Val McDermid

Stretching Credibility

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A comment from Robin yesterday prompts this consideration; when does a book stretch credibility too far for you? On TV that moment is known as Jumping the Shark, after the Fonz in ‘Happy Days’. On film it’s called Nuking the Fridge, after the fourth Indiana Jones film. What is it in books? Personally, I find […]

Male & Female Reading

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Despite the new century’s welcome seismic shift in sexual equality, we all know there are gender divisions in reading. Or as my father once put it; ‘Romantic novels are for middle-aged women who hate their husbands.’  I’ve met few men who profess to having read ‘Jane Eyre’, a novel I find turgid and deeply peculiar, […]

Books I Fight To Finish

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Writers are not supposed to name the books they don’t like; it’s an unwritten law, as if by doing so we’ll somehow damage the trade. All writers have flaws and quirks; it’s what makes them individual and interesting, and is why instructional books like Joseph Campbell’s ‘The Hero’s Journey’ cannot be applied to the letter, […]

Crime Swamps ‘Britain’s Happiest Town’

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According to property agents, Harrogate in North Yorkshire is the UK’s happiest town, while nine out of 10 of the grimmest places to live are in London – but Harrogate, with its flower-filled park running through its centre, its famous tea rooms and spa, its affluent kitchen design shops, hides a dark secret. This Thursday […]

Bryant & May And The Missing Genre

Bleeding Heart: No Type

‘Choose one style of writing and stick with it,’ I was told many years ago by an editor. Naturally I ignored her and continued to plough a lonely furrow between every possible known genre, starting with my very first fiction novel ‘Roofworld’ (SF? Fantasy? Urban Drama? Thriller? Satire?) through ‘Spanky’ (Thriller? Satire? Bromance? Supernatural?) to […]

Why There Are Fewer Original Novels…

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Today’s column is a coalescence of several others I’ve been writing and thinking about for a while. It came to a head when I gave a speech at the Southbank Literary Festival about outsider status. I’d written before on the subject, but the speech introduced a number of outsiders from different centuries. The ultimates are […]

Mysteries and Thrillers Are Opposites

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As always it took the excellent Val McDermid to point out what should have been obvious; that crime and mystery novels are left wing and thrillers are right wing. Writing in the Guardian, she points out that the crime novel gives a voice to characters who are not comfortably established in the world, while thrillers play […]

Killing For Charity

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Okay, not just killing but robbing, blackmailing, committing all kinds of heinous dishonests – and it’s all in a good cause. Ian Rankin introduces a collection of crime writing that’s an Oxfam charity fundraiser, featuring a compelling (it says here) cast of 27 suspects that includes George Pellecanos, Mark Billingham, Val McDermid, Irvine Welsh, Denise Mina, […]

The Sounds Of Crime

Audio books, aren’t they versions of paper books? Not any more, because legendary crime editor Maxim Jakubowski has created ‘The Sounds Of Crime’ an anthology specifically designed to exploit the audio possibilities of crime, and it’s available only in audio form. I’m there with a new story, along with Lawrence Block, Mark Billingham, Peter James […]