Show 026: December 2009

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I am working again at one of my favourite schools, based in South Yorkshire, Sheep Dip Lane Primary is using me, a photographer and a dancer to bring even more creativity to the curriculum, starting in January 2010.
Costa Book Awards
I’m very interested in the short list for the Costa Book Awards, out now. The Costa is an interesting prize having more than one category of books up for prizes. I’m interested to see what might happen in the fiction section which has Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, and winner of the Booker on the list, and in the poetry section, Darwin, A Life in Poems, a collection by Ruth Padel on the life of Charles Darwin, of whom she is a descendant.

Book review

The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad. I have avoided Conrad ever since I was made to read a collection of stories when I was at school. It took me forty-four years to give him another go. It was written in the early part of the 20th century about anarchism and terrorism, a book very much read at the time of the Twin Towers. Compelling and beautifully written, by someone whose first language was not English, the book startles the reader with its many contemporary references.


Here follows an edited extract from an interview with crime writer Val McDermid.

When I created Tony Hill in The Mermaids Singing I thought of it as a stand alone, and not a series novel. In the first instances I’m always thinking of story, and then I try to figure out who the characters are. When i created Tony Hill I made him sexually impotent as a plot point and then I got stuck with it. I think the best of modern crime novels are character driven, and I’m trying to reach that standard. I’m always trying to do something better or differently. The Mermaids Singing was one of the books which were instrumental in giving me confidence, because it was so different from anything I’d written before.

Tony Hill is on the television in the person of actor Robson Green, and I now write the books and I think of him as looking like Tony Hill When your characters are taken into TV, you just have to let them go. You must make the people who are working with your story really understand you characters and book and then let them get on with it.

The titles of the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan novel titles are all taken from the poems of TS Eliot. The central idea of The Fever of The Bone came form the internet social networking sites and how the villains stalk their victims; the internet is a very easy place to masquerade as someone else. I had to figure out how you would carry out these crimes. As a parent of a young child the whole idea of masquerade and anonymity on the internet worries me.

For my next novel I’m at the stage of engaging with the characters, but it has taken me a very long time to tell the story. The idea came to me about dozen years ago in Oxford. The three central characters are still taking shape in my head.

Crime writers I always go have been around for some time like Reginald Hill, Ruth Rendell, PD James and Sarah Paretsky but I’m also interested in newer writers like Denise Mina, Sophie Hannah. There are new movements with new crime writing coming out of Ireland, people like Alex Barclay, Declan Burke, Declan Hughes and Alan Glynn. There is also an interesting first novel from America by Attica Lock, whose parents were involved in the Civil Rights movement. There are so many people writing thoughtful intelligent novels about the world we live in. Irresistible really!!

Enjoy this interview? You might also like Sophie Hannah, Peter James, Steve Mosby and Sarah Waters.

Poem of the Month

This month's poem is Thirst, by Andrew McMillan.