Glasgow Writers: Denise Mina
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Back in March, 2013 I was lucky to catch hold of Denise Mina, one of Glasgow’s most successful crime writers, for a chat about her work because she is exceptionally busy with writing projects and some pressing family duties. When I met her for coffee in Heart Buchanan on Byres Road (a favourite haunt of Denise’s, which sadly has since closed down), she was busy to’ing and fro’ing, organizing tickets for her aunties to see her latest play, Driving Manuel, at A Play, A Pie and A Pint in OranMor, I was going to – right after our chat.
Prior to the show, Denise quickly filled me in on the many fascinating writing projects she has on the go. Not least of all her latest book The Red Road ; set in the context of the demolition of this notorious high-rise in Glasgow’s East End. Due to be published in June, 2013.
Denise also writes graphic novels for DC Comics and is currently adapting Steig Larson’s books into three comics. She has just finished the first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and is half way through the second.
She’s got quite a balancing act going on as she is also preparing to participate in Glasgow’s Book Festival, Aye Write, on 15th April, 2013, when she will be talking to David Hewson, author of the popular book and television series, The Killing. Denise touched on some of the difficulties of adaptation such as: ‘being true to the author’ and ‘holding yourself back’. It sounds as though the discussion with Hewson on the topic of adapting stories from screen to page and vice versa will be fascinating.
I’ve been to see Denise at Aye Write on more than one occasion and particularly enjoyed her interview with Sara Paretsky, another very talented crime writer. Denise is a great communicator and the two women charmed the audience in the packed main hall of the Mitchell Library.
Denise also pops up regularly on our television screens and earlier this year, when she was one of the guests on The Review Show, she struck up great rapport with John Sergeant, the broadcaster. Both were insightful and entertaining as they discussed subjects as diverse as the BBC’s Yes, Prime Minister and Tarantino’s Django Unchained.
Apart from admiring Denise on screen and stage, I enjoy her books. I was hooked way back when she produced Garnethill, winner of Crime Writers’ Association John Creasy Dagger for the best first crime novel (1998), and the first book in her Garnethill Trilogy.
It’s very enjoyable reading books set in a city you know well and Denise Mina offers Glasgow up in all its grimy glory. Her characters are varied, vivid and realistic and I particularly like her female heroines: Maureen O’Donnell, the vulnerable but tenacious investigator, Paddy Meehan, the determined young journalist and Detective Sergeant Alex Morrow, battling for truth and justice , whilst dealing with her own demons and the demands of family life.
Alex Morrow features in Gods and Beasts, Mina’s last book, which I’ve just finished. In this she displays considerable black humour, drawing upon recognizable public figures to depict good and bad, sometimes existing side by side. The book is a great read and I was tickled to see Paddy Meehan leaping from one literary text to another.
It seems as though Denise hasn’t stopped to draw breath for quite a while. When I asked her what she was most excited about at the moment, she replied: ‘Getting work finished and having a holiday.’ However, she has a list of interesting activities lined up. She has been making a documentary film, Multum In Parvo, about her very large extended family, which includes shooting all seventy of them taking over Glasgow Film Theatre to view the production.
“My cousin and I made a film interviewing our elderly relatives about a family of thirteen living in a small three bedroom council house. Then we filmed a screening of the family watching the film and intercut the documentary with their reactions.”
A real family affair with ‘another cousin, who is a musician doing the sound and music’ – it sounds as though we can expect a lot of fun from this production.
In the meantime other pleasures were awaiting and Denise and I both shot off to A Play, A Pie and A Pint, to catch Driving Manuel – she warned me that it was ‘very creepy’. It certainly was.
Pat Byrne, April, 2013.
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