for 10 years, I know my hometown where it’s set and I can just really like get in and tell stories a lot easier if I’m more free flowing,” so I dove back into Rex and Eddie.
Alexandra: Do you have plans to keep going with Rex and Eddie?
Sean: Yes, I’m just doing a final edit before I send that to the proofreaders now, that’s “The Third Banana”.
And I’ve already got a fifth book, I’ve already done the first draft of the fifth book and then I’ve got outlines for another five books, so right now I’m going to get to book five and then I’m going to get the box set out, I’m going to get the audio books out and then go back in and start working on the second box set, yeah.
Alexandra: Fantastic. We’ll put links in the show notes and people can go and see your little writing cubby that we mentioned earlier. And now you have it decked out with the foamy walls for doing audio book production.
Alexandra: So is that where you physically write as well?
Sean: I move around a lot. I’ve got a two year old and she doesn’t really let me in my cupboard very often anymore because it’s to the living room so she knows I’m in there so I can just hear like, “Knock, knock, knock, daddy.”
So I move around. I’m in the bedroom right now, I go to coffee shops, I’ll go to the local library.
The library actually has got these cool, dark brown wood tables that have little lanterns for reading lights and stuff like that and it feels quite nice, it feels like a good place to write, so yeah.
Sean: I do whatever works on any given day, I move around.
Alexandra: I always like to ask writers this, if you have a certain routine, like a time of day or do you try to hit a word count or anything like that?
Sean: I just do what works in a week. Me and my wife have to schedule what she’s doing that week and what I’m doing and where the toddler is going to be and then work around what obstacles come up on a week by week basis.
Alexandra: The things that you have to deal with when you’re a parent and a writer, right?
Alexandra: Well this has been great, Sean, and it’s been lovely chatting with you and I just want to mention before we go too, I love the tagline for the first book which is “Two detectives, one murder, no clue.”
Alexandra: I thought that was awesome.
Alexandra: Why don’t you let our listeners know more about where they can find you and your books.
Sean: Yeah, my website is sean-cameron.com and on there there’s a link to get the Rex and Eddie starter pack which is actually book one and book two. But book one is also available for free on Amazon and iBooks and Kobo and all those sort of regular places. And then you can find me on Twitter @seancameronuk and on Facebook I’m Sean Cameron author and Sean is spelled S-E-A-N.
Alexandra: Great, perfect and I’ll put links to all of that in the show notes at It’s A Mystery Podcast dot com as well. Well thank you so much Sean, this has been amazing. Take care.
Sean: Thanks for having me.
Alexandra: Bye bye.