Last week on Woman’s Hour presenter Jane Garvey said these immortal words: “I wonder if writers know the pleasure they bring”! I would have done an air punch if I was prone to such but instead I gave a small smile (I’m half British and inhibited, even when it’s only the dog & cat watching. And you haven’t seen my cat. He’s a pretty cool customer. The dog? Not so much.)

Anyway, it was a bit of an hallelujah moment for me: not least ‘cos I’ve got a girl crush on Jane Garvey and her soothing tones yet incisive questioning. Of course I know she wasn’t specifically talking about me – but still, it made me smile, so much I tweeted her – and SHE ACTUALLY TWEETED BACK OMG!!!! She did say she was partial to a footballer’s autobiography, and er..I can’t see me ever writing one of them, but still 🙂

So, my joy was because I have long felt that my job – when I can call it such, ie when I’m actually earning owt from writing, which is intermittent – is something I love doing so much but seems so frivolous and unimportant, how can it possibly be ‘worthwhile’. Specially opposed to something like brain surgery, or making a road or teaching a child something (though I do hope I do that too, every day, with my own kids…I teach them loads like how to duck a box round the ear, how to match scarlet with anything, how to – )

And yet I also heard the esteemed author Kate Atkinson on the radio a few weeks ago (yes how I love that little black box that sits unassuming in the corner of almost every room in my house) and she talked of writing being ‘rescue’ and again, that felt very poignant to me.

Because whether she meant rescue for the reader or the writer, for me writing is a life force, without being wanky & pretentious –it’s part of who I am, what I live and breath and I can’t stop doing it (sorry about that), even though my fortunes have been less than outrageous… 🙂

And at the most terrifying moments in my life, when I was very ill and feared I might die; when I left my marriage and feared for my children’s psychological well-being, I kept writing, writing, writing on and on, largely privately, but also for my work – and it helped me make sense of things, it helped me keep my head just about above water. As did reading other writers’ work…

At the height of my treatment for lymphoma, just before my last novel was published, the PR asked me if I wanted to write about my illness. I said no, because I was so shocked and scared, I wasn’t ready, it was private etc – but also the idea of using cancer as a sales tool seemed – unseemly. Now, though, five years on, I may be ready to write about it: just to say to anyone out there suffering, you’re not alone, I got through so you can too.



So after a brief hiatus of around 3 years I thought it might be time to take to the airwaves again. If nothing else, having a blog means I can sound off quietly to myself about stuff like useless bureaucrats / mangled systems that don’t work properly. Moving house twice in a year will do that to you, I’ve found – reduced to the indignities of being a number and not a name… of course if I was in charge, it’d all work properly. To what do I refer? Oh you know, largely council departments, council depts, and er, more bloody council depts…I will sidestep that before I start to rant…

So moving onto, more appropriate bookish things, this week I read an interview with Norwegian author, Karl Ove Knausgaard (link). I tried to read the 1st volume of his My Struggle last summer, largely ‘cos Zadie Smith said it was like literary crack.  What’s not to like, then – a massive hit in a book and no comedown. But it’s not like any crack I’ve tried (ahem). I soldiered on for a bit; fairly interested in him getting illegal beer to a New Year’s Eve party aged 15, an episode which only took around 40 pages, but my editor’s voice kept saying come on Karl Ove, CUT!!!!! Finally after a long description of playing guitars which reminded me no less of (generally male) bores at parties you can’t get away from, I gave up. Time is too short and precious these days to waste on a book I don’t get.

But I’m fascinated by the lavish praise…amazing literary feat/ ground-breaking etc, for essentially a stream of non-linear consciousness about his entire life …so, then, just like a giant disordered diary? In the interview, he talks of SHAME, and half his family not speaking to him since airing all the dirty laundry etc. His current wife had a nervous breakdown cos she didn’t like the furore, so of course he wrote about that too. But isn’t that shameful; transgressing boundaries for – what? Art? The need to be authentic? I hate to cast judgements these days, but I’m struggling to understand MY STRUGGLE. I get that he’s an essentially talented if troubled writer, but you know…all 6 volumes of it (a new one out this week no less, with a 400 page essay on Hitler, in case you hadn’t realised they both wrote a book of the same name). If someone can explain why it’s so revolutionary, other than the ‘honesty’, I’d be pleased to hear. It just reminds me a little  of the confessional journalism I wrote for various papers, often feeling slightly dirty making a buck from my own laundry.  His is just more angsty and ‘intellectual.’  Also he’s not been hauled over hot coals for admitting being a parent is tough /quite boring, whereas if he was female, he’d be in the DAILY MAIL shame corner by now.

MY DIRTY LAUNDRY ALERT!! Look away now if you don’t like: in other news, the 10-year-old got into the big school (wrong terminology – been a long day already) he wanted to – but also got stressed as he was the only child at his primary not to find out on the correct day because YES those bureaucrats at Lewisham didn’t email us – and when I e’d her the next day, she said ‘your letter’s in the post’ even though she COULD HAVE PUT HIM OUT OF HIS MISERY poor wee soul. That is one power-crazed ******* ******* down at the council, same woman who added infinitely to the stress of the move. I’d like to air her dirty etc…

Let’s try Some Knausgaard-esque stuff: In the course of writing this I’ve eaten most of a bag of mini eggs. I hope they didn’t suffer 🙂 Meanwhile, the puppy has eaten the cat flap. Not the cat or its flaps, I hasten to add, but just most of the cat-flap. He knows the cat food is on THAT side, the canny little bugger, so he’s gonna keep chewing ‘til he gets there. But hey, I have news for you, my doggie friend.  Watch this space…(see..well authentic)..

And so finally, to the best bit of the week…OUR NEW MATTRESS!!! And YES! This is QUITE CAITLIN MORAN BUT I FEEL LIKE THIS: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It doesn’t matter that beloved John Lewis were so busy wheeling penguins out they forgot to actually deliver it and it took 6 weeks and many many phone irate polite calls and emails when it should have taken 3, and it cost more than a small kingdom would. Who cares now it’s ACTUALLY HERE!!!  because it caused much angst…

We can go to bed without having to constantly politely negotiate who gets the shit bit.  We can sleep (perchance to dream etc). We can not wake in the night every time the other one so much as blinks (the crappy old mattress responded to any movement like a Ninja roller-coaster). We can stay away from each other if we choose, and we can cuddle up in the middle if we want and NEITHER OF US HAS TO LIE IN THE DIP.  THERE IS NO DIP!! We can just lie, as we are wont to in our bed which we spend, what is it, 40% of our time in – WE CAN LIE FLAT!!!! HURRAH!!!!!

Until next time



Well I never did….I am lucky enough to have been nominated for an award for a short story I wrote HE DID NOT ALWAYS SEE HER. Apparently that means that on July 5 I get to go to a posh dinner in London town (always a good excuse for a spot of shopping) and then they will read some names out and I will feel anxious but pretend to be very cool and fortunately I doubt there will be cameras in my face awaiting a sad response like they do at the Oscars/ BAFTAs then probably someone else will win but I will just be happy to be there and in such good company!! Mainly I want to thank the jolly nice judges for putting me up for the award.



I am not good at updating my blog because I spend so long writing fiction, I can’t always think of real stuff to say!! But I’m heading down to Bristol on Thursday (May 24) for the 2012 Crimefest & I’ll be on a panel on Friday which when I can find the details (ahem) I’ll post.. See you in the (nearly) West Country hopefully, for a pint of cider and a pasty.


Just a quick note to say I will be appearing at Manor House Library in London’s SE13 on Sunday to celebrate the inaugural National Reading Group Day along with the poet Chrissie Gittins.  If you’re lounging around with nothing much to do or you’re in fact rushed off your feet and fancy a breather, a bit of chat about what book you’d take to a desert island and a cup of tea, drop in and see us!

Details here


Sun’s out again, I had a lovely very soft launch for latest opus Fragile Minds and I’ve been lucky enough to be receiving various reviews for the book; if you’re interested, some examples here: Reviewing the Evidence here, Books and Writers here and New Books here (“extremely intelligent thriller – missing the characters already” – thank you, Shona, wherever you may be), CrimeSquad here (I like the phrase “deliciously blunt prose”.).  So far, so good by and large though of course there are criticisms too.  And in case I ever got too complacent, there are inevitably a few Amazon reviewers who apparently hate me, let alone my writing, despite never having met (classic comments include “”she obviously got a book deal because of her media contacts” – oh, if only you knew the truth – and “she needs a ghost writer” – any offers?!)  Which has made me ponder how easy it is to write WHATEVER you want these days because of the internet – and is that a good or a bad thing?  I mean, I’m all for freedom of speech, but there’s a thin line between fact and fiction…which leads me onto this:

On Thursday I did a lecture on Drama Documentary down at Greenwich University.  It involved much complicated downloading of clips (largely so the students could watch more and I could talk less); films we looked at included United 93 about 9/11 which used both actors and real people playing themselves; The Arbor, a brilliantly innovative film about playwright Andrea Dunbar’s tragic life; the much-debated ‘doc’ Catfish and, um, TOWIE ( that masterpiece, The Only Way is Essex to those less in the know).  I mentioned ‘manipulated’ documentaries – see Faking It, Wife Swap etc – and then in the examples I showed, about what was real and what was invented or skewed by the producers.  A fellow lecturer was intrigued by ‘whose truth is real’ (probably more so than the students whom I’m never sure are actually listening, more likely texting mates about who is ‘well sick’: this, apparently, is desirable.  Yep, my mind’s boggling too).  Which leads me onto this:

Yesterday morning, drinking coffee in the conspicuously trendy-dom of Shoreditch (slightly painful and frightening, actually, I find it), I read ex-colleague Adam Curtis’s interview in The Guardian here: his new documentary series is about how computers have not freed us but helped us lose our vision.  He talks about the wonderful/ evil twins (delete appropriately to your personal taste)Facebook & Twitter: “On Facebook & Twitter you are performing to attract people – dancing emotionally on a platform created by a large corporation.”  He goes onto compare our revealing our feelings to Stalin’s socialist realism but at that point in the article, I had to go meet my mate (Ok, he slightly lost me)…it is fascinating though, and I think he’s right.  Who exactly are we tweeting/ Facebooking for – and is it ‘truthful’?!  My publishers constantly harangue me to Tweet – I did sign up a few years ago but I only managed to attract couple of female porn stars (confused but flattered, really, girls!), then promptly lost my password and couldn’t ever seem to log in again (those who know me won’t be surprised at this).

Having watched The Social Network the other night, about the advent of Facebook (and sorry, I must just add, Andrew Garfield is CUTE, and that’s my truth. And the au pair’s), I’ve felt slightly dirty Facebooking this weekend (am sure it will pass) but also noted that the genius inventor Zuckerberg actually did so to attract the attention of an ex-girlfriend who’d just dumped him.  That, for me, kind of sums it up really.


So my 4th novel FRAGILE MINDS – the one I’ve probably sweated most blood and tears over (you may think I’m joking, but er, actually…) is beginning to filter its way into all good bookshops (hmmm.  Discuss..) and here I am again, still standing.  You may notice I’ve been lying even lower (standing, lying – the possibilities are infinite) since my last post in November.  Life took a strange turn of events just after I wrote it – one day it was trundling down one path and then within a matter of hours, it swerved off on a completely different and rather precarious one…suffice to say not really a direction I’d have chosen as it largely involved hospitals.

But…Spring is here now, and things are looking up.  At the risk of sounding slightly insane, I’ve been on a journey that was at times terrifying, but has changed me forever.  I guess sometimes you have to stare into the abyss before you can jump back from it…and I guess I might have been doing more than stare into it – I actually toppled in for a little while.  This week I arrived in Cornwall again for the first time since last August, having at my lowest ebb feared I’d never be here again; I stood in the evening sun on a hill-top overlooking the sea yesterday and had a strange moment where I felt a bit like one of the evaporating vampires in True Blood where they dissolve into light.  All that without the use of hallucinogens.  Brilliant  -and a properly cheap night out.

So FRAGILE MINDS was probably quite appropriate, title wise.  DCI Silver, the lady’s favourite, is back (promoted since LULLABY days but still as inscrutable and Northern.)  I hope it makes sense to everyone apart from me.  I mean, it does make sense to me.  But then, I wrote it.

Happy Spring, and love and light to all.  (don’t worry, I haven’t found God.  Just a few vampires along the way.)



Hello World! The nights are drawing in and you may have noticed I have been in hiding for the summer….lashed to my computer, suffering over my 4th novel FRAGILE MINDS, or rather, suffering over the deadline. It got nearer and nearer and the book didn’t ever seem to quite catch up in terms of being near finished… Now, I am used to deadlines, coming from a TV & journalistic background – when you’re making a documentary scheduled to go out at 8pm on Thurs, no commissioner’s going to buy the line “It’s not quite done yet”; nor will The Independent On Sunday et al accept an article with a giant hole in the middle because you’re still researching How to make Pot Pourri in 3 easy stages (I don’t know, by the way, so don’t ask for help with that one)…less so a live audience turning up to watch a studio show being filmed…they will bay for blood if you try “I’m just struggling with a plot point in Chapter 7 and I forgot to book the main guest so here’s some incidental music”. But a book… I don’t know, it feels different. It’s going to be out there in perpetuity, (or down the Oxfam book shop at least), with my name scrawled across the front and my words printed finally and forever. Part of me is always pleased to see it leave my mind and desk, and yet….I never really want to let it go, because I always feel like it could be better.

And therein, perhaps, lies the problem of writing ‘popular/ commercial’ fiction…I mean, I love my publishers, really (really I do, lovely publishers) and I am still over-awed to see my books in real live actual book-shops, and I am always excited that I make a living by making stuff up, stuff that tumbles round my head and that allows me another world or 2 to live in when this one gets tough. But picking up, for instance, Siri Hustvedt’s book WHAT I LOVED, and reading that in the middle of the night, a book that took her 6 years to write, and 3 completely new drafts (she chucked the first two away, for goodness sake)…well, I am humbled by the skill and beauty of her writing but also slightly envious…what could I produce if I took 6 years, and should I therefore be trying to take that long? (I know I am not married to Paul Auster who might, I guess, have paid the rent while she wrote, but maybe he didn’t, maybe she suffered for her art alone and independently.) Likewise Jonathan Frantzen who just spent 9 years writing FREEDOM (OK, to be honest, that might be pushing it. 9 years is a flipping long time and he also allegedly sits in a dark room with a blindfold on whilst he writes which seems very dedicated and also, sorry Jonathan, slightly weird). Writers like Tolstoy published classics like Anna Karenina in serial form over four years, as did Dickens with many of his works…

A year is a long time but also flashes by the older I get. If I had that whole year to write one book exclusively, well, I’d be a 1/6 of the way with Siri. But real life intercedes, and in that year, as a single working mother, I also have to do some other stuff to keep the wolf from the door (though so far I’ve managed to dodge the webcam in the bathroom idea)…My agent always says she tells her writers “Don’t give up the day job” and indeed, only 7% or something scarily small make a full-time living writing. I am not moaning, don’t get me wrong. I am just speculating about what great works I might produce should I have a little longer in the grand scheme of things to write my stories down..or maybe I would produce exactly the same book. So I’ll suggest that 6 figure advance to my publisher next deal around and then perhaps we could see. I had a really good idea for a book about a Russian lady who falls for a Count and then jumps under a train in lovelorn desperation…any takers?

THE KILLER INSIDE ME: Gratuitous arguments….

So I’d read a lot of stuff about Michael Winterbottom’s new film before it opened, namely Rachel Cooke’s article in The Observer where she interviewed the director after she’d seen The Killer Inside Me, read here, arriving at the lunch table with personal objections. Strange then that he was not the easiest dining partner?! She seemed to think it was odd he was awkward; personally if someone starts a meeting with me with “I object to your book”, I too might be uneasy. Anyway, this week, I watched the film – one particular scene, admittedly, through the cracks in my fingers. (Or rather, the cracks between my fingers). But I forced myself not to look away because I didn’t want to judge something by having not actually seen it. Then I read Barbara Ellen’s piece in The Observer – here. Then I thought a lot about it, and about the woman who stood up at the Sundance Film Festival where it was first screened and apparently cried “Shame on you.” Cooke herself said she had to go and stand outside the cinema because she felt faint. Hmmm. Those scenes aren’t at all enjoyable, but the film’s hardly SAW 3.

In her article, Ellen accuses actresses Jessica Alba & Kate Hudson of being complicit because they’d let themselves be filmed being beaten up- and this apparently is bad for feminism. OK, so here’s the thing. It’s acting and it’s to do with the plot. The film, taken from the book by Jim Thompson, is about a seemingly normal guy Lou Ford who becomes sheriff, gets involved with a prostitute despite being engaged to another woman and because of his deeply troubled childhood, and building events in the town, becomes psychotic. The sheer fact that you are not expecting him to do what he does (and with his own fists) – largely because he’s involved in a very sexual and apparently quite loving relationship with the prostitute – is the EXACT POINT! Would the audience rather he attacked her with a feather duster? Or off-screen and it was reported? If so, you’d lose the drama and the driving force behind the plot.

I don’t think Winterbottom depicted the violence because he’s suggesting it’s a turn on, which Ellen seems to suggest. She complains that none of the male victims are shown to be beaten in the same manner – but then they die in different ways. I don’t think it’s about glorifying violence to women, or about being gratuitous for the sake of it. Instead it’s about the nature of the relationship Lou Ford has with these two women, and how very messed up he is. Here is a man who kills someone and then sits down to read the newspaper in the same room they lie dying. It’s not normal to try and beat someone to death with your own fists, or to read the paper after and that is the point and that’s why Winterbottom is right to keep the fairly brief violent scenes in. He destroys what he loves. They are absolutely intrinsic to the story. Personally, I’ve been more upset by scenes in films that have been less graphic (Clint Eastwood’s Changeling for instance); it just depends on the story and content. If Lou Ford had neatly shot the prostitute in the head or beaten her off-screen, it wouldn’t tell the audience the same story about his character, who is in every single scene of the film. It’s about him, not the violence. It’s about why he perpetrates the violence in that manner. And that’s the point, I feel. It is a hard film, not a romantic comedy or a laugh, but it’s true to itself. Hadley Freeman got it I feel – see here. Having been punched in the face by an ex-boyfriend, I’d agree absolutely, domestic violence is never pretty – but if you want to underline that, you show it how it is. So climb down off your high horses, ladies and gents, and make your own minds up without all the ‘immoral’ hysteria…Remember that every time the bleeding hero jumps up again in Batman/ Snatch/ Lethal Weapon/ Die Hard or the Bourne films, well, actually, they’d probably really be dead.

ps Given all the ‘feminist’ arguments, I feel it’s only right to admit I also watched the film because I heart Casey Affleck (just a little bit). Presumably this is a very bad thing for the sisterhood because I am objectifying him as a sexual object. Or something…

CRIME FEST, BRISTOL 20 – 23 MAY. NEVER TELL anyone I’m going to be there (ha!)

So I’m preparing to talk tomorrow about PUNISHMENTS MEETING THE CRIME: Morality, Society & Justice in crime novels. Obviously am a great expert on this and am spending much time planning what to say to our moderator Steve Mosby and not worrying about what serious crime writers should wear on such serious occasions: twinset and pearls? Two piece suit? Anyway, since my last book NEVER TELL is all about a rather debauched secret society at Oxford University, the kind of society some of our great leaders used to belong too (yep I’m talking about new PM Cameron – & how the hell did that happen, can I just say; + Chancellor Osborne, Boris Johnson et al), I’m completely all over the morality thing. Even though writing some of the more shocking scenes occasionally made me blush. You might think it’s a moot point whether I really write crime; as a lovely (and the only male) member of the New Eltham Library Reading Group said to me last week, having just read my first book LULLABY, “This isn’t really crime, this is just the story of a young mum whose baby is stolen”…the aghast female members quickly turned on him, poor man! “Isn’t it a crime having a stolen baby” one said crossly. I kept quiet in the corner and let them fight it out!

Anyway, if you’re at Crimefest, please do come and say hello; I’ll be the one propping up the bar in the Mariott really sensible and totally sober one (I’m always amazed by how much my fellow Crime Writers drink. Really.)