Val McDermid: ‘To survive, you had to be twice as good as the guys’

The Scottish crime writer on working in a newsroom in the 70s, coping with lockdown and the transformation of attitudes to gay couples in her home nation

Val McDermid, 65, is sometimes referred to as the queen of crime, and her triumphantly Scottish oeuvre is dubbed “tartan noir”. She has written four series, the best-known featuring clinical psychologist Dr Tony Hill. She has sold more than 16m novels and been translated into 40 languages. Her latest, Still Life, now out in paperback, is tremendous, an effortlessly gripping read.

Why is it we relish violent crime in fiction that we would be appalled to encounter in real life?
Watching lightning strike in somebody else’s house can be almost talismanic – seeing off the possibility of evil in your own life. It can be comforting reading crime novels where endings offer resolution. I don’t mean that everything gets tied up with a neat little bow as in Agatha Christie novels – there are more flexible, open endings now – but something gets resolved.

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Val McDermid: ‘To survive, you had to be twice as good as the guys’