Val McDermid, chair of this year’s judges, hails a selection that crosses divide between arts and sciences.
Crime writer Val McDermid, who is chairing the judges for this year’s Wellcome book prize, has criticised the divide between arts and sciences in the UK’s education system, speaking out as the longlist for the £30,000 award was announced.
In an interview with the Guardian about the longlist, which identifies the best science writing across fiction and nonfiction, The Wire in the Blood author said: “Science is clearly something that we need to be focusing our energy on, because that is where the economic future of the country lies and we really should be driving our education towards it – but that does not mean we should turn our back on the arts.”
Citing her own education in Scotland, McDermid said she feared the modern curriculum left little opportunity for students to be creative and investigate things that engage their interest “for the joy of it”.
“I have concerns about what is happening in education,” added the author, who has a son at school. “Everything is so curriculum-led now that there is very little opportunity for teachers to encourage students to go off and discover things for themselves.”
Developments in education, she added, meant that the Wellcome prize – one of the richest in the UK – was more important than ever because it focuses on making science accessible through both fiction and nonfiction.
The 12 books chosen for the 2017 longlist are split between seven factual and five fiction titles, ranging from Victorian gothic in Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent to Jo Marchant’s Cure, which investigates how the mind can cure the body. French novelist Maylis de Kerangal’s blow-by-blow account of a heart transplant in Mend the Living is also longlisted, and is the first foreign-language book to be considered for the award.
Winner of – Anthony Award for Best Critical/Non-Fiction book at Bouchercon in New Orleans.
McDermid, Val.Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime. Grove. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9780802123916. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780802191052. CRIME
Using historical examples, author McDermid brings to life the various subspecialties within forensic science to show how, and how well, the theories work in practice. The distinct treatment—one chapter on entomology, the next on pathology, and so on—and the juxtaposition within the chapters of histories and case studies produces the experience of reading an introductory forensic science textbook, minus all the colorful photos and elucidative marginalia. While this might leave academic readers feeling shortchanged, average readers will be more than satisfied with a no-frills primer. Additionally, McDermid’s experience as a crime writer and former journalist allows her to present the facts of the individual illustrative cases in compelling ways. Currency of the material is ensured through the use of recent court cases and consultation with practicing forensic scientists.
VERDICT: This title will primarily be relevant to readers with a general interest in forensic science/criminalistics, casual academics, true crime aficionados, and fans of McDermid’s other works.(LJ 6/15/16)—Ricardo Laskaris, York Univ. Lib., Toronto
What do you get when you put two heavyweights of the Crime Fiction world together on one stage at Humber Mouth? Chemistry and then some. Val McDermid and Mark Billingham played off each other like they’d been doing a double act for years.
With thirty novels ‘not out’, endless radio plays and dramas Val McDermid is a true doyenne of the genre. Her books are read worldwide and her Wire in the Blood series found critical and popular acclaim on TV as well as the page, with Geordie actor Robson Green brilliantly taking the role of Dr. Tony Hill. Speaking about her Lifetime Achievement Award Val says,‘You normally have to die before you get one of those.’ It was actually Mark Billingham who presented her with it at Harrogate Crimewriting Festival, she explains how having been part of ‘Harrogate’ since it began, she is especially pleased with that one.
Mark Billingham is also no stranger to success, with sixteen novels to his name, including the deeply disturbing Thorne series, with David Morrissey in the title role, which debuted on Sky One in 2010. He was presented with the UK’s top crime-fiction award the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the year for Lazybones in 2005.
In conversation with Nick Quantrill – a crime fiction writer who set his acclaimed Joe Geraghty series right here on the streets of Hull – the two bestselling authors have been showered with accolades and awards, but you wouldn’t think it to hear them. Incredibly likeable, open ,honest and straightforward about their work they delight, entertain and even thrill, the Hull Central Library crowd.
Between the three of them they talk TV adaptations with Val saying ‘First time I sat down with Robson and co. I thought these people really get it.’ She continues, ‘As long as the tone of the book is still there, and there is not a dislocation between the book and the television it works.’
You normally have to die before you get one of those
Reminding us that it doesn’t always work Val explains how Reg Hill did his best not to let any of his fellow authors see the first incarnation of the much loved Dalziel and Pascoe with by all people, Hale and Pace.
The two authors also discuss the importance of having standalone novels as well as the highly anticipated series of books, often featuring one detective.