Review: The Crime Interviews, Vol. 3

The Crime Interviews, Volume 3
Len Wanner

Blurb: If you’re interested in learning about how to write, how to be a writer, or about the writing life in general, what greater resource and pleasure than frank, revealing interviews with some of today’s best-selling authors?

Len Wanner’s acclaimed interview series continues with VOLUME THREE, featuring in-depth interviews with twelve of the leading lights of Scottish crime fiction and with a foreword by William McIlvanney, creator of Jack Laidlaw and the Godfather of tartan noir.

The interviews –

– Peter May talks about writing for television, repairing bad dialogue, researching his China thrillers with the help of the Ministry of Propaganda, and receiving international exposure with a book no British publisher wanted to publish, THE BLACKHOUSE.

– Charles Cumming talks about the rewards of a degree in literature, refining expositional storytelling, researching state secrets at home and abroad, writing the great international spy novel, and being recruited by the SIS.

– Campbell Armstrong talks about going abroad to write about home, giving up on teaching creative writing, getting over the paralysis of a bad sentence, going on stake-outs, giving us his memoirs, and getting commissioned to novelise Indiana Jones.

– Caro Ramsay talks about teaching herself how to write with her back against the wall, learning how to write crime fiction from agents and editors, teaching herself how to compartmentalise, and learning how to finish a book.

– Aline Templeton talks about diving in and out of writing, writing a series of cosy police procedurals based on a subterranean cave system, living in the city yet writing about the countryside, and discovering that a fictional protagonist is a living person.

– Lin Anderson talks about the transferrable skills of teaching mathematics and calculating a career in creative writing, the constants of writing about a female serial protagonist, the variables of forensic science, and the lessons of fictional and factual near-death situations.

– Alex Gray talks about the rewards of writing about a policeman twenty years younger than her, returning to education, researching as she writes, writing about what she doesn’t know, and writing rather than retiring.

– Gillian Galbraith talks about learning to nurture her talent for the uncollaborative nature of writing, letting go of her legal career to write about the limits of institutional justice, and leaving her comfort zone as a way of finding her voice and writing about her home.

– GJ Moffat talks about what remains of his initial impulses and his international influences, the rules broken in most legal thrillers, and the rewards of letting his lawyer-cum-judge-cum-executioner break the rules of his day job.

– Craig Robertson talks about the joys of fiction in and after journalism, the pleasure of writing for himself, the pressure of writing for others, the need for brutality in editing, and the greed for brutality in writing.

– Ken McClure talks about the science of storytelling, the survival rate of a series of medical thrillers, the appeal of being his own agent, his second coming as an e-book bestseller, and his involvement in the identification of Gulf War Syndrome.

– And Frederic Lindsay talks about the best ways to propel and pause plots, invent manner along with matter, make the familiar strange with the weight of experience, and exhaust potential to energise narrative.

Review: I may be accused of bias toward all things Scottish, but I certainly enjoyed this third outing of Wanner’s interviews as much or more than the other two. Interviews depend largely on the subjects, of course, and there’s a great bunch here. But the real important part comes from asking the right questions and not always settling for the answers you get without probing a little more and that’s where Wanner truly shines. Well worth the price — a master class in different approaches to writing well.

~ K. A. Laity