How ‘NCIS’ Star David McCallum Was Inspired to Write His Book, ‘Once a Crooked Man’

by Amy Myers

While David McCallum may be a flawless actor on the hit crime show, NCIS, he will tell you that he is not nearly as skilled in writing. On-screen, he plays the role of medical examiner Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard, a quirk and integral part of the crime-fighting unit. However, off-screen, McCallum is a man who always pushes the limits of his talents. And sometimes, they push back.

When he was young, McCallum studies music back in his home country of Scotland. Wanting to follow in his parents’ footsteps, he focused on classical arts until he found his love for acting in England. Now, with several Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, the NCIS actor exercised a new skillset. Like acting, it would require his creativity and dedication to characters. However, instead of being in front of the camera, he was behind a computer screen.

Back in 2017, McCallum published his first novel, Once a Crooked Man. Much like the NCIS actor’s career onset, the plotline involves crime, espionage, drama and even a bit of comedy. While the New York Post celebrates the work as “darkly comedic,” McCallum is not as impressed.

‘NCIS’ Actor David McCallum Is His Own Novel’s Worst Critic

The best authors tend to be the ones that inspire their readers to write their own books. For NCIS actor David McCallum, that author was Jack Higgins, the name behind best-selling works like The Eagle Has Landed. Like McCallum, Higgins, too, was bit by the crime bug and has written dozens of novels dedicated to the genre. Because of Higgins’ ability to excite and hook the readers, the NCIS actor tried his own hand at writing a thrilling tale.

“Many years ago while reading a Jack Higgins book on audiotape, I had the idea that I too could write,” McCallum explained to Stay Thirsty Media. So I came up with the idea of an actor being handed $1,000,000 in a suitcase and began putting the words on the page. My first efforts were pathetic.”

With all of his success and experience in NCIS, fans might think writing a crime, suspense novel might come easy to the star. However, McCallum claims that it’s quite the contrary.

“[The book’s] pages then went through several iterations and in and out of drawers until three years ago when I finally had the time and inclination to finish it,” he shared. “I was never motivated to write a novel.”

Despite the difficulty he faced during the writing process, McCallum isn’t giving up on the trade just yet. However, he might try a different genre.

“I am trying to write another book. It is not easy,” he said. “But I know it’s out there somewhere, I just have to keep searching until I find it!”