Crime writer VAL MCDERMID will be appearing at this year's Dorchester Literature Festival to discuss her latest book Insidious Intent, the next novel in the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series. JOANNA DAVIS looks at a career in crime.

SHE'S one of the biggest names in crime writing, has seen her novels made in a TV series starring Robson Green and even sponsors Raith Rovers football team.

Val McDermid, queen of tartan noir, is one of the UK’s most successful crime authors and will be appearing at Dorchester Literature Festival next month.

The Scottish author's novels have been translated into more than 30 languages, and have sold more than 11 million copies.

She has won many awards internationally, including the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year and the LA Times Book of the Year Award. She was inducted into the ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame in 2009 and was the recipient of the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for 2010.

Val writes full time and divides her time between Cheshire and Edinburgh.

She said: "I never imagined when I started on this journey that I would have the success that has come my way.

"All those novels, radio plays, short stories, non-fiction and even a children’s book make a significant pile that I have every intention of adding to.

"I divide my year between writing and promoting my work at home and abroad, and when I’m not travelling, I divide my time between South Manchester and Edinburgh where I live with my partner and my son. Most days, I feel like one of the very lucky ones."

Val emerged in the late 1980s with her pioneering Lindsay Gordon series, which featured the 'shocking' inclusion of a cynical lesbian journalist as the main protagonist, and since then she has published dozens of bloody and suspense-filled novels, including the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series which went on to be filmed as Wire in the Blood.

Val was born into a working-class family in Kirkcaldy and spent the past four decades in England partly because she felt she could not live openly in her hometown as a lesbian without attracting “a certain degree of misogyny and a considerable degree of homophobia”. That, she says, has undoubtedly changed.

Other aspects of society have changed as well, she says.

“It’s interesting because we have felt over the past 20 years that feminism has made steps forward, that women’s lot is much different, and in many respects much better than it was 30 or 40 years ago. So I was thinking things had changed, that the next generation of men weren’t as institutionally misogynist as the previous were. And then suddenly the internet came along, and gave them a platform to voice their feelings anonymously. And boy, did the bile come out.”

Val was the first student from a Scottish state school to attend St Hilda's College at Oxford and has more recently been a valuable member of the alumni on quiz show University Challenge. She is the mother of a teenage boy who was conceived with her ex-partner via donor insemination. If she were starting out today, she says, her career would have taken a very different path.

“If I was a 16-year-old now, I wouldn’t be going to Oxford, that’s for sure, and therefore wouldn’t have had any of the opportunities that opened so many doors for me back then.” An education experiment in the 60s saw McDermid and other gifted children (including Gordon Brown) fast-tracked into university. “I came from a working-class family, but I was supported by a grant system and had my fees paid, so I came out of Oxford with a debt of something like £200. Now people are coming out £35,000 in debt. How do you start a life like that? How do you get your first job if you’re not some middle-class person whose parents can afford to support you through your unpaid internship? How do you do that?”

Before becoming an author Val was a journalist and trained in Devon. She then went on to work on national newspapers in Glasgow and Manchester, ending up as Northern Bureau Chief of a national Sunday tabloid - a title far grander than the reality, she says!

"I had always wanted to write, ever since I realised that real people actually produced all those books in the library. But everyone told me that it was impossible to make a living from writing, that I needed to have a proper job. I knew I wasn’t the sort of person who would be suited to a proper, nine to five job with a neat hierarchical career structure, so I became a journalist."

After her first novel was rejected by publishing houses, Val turned her hand to writing a play, which was performed by the director of the Plymouth Theatre Company. She later adapted the play, Like A Happy Ending, for BBC radio and was commissioned to write another play, this time for a touring company in Lincolnshire and Humberside.

Then finding she couldn't make a success of writing drama, she decided to turn her hand to writing a crime novel.

She said: "I started writing Report for Murder in 1984, and it was published by The Women’s Press in 1987. The rest is history… I finally gave up the day job in April, 1991, and I’ve been making my living by writing ever since."

Val has taken on a number of gritty subjects in her books.

One of her novels is about a particularly nasty misogynistic internet troll who isn’t just a sinister online pest; he is also a brutal killer.

Val says she is perplexed by the fact that she has barely been trolled on Twitter at all. “I’m not sure why. Kirsty Wark did a programme last year in which she analysed the way in which women who appeared on Question Time were treated, and I’ve been on the show and I think I’ve got two nasty messages.”

Her son, she says, has a theory. “He thinks people are too frightened to take me on.” She laughs.

“It’s not the sort of thing that you want your child to say about you.”

*Val McDermid at Dorchester Literature Festival on Saturday October 21, the Dorford Centre, Dorchester, 8pm. Go to for tickets