Queen of the murder mystery Val McDermid is back on home ground when she returns to Derbyshire for a Crime Writers’ Lunch, one of the highlights of Buxton International Festival’s Book Weekend later this month.
Val, who created the Wire in the Blood TV series starring Robson Green, lived in Buxton for 12 years, and set one of her best-selling thrillers, A Place of Execution, in the town.
“I loved living there,” said Val, who was born into a working class family in Scotland and became the first Scottish state school pupil to go to Oxford University.
“It was always a friendly town. I loved the market. I loved the opera house. I loved the fact you could get straight out into the country. I lived on Green Lane – you could just cross the street and walk up through the woods to Solomon’s Temple. There was that sense of being able to walk out of your front door and be somewhere else.”
Despite Val’s love of the town, her main character wasn’t keen at all: “That’s the way it goes, you see. People think that the views of your central character are the same as your views but that’s not always the case. Kate Brannigan is a city girl – doesn’t like being more than ten minutes’ drive from a Marks & Spencers food hall!”
The lunch at the Old Hall Hotel in Buxton on November 26 will see Val in conversation with fellow crime writers Denise Mina, who wrote the Garnethill, Paddy Meehan and Alex Morrow series, and Sarah Ward, who sets her DC Connie Childs mysteries in the Peak District.
Women have always been well represented in crime-writing, says Val, whose latest book is Insidious Intent.
“I think when we’re little girls, we learn that we don’t get what we want by confrontation,” she said.
“Little boys fight for things. Little girls find other, more manipulative, more devious ways, I suppose you’d say, of getting what they want. And I guess that mindset, the understanding of that mindset, allows for the creation of complex plots and complex storytelling.
“I hate to make generalisations, because someone will then leap up and give five examples of why they’re wrong, but in general I think women crime writers tend to write more complex plots and men’s novels tend to be more linear.”
But there’s no gender barriers among crime writers – and despite their murderous interests, very little back-stabbing.
“We’re pals,” she said. “Mostly because almost all of us have come to the genre because we love it. We start off as crime readers before we become crime writers, so you’re always hanging out with people whose work you’ve read and whose work you enjoy, and that does lead towards a greater conviviality.
“Crime writers are definitely the party animals of the literary world!”
n Tickets for the Crime Writers’ Lunch are priced £40 and are available from www.buxtonfestival.co.uk/events/crime-lunch.