The BBC is airing a new documentary on BBC One tonight (29th November) about women who write crime fiction, featuring prominent crime writers Val McDermid, Patricia Cornwell, Martina Cole, husband-and-wife author team Nicci French, Sarah Phelps and Paula Hawkins in interview with presenter Alan Yentob.
The aim of the programme “Serial Killers: The Women Who Write Crime Fiction” is to explore why – with 21 billion crime novels sold last year – the readers of crime are mostly women and more often than not, are the writers too. The same riddle earlier this year sparked the launch of a new women’s crime festival in London, Killer Women, set up by a collective of female crime writers including Hawkins.
The BBC’s programme begins with an introduction to the study of forensics and continues in a series of interviews with the authors, and with one editor, Trapeze’s Sam Eades, as well as with forensic professionals actively dealing with cases, such as Professor Sue Black who has been assisting McDermid with her research for 20 years.
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.
Words by LORAINE PATRICK
Photograph by FRAZER RICE
Earlier this year Val McDermid was honoured with an outstanding contribution to Crime Fiction award.
Previous winners of the prestigious title, given at the Theakstons Harrogate Crime Writing Festival, include Ruth Rendell, P.D. James and Reginald Hill. The Scots writer is up there with the best but a more down to earth woman you couldn’t wish to meet.