Writing Contemporary Scottish Fiction


I am a keen reader of crime fiction, particularly series crime. I enjoy returning to the same cast of characters as they endeavour to solve a variety of crimes, while fielding the personal and family issues that we all recognise in our own lives.


In recent years the genre has taken off, increasing its shelf space in bookshops and vying with Romance to be the largest-selling genre. There are now literary festivals devoted solely to crime fiction whose authors spend an increasing proportion of their time travelling round the country, meeting readers at literary events. Recently, Dundee University has launched an MLitt in Crime Writing, in addition to their existing Masters’ programme in Writing Practice.


I think we can safely say that crime fiction is here to stay.


And I hope so because this is my chosen genre. Having penned two police procedural novels I am now planning the third in the series and thoroughly enjoying my research into the dark recesses of the criminal mind.


For those who know me, this may seem an odd choice. I am not naturally bloodthirsty and shrink from the darkest, most grisly tales. But I do like a puzzle and I enjoy researching topics I know little about in order to drip information through my writing. The hope is that, if it’s a discovery for me, it will likewise intrigue the reader. And then there’s the satisfaction gained from tying up loose ends at the conclusion of a novel. In literary fiction the ending may be vague or open-ended but this tends not to be the case with crime. We readers like to see justice served.


In the 1948 British film of Terence Rattigan’s play, The Winslow Boy, the character of the barrister, Sir Robert Morton famously says, “Let right be done.” It’s a quote that does not date. In our increasingly legislative society, we pass laws to prevent and punish wrongdoing as we strive for fairness and equality in all aspects of life.


As crime-writers, we satisfy the need for right to be done in the worlds we create, even if we cannot always see this mirrored in the real world. The writer Ann Cleeves said recently that “crime fiction is reassuring in an age of chaos”. This is undoubtedly true. Indeed, I would go further and say that we like to live vicariously, through our detectives, trying to solve the puzzle ourselves, from the safety and comfort of our own firesides. And there is almost as much joy in guessing correctly as there is in being surprised by a well-crafted denouement.


The appetite of readers for crime fiction seems not to diminish. As a crime-writer, I say long may it continue.

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