Reg McKay: The Accidental True Crime Writer Who Became A Legend

(From left: Paul Ferris & Reg McKay. Picture credit: Daily Record)

It's been many years now since Reg McKay sadly passed away from cancer at the age of just 56. He was, in many ways an inspiration to me not just when it comes to writing about true crime but also his incredible strength and bravery as he faced death 

For those who are not familiar with the dark side of Scottish crime, in particular the dark history of the city of Glasgow and the underworld of gang related crime, Reg McKay may be a name you've only just come across in this post. But Reg was a trailblazer and although he was never awarded for his incredible work, he opened so many doors for others to write about what is called 'working-class, gangland related crime'. 

Reg McKay was a fearless writer and was right in the heart of the stories that he wrote about, he walked the streets of Glasgow, he talked to every day people, he put his all into research. He wasn't some upper class writer who wrote about things he knew nothing about, he knew that world very well and associated with people of all walks of life. In short, he was a working-class boy done good and he deserved to be awarded for his tireless work. 

As a writer of the people he said that what gave him the most joy was to know that his books were the most stolen books in Scotland. People would often tell him that his books were the first books they had read all the way through since high school. It's a fact that Reg's style of writing was so gripping, informative and interesting that it has always been difficult to stick to just one chapter, you just can't put his books down. 

Reg McKay was born in Keith (Scotland) and moved to Govan in Glasgow as a teenager. Govan has always had a tough reputation (my grandparents came from there) and the living was hard and in many areas it still is. Reg learned quickly as he attended his new high school (Govan High) that this was going to be no walk in the park. The kids would come to school armed with knives and fights and slashes became an every day occurrence. Reg had witnessed a number of fights and because of his accent at that time, he stood out and had to learn how to stand up for himself. 

Despite the tough road that he now found himself on, he stayed committed to his education which in Govan at that time, wasn't the sole focus of a young person's life, it was all about gangs and how tough you were. if you focused on your education you were seen to be a nerd, a bit of a loser. Reg was determined to make something of himself but still wanted to do something that helped young people in Glasgow and surrounding areas. 

After attending university, Reg became a social worker and was so dedicated to his role that he soon found himself in a Director role of both the Argyll and Bute Council and Action for Children charity. He took both roles very seriously and it was through his role in social work that he came into contact with a young man named Paul Ferris. Paul had been involved in various petty crime incidences over the years and had quite a reputation. The pair struck up a supportive friendship and Reg thought it would be a good idea for Paul to write about his experiences as a young man growing up in the Glasgow gangland culture and how his story could help warn other young people not to go down a similar path. 

So began a partnership and Reg and Paul wrote together and the books were a success (I include a list of all of Reg and Paul's books at the end of the post). Reg continued to write alone too and produced 16 books in the space of just 10 years. Most of those books went on to become best sellers. 

Unfortunately, Reg never had children but he was utterly devoted to his wife Gerry who had battled cancer herself. Gerry had been diagnosed and overcame cancer just a short time before he was diagnosed himself. He took care of his wife and he spoke of his devastation that now she was having to do the same for him. 

He was an amazing man and I wish I could have met him. Not only because of his extraordinary talent as a writer and the care and love he had for Glasgow and it's people but he himself was quite the character. Reg liked the finer things in life and could often be found having lunch at the famous Rogano restaurant (the Rogano is the oldest restaurant in Glasgow with a a very 1930's art deco style. It has been closed for refurbishment as of late and is set to re-open soon). Reg loved white wine and Armani suits as well as cigarettes. He continued this lifestyle right up until he passed away on the 19th of October 2009. 

When I think about 2009, we sure lost a number of incredibly talented people, Reg, Michael Jackson, Patrick Swayze, John Hughes and many others. It was a sad year of great losses and the end of so many eras. 

Although I have read every book that Reg has ever written, I still find myself picking the odd one up from time to time and re-reading them. That is a sign of how amazing he was as a writer, the fact that all of these years later his works are still held in high regard with so many people. 

There are now so many true crime writers from Scotland who are writing about gangland crime but no offence to them (or myself) nobody could do it like Reg. I think he is the greatest true crime writer that Scotland has ever produced and he will always inspire me. I think of him today and imagine all of the books that he would be continuing to write and release. If he was still with us today you can be sure that his name would be the first that you would hear in the true crime world when it came to books. 

Reg knew Glasgow like the back of his hand and despite his success he still remained a Glasgow boy through and through. He never left his beloved city and right up until the end he continued to write articles for the leading Scottish newspaper 'The Daily Record'. He wrote about his journey with cancer and he faced it with such brutal honesty, wit and determination. He truly was a legend and he will never be forgotten. 

I have included a list below of all the books that you can find available that have been written by Reg McKay and in collaboration with Paul Ferris. I have also included a list of articles that Reg had written during his battle with cancer. Some clips of documentaries and other related items that he was involved or appeared in have also been included. 

I hope that you have had the chance to enjoy Reg's work over the years or have discovered him through my blog. His work deserves to be recognised and appreciated. His legacy will live on. 

Further Reading, Books by Reg McKay & Documentary clips 

Reg McKay Booklist | Amazon

Reg McKay Booklist | Black And White Publishing

Reg McKay Booklist | Bookfinder

Reg McKay Booklist | Thrift Books

Reg McKay Booklist | World of Books

Reg McKay | Wikipedia

Reg McKay Tribute | Daily Record

Reg McKay Tribute | The Herald

Reg McKay: Article | The Cancer Diaries | Daily Record

Reg McKay: Article | Death Wish? Not Me | Daily Record

Reg McKay | Columist of The Year for The Cancer Diaries

Reg McKay appears in Donal McIntyre's Documentary on Glasgow gangland crime

Paul Ferris talks about Reg McKay on James English's 'Anything Goes' podcast. Check out the podcast here on Youtube

RIP Reg McKay.

Thank you for taking the time to read my latest post and I hope that you will join me on my social media platforms 

See you in the next post x 

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