Author of the Month
Name: V. L. McDermid
First book: Report for Murder
Most Recent Book: Stranded
This is a collection of Val McDermid’s short stories that
spans across a range of very different themes. The stories range
from revenge to lost love in St. Petersburg. They include a hold-up
in a bingo hall, murder in a rambling mansion and a barrister’s
sexual awakening after gaining a client’s freedom!
Some of these stories include one of Val McDermid’s favourite characters
in the guise of Kate Brannigan while others are stand-alone. Some are
crime orientated, while others make us feel we are watching somebody’s
life through a window. One of the stories that really stood out for me
was The Wagon Mound, which illustrates a woman’s guilt when her
little stab at revenge has terrible consequences. Other wonderful crime
stories are A Wife in A Million, A Traditional Christmas, Sneeze for Danger
and Heartburn. In Metamorphosis and The Consolation Blonde, McDermid shows
her hand only in the last few sentences. They literally take your breath
away at their audacity and they work so wonderfully well!
There are some stories in the collection that do not have a crime element.
These stand-out on their own merit. The first story in the collection
tells the story of a painful love affair. The Road and the Miles to Dundee,
which has never been published before, is a particular tearjerker. My
personal favourite in the collection was Homecoming. This shows a very
poignant moment in a woman’s life as memories of her past catch
up in the present. It is simply beautifully written.
There are also moments of comedy with The Girl Who Killed Santa Claus
and another favourite, Four Calling Birds, is both original and brilliantly
written. I could see it working well as a television play.
There really is something for everyone in this gem of a collection. Short
stories are not everyone’s cup of tea, but I promise you this is
a wonderful book that will sate your appetite until Val return’s
with her next full-length novel, The Last Tattoo!
Val McDermid is one of the UK’s main champions of the short story
form. Try reading the monthly stories on www.saveourshortstory.org.uk.
Reviewed by C.S.
2.) First book:
Report for Murder
3.) Most recent book:
4.) How would you describe your books?
With great difficulty. I write in a wide range of styles, from dark psychological
thrillers to wisecracking private eye novels. I write series and standalones.
What unites them, I suppose, is a love for storytelling.
5.) What is your favourite crime read of all time?
Reginald Hill’s On Beulah Height
6.) Would you describe yourself as a Crime fan and
if so, which authors do you most admire and why?
For me, the classic crime novel is always a three-legged stool –
character, story and sense of place. So the writers I admire most are
those who consistently manage that balancing act. Writers such as Reginald
Hill, Ruth Rendell, Sara Paretsky, Denise Mina, Don Winslow, John Straley,
James Sallis, James Lee Burke, Andrew Taylor, Jim Kelly… I could
go on for some time!
7.) Without giving away the plot, which book included
your favourite plot twist of all time?
Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd springs to mind, but
I’m sure there are others just as striking.
8.) Which camp do you fall in? Agatha Christie or
Dorothy L. Sayers? Why?
If I have to choose between them, I’d go for Christie. She wasn’t
great on character or sense of place, but nobody ever plotted better.
I find Sayers snobbish, self-conscious and over-written. As for Peter
Wimsey – as my grandmother would have said, ‘That man has
a face you’d never tire of slapping.’
9.) Who, in your eyes, is pushing the boundaries of
crime fiction today – and why?
It depends what you mean by pushing the boundaries. There are writers
doing extraordinarily experimental things, like Jim Lusby with his novel
Serial. Then there are writers like Denise Mina who are writing novels
that happen to have crime at their heart but which are essentially windows
on the world. And then there are those who use the crime novel to write
about the marginalised and the alienated who have no voice elsewhere,
writers like Karline Smith and Walter Mosley. That’s the beauty
of the genre right now – it can speak for any of us and for all
10.) What is your favourite movie adaptation of a crime
11.) What do you think of ITV’s adaptation of
Wire in the Blood? Are you surprised by its phenomenal success around
I think Coastal Productions, who make Wire in the Blood, have done a terrific
job. They have kept faith with the ambience of the books in the scripts
not based on my books. The standard of acting, scriptwriting and production
have been uniformly high so no, I’m not surprised at their success.
They’re so much better than the vast majority of what appears on
12.) When you write about Tony Hill and Carol Jordan,
do you now see Robson Green and Hermione Norris in your mind?
Robson is very close physically to my own Tony Hill, so yes, when I write
Tony, I now see Robson in my head. Hermione, however, although she has
done a terrific job as Carol, is far enough removed from the Carol in
my head not to have taken over in the same way. I still see my Carol in
my mind’s eye!
13.) I believe they are adapting A Place of Execution
for television. How is it progressing and when is it likely to be on our
We are still in the very early stages of development. We are at the mercy
of TV executives, so who knows when it will finally be made?
14.) Where do you see Crime fiction going next?
Wherever the writers want to take it. There are no limits.