'The Queen Of Noir' – Booklist
I hate these mini biographies because if you only tell the good bits you sound conceited - and if you tell the bad bits
people greet. Greet is the Scottish word for crying, or at least it was in my home town of Dundee.
I went to primary school there and the gym teacher voted me Least Likely To Succeed.Luckily my English teacher
disagreed and named me the Master Storyteller. A research student did a dissertation on my creativity and gave me
sweets - this started a lifelong addiction to chocolate for which I may yet sue.
Like many late developers, I was still being labelled with Least Likely To Succeed at secondary school where I bore
an increasingly-strong resemblance to Stephen King's Carrie. I left at fifteen with five O-Grades and worked as an
office junior, a clerical assistant, a post office clerk and a dental nurse, but I always had my eyes glued to the clock
(ouch!) and had Friday on my mind.
During these years I sat an English Higher at nightclasses and got an A. Encouraged, I went back to college at age
nineteen and got two further Highers in History and Economics and an A-Level English. I was the only person to pass
the A-Level so my lecturer phoned me up and said I should think about going to university.
I thought about it for a nanosecond but did nothing. I was a labourer's child and had been told all my life that only
middle class people went to university. Instead, I got a job as an editorial assistant on a woman's magazine. I enjoyed
editing the medical, gardening and problem pages but missed the essay-writing that I'd done in college and realised I
preferred the academic life.
So I went to Dundee University and gained a Master of the Arts degree in English and Social Administration. The
latter included criminology which complimented my obsession with true crime.
After graduation, I started working with battered and emotionally-abused women. This was a year-long post and at the
end of it I decided to do a postgraduate diploma in Adult & Community Education at Edinburgh University. I'd already
done some voluntary work in Adult Basic Education helping adults learn to read and write.
Towards the end of my postgraduate course, I had to produce a dissertation on Adult Returners To Work. At one
stage an Employment Officer asked each of us "What would you do with your life if you could do anything you
wanted? If you didn't have to please your parents or your partner or listen to what your teachers said?" I felt my eyes
fill with tears and admitted that I'd always wanted to write.
After graduation I heard of the Enterprise Allowance Scheme which offered new-start businesses forty pounds a week
for their first year. But I also knew of another would-be writer who'd been turned down because the official
who interviewed him said that writers didn't qualify for the scheme. I went along and told them of all the jobs I'd had - and
almost lost - and all the courses I'd taken. There were violins playing in the background by the end and the staff were
slashing their wrists.
So I was officially endorsed and started writing eight days a week. The ideas must have been building up during the
Post Office Years because they poured onto the typewriter. I sold everything from health journalism to lifestyle
features to humorous verse. I also tutored in non-fiction for several years and sold short stories to literary, erotic and
But getting that first book taken on was still hell - remember this is the industry which turned down George Orwell's
satirical Animal Farm with the words 'animal stories don't sell' and who told J.K. Rowling that there was no interest in
wizards. Undaunted (oh okay, seriously daunted but unable to qualify for any other profession) I persevered and my
published books are all in this site’s Book Gallery.
Every time that I make an overnight trip to the doughnut factory (er, fitness studio) I return to find emails from
journalists about to go to press who need last minute photographs. So please feel free to use the images below. The
photographer doesn’t require a credit - indeed, he’s gone into hiding - but if you need a name for your files, mine will