Denise Mina: The Crime Author Who Learned to Read at 10 years Old
Denise Mina (UK) has lived all over the world: Glasgow, London,
Paris, Holland. Her father’s engineering job saw her move 21 times over 18
years. She dropped out of school at age 16 and worked several dead-end jobs
before heading back to school and earning a law degree at Glasgow University.
She got the idea to write her debut novel, Granethill, (1998) while she
was writing her PhD thesis on the ascription of mental illness to female
offenders and that novel earned her the John Creasy Dagger for Best
First Crime Novel. From there, she became a writer
full-time and won multiple awards including The Martin Beck Award (2011) and
Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year Award (2012) for The End of
Wasp Season, another Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year
(2013) for Gods and Beasts and the Gordon Burn Prize (2017) for The
Long Drop, which she presents at this year’s Brisbane Writers Festival. For
someone who hadn’t learned to read until age 10, she has accomplished an
impressive oeuvre of writing.
Mina goes against the typical trend of crime fiction, which
usually sees a male detective in the protagonist role. Her popular Alex Morrow
series follows a female police detective in Glasgow; The Paddy Meehan series
follows a female newspaper reporter as she uncovers crime. As she tells the Scottish
Review of Books
Garnethill: “I wanted to write something about a woman who had agency.
Women in crime fiction at that time never had agency; they were always being
saved.” As a writer of tartan noir, of course her latest book, The
Long Drop, would be set in Glasgow. This is her first foray into true
crime, about the serial killer Peter Manual, the third-last person to be hanged
Mina is a crime writing gem and not to be missed at this
year’s Festival. Hear her discuss the idea of guilt alongside Ceridwen Dovey (In
the Garden of Fugitives) on Saturday 8 September at 4:30pm. She will
also take part in a crime discussion with Aoife Clifford (Second Sight)
on Sunday 9 September at 11:30am.