Some Of The Best Scottish Crime Writers
Val McDermid is one of the most successful writers in the Scottish Tartan Noir genre, a category typified by hard-hitting crime thrillers. She was born in Kirkcaldy, Fife in 1955. After completing her education at St. Hilda’s College, Oxford, she worked as a journalist.
She published her first novel, Report for Murder, at the age of thirty-two. Her novels contain explicit descriptions of torture and violence and are heavily influenced by her feminist views. The Mermaid Singing provided the inspiration for the hugely successful television series Wire in the Blood with the actor Robson Green in the leading role.
Other notable thrillers include How the Dead Speak (2019), Dead Beat (1992) and The Last Temptation (2002) and feature characters such as the journalist, Lindsay Gordon and DCI Karen Pine. A life-long supporter of Raith Rovers, Val is now a director of the football club.
She has also been instrumental in establishing the annual Harrogate Crime Writers Festival.
Born in 1960 in Cardenden, Fife, Ian Rankin grew up in Cowdenbeath where his father ran his own grocery shop.
On leaving university Rankin took a variety of jobs before moving to the French countryside with the intention of writing traditional adventure stories. Instead, he discovered a talent for crime thrillers and in 1986 he published his first entitled The Flood.
The following year saw the publication of Knots and Crosses, the first in an epic series of novels, currently numbering twenty-two, featuring the enigmatic character, Inspector Rebus. Set in Edinburgh and the surrounding area of Lothian, ten of these thrillers including Tooth and Nail (1992), Set in Darkness (2011) and In a House of Lies (2018) have been televised in the popular series, Inspector Rebus. The success of his Tartan Noir crime thrillers earned Rankin an OBE in 2002.
Stuart MacBride was born in Dumbarton in 1969. He grew up in Aberdeen, the Granite City that provides the setting for his crime thrillers. Following his university studies in architecture, Stuart became a graphic designer.
His admiration for the Jack Frost series written by RD Wingfield prompted Stuart to try writing his own stories. The result was Cold Granite, the first novel to feature his main character, Detective Sergeant Logan MacRae. Other novels in the series such as In the Cold Dark Ground (2016) and Shatter the Bones (2011) have been joined by the sixteenth Logan MacRae mystery, All that’s Dead (2019).
The thriller, A Dark so Deadly (2017), was set in the fictitious town of Oldcastle. Recurring themes of violence, torture and mutilation firmly place MacBride’s thrillers in the Tartan Noir genre.
Jardine’s home town is Motherwell in North Lanarkshire.
Although he studied for a law degree, he drifted through a variety of occupations including media relations and journalism. At the age of forty-eight in 1993, Jardine finally embarked on a stable career as a crime thriller novelist with the publication of Skinner’s Rules. He developed the main character, Bob Skinner, described as the toughest policeman in Scotland, through several novels. These include Grievous Angel (2011), Game Over (2017), Autographs in the Rain (2001) and Skinner’s Ghosts (1998). Jardine created two more series featuring the characters Oz and Primavera Blackstone.
The series featuring Oz Blackstone in particular has a rich vein of black comedy. Titles in its nine year run include Poisoned Cherries (2002) and A Coffin for Two (1997). Thrillers including As Serious As Death (2013) and Inhuman Remains (2009) feature Primavera Blackstone. Quintin enjoys playing snooker has homes in Spain and Scotland.
Denzil Meyrick was born in Glasgow in 1965.
After University he decided to follow in his parents’ footsteps with a career in the police force of Strathclyde. A back injury later forced him to change careers and he had several occupations including journalism before managing an engineering company and a distillery. Meyrick’s varied career path has influenced his novels providing settings, plots and characters.
His work often builds layers of suspense as the characters thread their way through fast-paced action. Touches of black wit and humour add to the atmosphere as surprising turns in the plots are revealed.
Meyrick’s first novel, Whisky from Small Glasses, was launched in 2012, the first of seven thrillers set in Kinloch, a fictional town providing the backdrop for Detective Chief Inspector Jim Daley. Titles include The Rat Stone Serenade (2016), The Last Witness (2014) and The Relentless Tide (2018). He has also written three collections of short tales including One Last Dram before Midnight (2017).
Denise Mina was born in East Kilbride in 1966.
Her father’s job as an engineer in the oil industry caused her to have an unsettled family life with more than twenty homes during her childhood. On leaving school Denise had a succession of low paid, menial jobs before deciding to study law, eventually becoming a lecturer in criminology. She used her knowledge to write a crime thriller, Garnethill in 1998.
By 2001, she had added Resolution and Exile to the small series. One of her most popular characters, Patricia Meehan, features in The Dead Hour (2006), The Field of Blood (2005) and The Last Breath (2007). The Alex Morrow series includes Blood, Salt, Water (2014) and continues with Conviction published in 2019. Her crime thrillers are based around powerful female characters and show a great attention to detail as the plots gradually unfold.
Paisley-born, and like her parents, Karen Campbell also became a police officer after studying at the University of Glasgow.
Drawing on a lifetime’s experience of police procedures, she began writing crime thrillers. Her writing style has been enhanced by the skills she learned when completing a master’s degree in creative writing which she completed while raising her family.
Her narrative is highly detailed allowing her readers to immerse themselves in plots and events that are believable and realistic. Her talent for keen observation has enabled her to create characters such as Sergeant Anna Cameron that have depth and originality. Sergeant Cameron appears in Campbell’s debut series of four thrillers alongside other realistic characters such as Jamie and Cath Worth.
Her first publication in 2008 at the age of forty-one was entitled The Twilight Time. Proof of Life, Shadowplay and After The Fire completed the series by 2011. Her subsequent novels have not followed the Tartan Noir crime thriller genre.
As a member of a younger generation of crime thriller novelists, Ed James opted for the convenience of self-publishing his work while forging a career in the IT industry.
His regular employment involved lengthy commuter journeys and he used the time to write Ghost in the Machine in 2012 which achieved remarkable success as a downloadable e-book. He continued self-publishing the subsequent novels in his first series which catalogue the adventures of the central character, Scott Cullen. The intricate plots of each novel chart Cullen’s progress in the police force as he investigates crimes in and around Edinburgh.
A prolific writer, Ed completed Devil in the Detail in the same year as his first novel, then followed in 2013 with a further two Scott Cullen appearances in Dyed in the Wool and Fire in the Blood. James’ success continued unabated with further publications including Heroes and Villains (2018) and Cowboys and Indians (2015).
Anna Smith was born in Lanarkshire in 1958.
Although she admits to never reading crime thrillers, her own work is based on a wealth of experience gained reporting on unpleasant incidents during her twenty-five year journalistic career. She decided to become a full-time writer after being involved in a serious car crash while driving on a motorway.
Her early work displays a highly personal realism as she based her most famous character, an investigative journalist named Rosie Gilmour on herself. Her first novel, Spit Against the Wind, was published in 2003. Set in Glasgow, it explores themes such as paedophile priests and family violence. Rosie Gilmour’s investigations continue in The Homecoming (2004), Scream in the Dark (2013), To Tell the Truth (2014) and the double publication in 2017 of The Hit and Death Trap.
The most successful so far of the Rosie Gilmour tales is the 2011 thriller, The Dead Won’t Sleep. A new trilogy featuring the character of Kelly Casey was published during 2018 and 2019. Anna lives in both Ireland and Scotland.