Interview with Quintin Jardine
Quintin Jardine is one the biggest names in Scottish crime fiction with a worldwide readership. Best known for his three detective series of novels all of which have been published by Headline.
You can find out more about his books in our Top Ten Scottish crime writers section by clicking here.
His latest, Bob Skinner mystery, The Bad Fire is out now. Here’s a taster…
A shocking murder case brings danger too close to home for ex-cop Bob Skinner in this gripping Scottish crime thriller
Nine years ago, divorcee Marcia Brown took her own life. A pillar of the community, she had been accused of theft, and it’s assumed that she was unable to live with the shame.
Now her former husband wants the case reopened. Marcia was framed, he says, to prevent her exposing a scandal. He wants justice for Marcia. And Alex Skinner, Solicitor Advocate, and daughter of retired Chief Constable Sir Robert Skinner, has taken on the brief, aided by her investigator Carrie McDaniels.
When tragedy strikes and his daughter comes under threat, Skinner steps in. His quarry is about to discover that the road to hell is marked by bad intentions…
The Crime Hub caught up with Quintin.
Quintin, you have nearly fifty books under your belt. Have you developed a finely tuned writing routine?
Nothing about me is finely tuned. I have a body clock that tells me when it’s time to get going. I tend to work in the morning, slowly at first, that being a minimum of 1000 words a day.
As the book progresses I will speed up; the last 15000 words can appear over the course of a long weekend.
You studied for a law degree back in the day. Did you learn anything that you later used in any of your novels?
The only thing I learned was never to use the phrase ‘back in the day’. The first person I ever killed was a lawyer, an advocate to be precise, in Advocates Close, in Edinburgh. That felt positive so I did it again. Someone told me that by the time my third book was published, members of the Faculty of Advocates were buying them to find out if they were still alive.
Possibly the one thing I did learn as a law student is that when police in Scotland investigate crime they do so as agents of the Procurator Fiscal, who is in turn a servant of the Lord Advocate, our public prosecutor.
Why do you think Scottish crime fiction has such an international appeal?
A dozen crime writers will give you a dozen answers to that one. Mine is that there is something in the Scottish character that lends itself to the genre and is transmitted through it. I spend some of my life in Spain, having family there.
Where I live is very laid back, and whenever I return home I’m all the more aware of a natural edginess in the Scottish psyche, an inbuilt aggression that hangs in the air of our cities. ‘You lookin’ at me?’ is associated with Joe Pesci in ‘Goodfellas’, but it would have been more realistic if he’d said it in a Glasgow accent. As an example of this phenomenon I offer you Francis Begbie.
In the time you’ve been writing detective novels has it been a challenge to keep up with evolving policing techniques?
I said this for years, until I got tired and gave up. I tell stories about criminals and those who pursue them, but I have never set out to write police procedurals.
I don’t even like the term. I make them up, and in the process I am not too bothered about the development of the resources available to detectives, although I don’t ignore it. One thing that has evolved is my style. I have never read one of my books in printed or electronic form from cover to cover. Once it’s published, that’s it. If I need to refer back to something I know where to find it, and when I do I realise how much my style has changed.
I’ve just made a promotional video for my publisher; in the process I realised how bloody my early work was, how high the body count was, and how much of the City of Edinburgh I’ve blown away in my time.
Do you think our attitudes towards the police have changed over the last twenty years?
I can only answer that in Scottish terms. I believe that our attitudes to the police have changed significantly since the creation of Police Scotland, our national force. I live in a rural community and my perception is that it has made us feel less safe. In reality there are probably just as many vehicles patrolling East Lothian at night as there were in the days of Lothian and Borders Police, but that’s not our perception.
Under the old system of eight regional forces, the citizenry pretty much knew where the Chief Constable’s office was located, and could even put a name to him. Today most of us don’t have a clue about either. I think I could tell you both, but I can’t be certain; one of them might have changed since last week. If you want me to clear all the bees from my bonnet, a major one is the Scottish Government’s insistence on branding police vehicles in Gaelic as well as English. Poileas Alba, FFS! It’s not only police vehicles; Ambulances are now Ambaileanses as well.
Of our population of 5.42 million (according to the CIA World Factbook, a great research document) no more than 60,000 are Gaelic speakers, and you can bet that they are all bilingual. If all the public money that has been spent on these futile exercises had been spent on policing and the front-line NHS, we’d be a safer and healthier place.
Who are your favourite crime writers?
At home Ian Rankin, Denzil Meyrick and Douglas Skelton. Outwith Scotland, as we say when we want to confuse the English, or furth of Scotland if we want to confuse them even more, Michael Connelly, Linwood Barclay and Kathy Reichs. Historically, Dashiell Hammett. To me, he’s the father of the genre.
I know you’ve seen our top Scottish crime writers – are there any other authors who would have made your list?
I’m amazed that Chris Brookmyre isn’t on it; I suspect he is too. The biggest omission is the doyenne, Allana Knight. She may not be Scottish born but she’s one of ours.
Want to know more about Scottish crime fiction – read our interview with Denzil Meyrick.