From The Guardian:
“My readers are probably going to kill me,” Val McDermid announces cheerfully when we discuss the ending of her latest novel. Her new Tony Hill and Carol Jordan book, Insidious Intent, is published on Thursday, and the reaction of fans to how she has chosen to end it will be interesting. “There’s a certain fear of being stoned in the street,” she chuckles.
We meet at the Theakston Old Peculier crime writing festival in Harrogate, where McDermid is practically royalty, and she has murder on her mind. This is not unusual, she says; quite frequently a pleasant weekend away will turn her thoughts to homicide. There was the time when she spotted a wedding party during a crime and mystery conference at her old college, St Hilda’s, Oxford, “and by the end of the afternoon it seemed to me that the logical thing that was going to have to happen was that the bridegroom would be dead by bedtime. And by the end of the weekend I had the basic shape of the story in my head.”
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If the hypothesis is correct that sales of crime writing soar during troubled political times, then the genre must be thriving. But McDermid thinks it’s not so simple. “I can’t actually think of a time in my adult life when we haven’t been living in troubled times,” she says. “I think what we have now is a greater perception of the troubled times around us, and that’s partly because of … the 24/7 news cycle.” The consolation of crime fiction for the reader, she suggests, is that “although terrible things happen, at the end there is some sort of resolution”. The value of crime fiction for the writer is slightly different: “People can read these books and be afraid but in a safe way … and that I suppose gives you the freedom to explore other things in the book … You can write about politics, you can write about relationships, you can write about landscape, you can write about whatever you want to write about and frame it in this shape.”
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Crime fiction has flourished since McDermid started writing it in the 1980s. “When I started out it was quite narrow in many respects,” she says. “Mostly in the UK what was being written was either village mysteries or police procedurals.” Having grown up in the 50s and 60s in Kirkcaldy, a former mining town on Scotland’s east coast, she didn’t see how she could translate her own experience into a crime novel a la Agatha Christie: “It’s not very much like St Mary Mead,” she observes. After university, she trained as a journalist, and worked for 14 years on national newspapers, eventually becoming the northern bureau chief of a Sunday tabloid. Her first novel, Report for Murder, was published in 1987 by the Women’s Press.