Something in the atmosphere: Ann Cleeves at Mostly Books

It can be a long journey to becoming a household name as a writer. But for Ann Cleeves, who has been writing about a book a year since she was first published in 1986, it also involved a thirteen-hour rough ferry crossing from Aberdeen to the Shetland Islands and a lot of cooking for birdwatchers.

It was finally ‘Raven Black’ the first of her stories set in the Shetland Islands that became her ‘breakthrough novel’ – earning her a Gold Dagger (the Duncan Lawrie International Dagger) from the Crime Writers’ Association.

As well as describing the inspiration behind many of her books at an event at Mostly Books on Wednesday evening, she described the amazingly rapid speed with which her Vera Stanhope series came to the television. It all hapened so fast, once the decision was made, that she thinks of the woman who made it all happen as her fairy godmother.

Not content with having one of her detectives brought to life on the small screen, she now has two - with her Jimmy Perez 'Shetland' Quartet to be televised in November.

So what is it about Ann Cleeve’s books that have made them the ‘must have’ for small screen detective dramas?
Ann told the Mostly Books audience she thought a lot of it was actually down to an error.
‘My publisher made an error with the first Vera Stanhope story ‘Crow Trap’, which meant it never made it into the publisher’s catalogue so not many people were ever aware of it. Many of the books made their way to remainder shops, which was where a scriptwriter bought one to take for a holiday read when she was looking for a book to adapt for television which had a strong female police detective.’
We think there might be a lot more to it than that as Ann Cleeves is definitely one of those authors worth discovering if you like a proper whodunit. 

As well as being able to weave a first-rate mystery, her cast of characters are well-drawn, and, as with both the Vera Stanhope series set in Northumberland and the Shetland series, the sense of place is strong.
Just about the only thing Ann insisted on when she was involved with the television production was that they actually visit Northumberland and many of the places that feature in the stories.

Some of the Shetland-set series was also filmed on the islands, with great support from the Shetland Islands Council. Of course it remains to be seen if the series makes people also want to visit the place, but we have it from Ann that the boat crossing these days is a breeze.

1 comment:

  1. I left Mostly Books having decided that Shetland will definately be on my visit list. Thanks for a brilliant evening.