Saturday, 26 July 2014

Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival - Denise Mina event, 18 July 2014 9.00am

A rising star of 'Tartan Noir', Glasgow-born Denise Mina has been charting the dark underbelly of Scotland since 1998, when the first of her award-winning Garnethill trilogy was published.  In the years since, her highly-acclaimed Paddy Meehan trilogy has been dramatised for television, starring Jayd Johnson, Peter Capaldi and David Morrissey, with her detective Alex Morrow novels currently in development.  Mina is also a successful playwright and comic book writer, the latter including the graphic novel adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  In 2013, she became the first writer to win the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel Award for two consecutive years, with Gods and Beasts and The End of The Wasp Season.

Mina was shortlisted for three times in a row for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel Award, losing out to Belinda Bauer this year, and Denise admitted that no-one knows who has won until the night, or why introverted/shy writers are thrust onto the stage for everyone to gawp at them. 

Denise's plotting in crime fiction is particularly complex, leading the reader to wonder what could possibly be the connection in Red Road.  She feels that as she writes, she likens it to falling off a cliff face first and there reaches a point a third of the way through a book where you don't know - if you get lost, the reader gets lost.  She admits to stealing a lot from Brighton Rock as she had just read it and she had some plot points to follow.

She feels crime fiction is regarded as low art.  Graham Greene was at the beginning of Noir, he wrote low class thrillers with huge themes in an accessible and exciting way and in literary fiction you are published and won a prize of not published.  Mina is at the point in the book that she is writing now where she can resolve it, but not happily; sometimes writers never finish a book, it just gets taken off them.

In her novels, Alex Morrow was not a heavy presence in the beginning, she was just a sulky, rude woman and Denise loves that because she has a lot of friends like that.  For example, Lesley in the Garden Hill book, when a waiter tries to flirt with her, she says 'get me a f-ing waitress.'  She has a happy home life and you don't often see that a lot in crime fiction.

When asked why conflict holds our attention so much she feels that it's more puzzling, not as compelling.  She felt that it was very sinister in the 80s with Jimmy Saville etc. and there was an amazing tolerance then.  She never discussed the Tommy Sheridan case, the book is based on.  Andy Coulson is going to be tried for perjury.  Play by Ian Patterson (Rab C Nesbitt) called Dear Tommy, Gods and Beasts meeting represented.

Denise is a month away from finishing her next book and ready for an April publication date.  The book is about community, not voting yes or no in the referendum.  Blood, Salt, Water is based on Hillsborough (the Hamptons of Britain) and is contemporary fiction.

Mina grew up in London and as a teenager she found it overwhelming and moved to Glasgow which she feels is the perfect city for chatty people, also 20% GDP for international crime (e.g. Red Road money laundering to Pakistan).  She feels she needs to live there to get the flavour of it, e.g. the red sandstone that glitters in the sun and with blue sky looks mesmerising.

Denise does very little research to find out what the questions are and feels procrastination is your enemy.  Write it, find out what you don't know and then go and find someone who has the specific answer, e.g. police are all carrying arms now and there used to be a media section in the police, but not now.

She loved the Field of Blood and The Dead Hour TV adaptations and the actress was the double of her at that age and comes from round the former from where her family are.  The programmes were done on a small budget by the BBC, but had a sense of ownership about it and all shot in doors.  She thinks they are going to make a third one.

#Theakstonscrime  #TOPCRIME2014   #DeniseMina

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