Exclusive excerpt from The Ten Percent reveals life as Wee Toon rookie cop

Author Simon McLean.
Author Simon McLean.

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After a national newspaper picked up the Courier’s story about former Campbeltown policeman Simon McLean launching his memoir, The Ten Percent, the Courier has an exclusive excerpt from the much-anticipated book.

The snippet published in The Sun newspaper told how Beatles musician Sir Paul McCartney asked police to fingerprint a cigarette packet found at his farm in Kintyre, fearing he may have a stalker, only to find the culprit was his then teenage daughter Heather.

The Courier has discovered there is much more to reveal, as Simon explained: ‘As usual, the focus was on Paul McCartney and his stalker worries, but the truth is the story is mainly about his late wife Linda. She was a wonderful person. She welcomed me into their home, made me feel like a celebrity and, just like Paul, I was totally amazed by her.

‘When I saw them at the show the next day, I almost died on the spot when she shouted over to me ‘Hi Simon, how are you today?’ The crowd that was watching Paul read his paper in his Land Rover turned as one to look at me. I so wish I had made some clever comment, or been totally cool about it, but I just waved, giggled and mumbled some acknowledgement to Linda and kept going.

‘If only I had known it would be the last time I ever got the chance to speak to her. She really was a beautiful person.’

The Ten Percent is about the police officers who enjoy living on the edge, who go the extra mile and push everything to the limit, all in hot pursuit of the bad guys – murderers, dealers and gangsters. But it all starts in the Wee Toon where Simon was posted as a rookie in 1978.

He gave the Courier a glimpse of a tale about his learning to become a police driver: ‘On this particular morning, the four of us were driving towards Glasgow through Inveraray. Bob Stewart had a trick to keep us all attentive and would ask any one of us at any time what a road sign had said that we’d just passed. On this bright summer’s day I was very much under the weather, snuggled in the back seat, when Bob asked me about the last road sign we had just passed.

‘I had absolutely no idea, made a decent guess, but failed miserably. Sure enough, he made Bruce stop the police car, told me to clamber out and dispatched me on foot to go back and read the sign. This caused much mirth among my so-called colleagues and off I went.

‘En route, I passed a shop and nipped in for a bottle of Irn Bru, a well-known hangover cure to this day. Being in uniform, some conversation was struck with the young female shop assistant and I belatedly scurried back to the waiting car, got in and saw the expectant faces all around me. ‘Well, what was the sign?’ Oops. I forgot to look.

‘He made me go all the way back again to read it. To this day I still can’t remember what it was, but I do remember that lovely shop assistant. Funny that.’

The book has many topics – the investigation of crimes involving illicit drugs, police corruption, the use of force by officers and where the lines are drawn between what is acceptable behaviour of our police forces and what is not – but an over-riding theme throughout is the psychological and emotional price paid by all of our emergency services and how humour is often the only valve they have to mitigate the horrors, tragedies and sadness they deal with every day.

‘In those days, a good dram was the cure-all for these situations,’ said Simon. ‘I hope our understanding of mental health and the issues its neglect can cause has moved on considerably.’

The Ten Percent is available for pre-order at The Old Bookshelf in Cross Street or online at ringwoodpublishing.com and is due to roll off the printers on September 30, at which point copies signed by Simon will be sent to those who pre-ordered online.

Simon plans to have a virtual launch on Zoom at 7pm on October 7 and a live event in Campbeltown on the evening of Thursday October 15, with full details to be announced nearer the time.