I was reading a book called The Trouble with Tippers to my kid. At the end of the run I said to him, ‘there’s a scene missing from this’. Patricia Highsmith said, ‘that’s the promise of crime writing, that you are going to enjoy it’. The Long Drop is about the serial killer Peter Manuel, the third-last person to be hanged in Scotland. I was doing a PhD at Strathclyde and I kept thinking, what I really want to be is a writer. One guy who got in touch said he wasn’t introverted. Particularly when you're telling dark stories, you have to give the audience something because we're all living dark stories at the moment. The answer should be no. You made a radio documentary about Henry Summers, a Leith man who lay in his flat for three years after he died. Why did you choose to study law at university?
There were no festivals of crime writing.
It must have felt like you were living in history. Do you know a Japanese director called Takeshi Kitano?
I knew if I took my ideas and put them in a mainstream narrative form then a lot of people would have access to it and read it for fun.
At first, Margo resists. When her first novel, Garnethill, was published in 1998 she abandoned a PhD at Strathclyde University and became a full-time author. Margot's mother has died and she's left her partner because, having become pregnant, she's not sure he's someone to raise a child with. There's quite a lot of bits in the story where [Margo] was quite patronizing to Nikki or she's patronizing to Nikki's pal Lizzie. Her sister Nikkie believes that her murderer is ex-police Officer Martin McPhail, that the Glasgow police force cover this up and so Nikkie wants Margo’s help in proving this. So you go in and tweak things when you realize it's too dark or if the change can make the story better. Reading the novel is like entering a strange Americanised Glasgow. I’ve talked to a few dedicated readers of crime fiction. I do enjoy them, but I'm never very comfortable with those stories.
Lots of people got in touch after the documentary. You made a documentary on Edgar Allen Poe. Hats off to her for her compassion and for seeing the possibilities. And they were all working class – even the Americans were blue collar guys – and they’d become engineers through apprenticeships.
There is a fantastic Israeli sociologist called Eva Illouz and she writes about romantic narratives. I didn’t really choose him.
I think Ian Rankin sold so well that people suddenly thought it was something you could actually do.
They are basically arseholes with knives. This one had me guessing right up to the end. Publishers are also looking out for the next Ian Rankin. I'm pretty sure (in fact as I have read the book, I know) that when Margo decided to try and track down her birth mother she hadn't been expecting to find anything quite as dark and deadly as this twisted tale. Some people love books. Because they know what they want.
Born in East Kilbride in 1966, she lived an itinerant childhood.
At Strathclyde we were really looking at the impact of law and how law is interpreted. Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. They are the mysterious Other who commit these appalling acts and they have a framework of reference that’s their own.’ But that’s not what serial killers are like. And maybe m. The Less Dead is my first Denise Mina book. Tartan Noir is such a broad group of people, and it's pretty representative of the culture – the only thing is that it's very white. When Manuel’s sentence is read out you describe the crowds lining the streets.
We’d love your help.
I loved the book's premise: Margo, whose adoptive mother has just died, meets her biological aunt, who tells her that her bio mom was murdered.
I think that’s very much a crime fiction interpretation of reading, but poetry reflects the interactivity of the process of as well. I think some people who would have written brilliant literary novels before are now writing brilliant crime novels. My cousin is a lawyer and I often go and see him.
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