IN a lane off Renfield Street in Glasgow Callum McSorley is having his photograph taken. Standing on top of a brick on the ground and trying hard not to stumble forward into the murky, rain-filled bucket just in front of him, he is recalling the days when he used to work as a kitchen porter in the restaurant on the corner next to us.

“One time I was taking the bins out and I had my hands full, so I kicked the door. It swung open and smacked a guy who was taking a piss,” he recalls.

We both look at that container on the ground for a moment.

The jobs he’s had. As well as being a kitchen porter, he’s worked the night shift on the railways, cleaned motors in a car wash and been a painter and decorator.

“My place in Glasgow history is that I painted the fence around the obelisk in Glasgow Green. The thing is when you do jobs like that people think you’re community service and they always ask you what you’ve done and if the judge hated you and stuff. I was like, ‘No, I’m getting paid to be here.’”

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He’s played in bands, been a student, been on the dole. For the last five years he can also say he’s been a stay-at-home dad to his two children, while his wife - a doctor - goes out to work. Oh yes, and for the last year he’s been able, finally, to call himself a writer.

Last March his debut novel Squeaky Clean - a Glasgow crime novel set in and around a car wash - was published. In September, during the Bloody Scotland crime writing festival in Stirling, McSorley won the McIlvanney Prize. Tomorrow you can catch him in Aberdeen at the Granite Noir festival.

It has been a whirlwind year. Last month Squeaky Clean was Waterstones Scottish Book of the Month. TV rights for the book have been sold to Imaginarium, Andy Serkis and Jonathan Cavendish’s production company, and his second novel, Paper Boy, has been announced for publication next year. He’s finished the first draft and he’s waiting for his editor’s notes.

In short, things have gone quite well. “It’s pretty dreamlike,” McSorley admits as he sits sipping a latte in Citizen M.

“You couldn’t wish for a better start for a first book. You have great hopes for it but then you have to rein into the reality. When I got my publishing deal I was over the moon. So few people get to that point. Then when it came to the day of publication I was like, ‘Oh no, there are hundreds of books out at the same time. I could just get buried.’ “Which was not something I worried about when I was trying to get published. It was panicky when I got to that stage and then to have the response it was a relief. It was brilliant.”

Squeaky Clean is the story of the luckless Davey Burnet who manages to make his life even harder when he gets on the wrong side of the wrong customer and his only chance might be DI Alison McCoist (you can guess what she gets called, and yes she’s heard all the jokes) who is not exactly in a great place herself.

The Herald:

Before turning to crime, McSorley had been working on a heavily researched historical novel about Glasgow - his third book. But when it didn’t find a publisher he changed tack. “I wanted to do something that felt less like hard work,” he admits. “That I could just have a laugh with.”

Squeaky Clean is full of humour, albeit rather black at times. And yes, it draws on his time working in a car wash in the city around 2012.

“I had just moved in with my girlfriend who is now my wife. We would always go to the Morrisons to get food and the shop in between us and Morrisons was the car wash.

“I used to say hello to the guy that worked there. And one day he asked me if I wanted to work. He’d hurt his shoulder and needed another pair of hands. He said I had an honest face. I just worked cash-in-hand.

“It was quite hard graft at first. I was really sore all the time. But once you get into it … See, when it’s a nice day. It’s hot and you’ve got a line of cars to blast through, listening to music, it was good. Or if it was rainy we’d just watch The Sopranos and hardly make any money. I’ve worked worse jobs since.”

Was his boss at the car wash inspiration for Squeaky Clean’s contrarian car wash owner Sean?

“Yeah, definitely. He smoked a lot of weed, watched Russia Today. He’d sit out sunbathing. He had a wicked tan. I don’t know how old he was. I couldn’t really tell. I think he was young in the nineties.

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“He was a bit of a raver back then. He was funny and curious in his own way. He had these crackpot political theories.

“He just didn’t trust any organisational body. He didn’t trust the media - except Russia Today. He didn’t trust the government, any large organised bodies. He wasn’t an online person as well. I would say his ideas have become popular rather than he’s got it from the internet.”

It’s fair to say Davey finds a bit more in the cars he cleans in the book than McSorley ever did, but there were moments.

“Occasionally you would be hoovering strange powders off the dashboard. You knew someone had been up to something. But mostly it was just mess. Some people’s cars are like a bin. They’d come in and their floor would be covered with takeaways.”

Reading Squeaky Clean there are some questions that need to be asked. For instance, Callum, DI Alison McCoist; is this you outing yourself as a Rangers fan? “I’m not a big fan of football. A friend of mine had a goldfish called Coisty. That popped into my head and I used it.”

The Herald: Ali McCoistAli McCoist (Image: free)

Does he know if a certain former Rangers player knows he’s named a character after him?

“I think he said it’s funny and bizarre. I have no idea if he’s read it but he’s aware of it,” McSorley says.

Presumably there’s always the chance that in a future book we can see some ecumenical reciprocation. Maybe a character called Nell Lennon, or Marta O’Neill?

“I was wondering if she could go on an exchange with a Scandinoir detective called Henrik Larsson,” he suggests.

Time for the back story. McSorley grew up in Rutherglen with a twin sister and an older brother. His dad died when he was young. He grew up reading the Harry Potter books, then The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. By 15 he was onto the Beat Generation writers.

He moved to Glasgow when he was 18. He dropped out of Glasgow University after a year of studying to be an engineer when he realised his maths was nowhere near good enough and then took up a journalism and creative writing course at “Strathy” which he finished in 2013.

It’s taken him 10 years to get to where he is now. Paper Boy next year will be the second DI Ali McCoist novel (the villain is called Jamieson, he tells me. I’m not taking it personally.) Is this the beginning of a long series?

“I want to do three. One more and out. But you never know.”

He also has plans for a historical novel set in Japan inspired by a real-life Scottish gunrunner. Now that his son has started at school and his daughter is going to a childminder two days a week he’s finding a bit more space to write. Because that’s what he is now. A writer. Has he started calling himself that?

“I do now. I think once the book was on the shelf that’s kind of the tipping point. And then certainly after winning the McIlvanney prize I feel it’s fair for me to say that.”

Callum McSorley has had a few jobs in his life. I suspect the current one might be the job he likes the most.

Callum McSorley is appearing at Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, tomorrow at 5pm as part of Granite Noir. Visit aberdeen Squeaky Clean is now out in paperback, published by Pushkin Vertigo, £9.99