Raymond Soltysek's Blog

Val McDermid / Short Stories, Aye Write!, 6/3/11

Posted in fiction by raymondsoltysek on March 6, 2011
Val McDermid

Val McDermid

Val McDermid is my favourite crime writer – along with Denise Mina, that is.  I don’t need to know the title of her latest book (it’s called “Trick of the Dark”, by the way) – I just need to know there’s a new McDermid out, and I’m off to the bookshop.

She’s a polished guest, covering everything from the influence of the Chalet Schools books (which several people pick up on – what is it about them?) to her early Oxford days to her writing process to being stuck in a perspex box at the airport because her prosthetic knees set off the alarm (providing the basis for her next standalone novel).  Funny, witty and effortlessly charming.

Cynthia Rogerson, Ronald Frame and Carl Macdougall discuss the short story in the graveyard slot, hosted by Adrian Searle.  It’s an interesting discussion, and the old chestnut of short stories being unpublishable comes up again.  As Searle points out, new media may well breathe new life into the form, though my feeling is it has never really gone away, especially in Scotland.

It’s nice to see Carl again, for three reasons.  First, his novel “The Casanova Papers” is one of my favourite books, a beautifully written and utterly humane love story.  Every time I see him, I promise myself I’ll go back and read it again, but re-reading has never been my style.

Carl Macdougall

Carl Macdougall

Secondly, he is a wonderful reader.  So many writers irritate me with their lack of preparation for readings to a public they want to buy their books.  Nerves are fine, we can forgive them; but writers who can’t be bothered to print out their work with the page throws sorted so that they don’t have to stop in mid sentence to turn the page deserve a good finger wagging.  Carl paces his work fantastically, varying his intonation and lulling the listener into his world with that seductive accent of his.

Thirdly, he was kind enough to write a reference for me to the Arts Council which helped me get a big award in 2010.  I reckon I owe him a pint at least.  Or dinner.

Nice too to bump into Gerrie Fellows, who was the hugely supportive Writer in Residence when I began attending the Paisley Writers’ Group in the early 90’s.  She’s just a lovely person, and her book “The Powerlines” contains some of my favourite poetry of the last 20 years.   It’s gorgeous.

Oh well, it’s late, so I’m off to bed with my new, signed Val.  No doubt I’ll still be awake at 2am…

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