Scotia’s queen of crime reaches new heights – from the Red Road flats to the BBC and beyond

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NEVER meet your heroes – that’s what you’re told. I once missing out on the chance of speaking to Joe Strummer and I’ve never forgotten it.

So when the opportunity came to interview Scottish crime queen Denise Mina I didn’t hesitate.

Denise is the talent behind multiple books, graphic novels, TV series, plays, documentaries and more.

She’s won a plethora of prizes and plaudits from Sweden to the Deep South of America.

To say she’s talented is an understatement, but she’s also enjoyed a relatively modest profile in her homeland.

That is changing though – Denise is appearing at a number of events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and a second BBC TV series of her work was broadcast to rave reviews last week.

She is also enjoying ecstatic notices for her new book – ‘The Red Road’ – an edge-of-the-seat, intelligent thriller set partly against the imposing backdrop of the famous flats.

Denise told the Herald: “I went up to look at them and they are amazing. They look like the Wicker Man. I’ve known people who have lived in them. They’re not bad flats.

“It just feels like things are really changing in the community, that time is passing.”

Denise has now had two books adapted and broadcast to great acclaim on the BBC as series one and two of ‘The Field of Blood’.

She is also working on graphic novel adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s phenomenally-successful Millennium trilogy – featuring ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’.

She revealed: “The estate of Stieg Larsson approached my agent in New York and asked would I be interested in any way in getting involved.

“I said I would love to do that. I think they were genuinely surprised.”

She added: “I do very well in Sweden. It’s a fascinating country.

“I’m a political writer and I’m choosing to write crime fiction because people read it for entertainment.”

Denise also won a number of hearts when she took on scripting duties for one of the comic world’s ultimate lost boys – John Constantine.

She produced spine-tingling tales for ‘Hellblazer’, which were incredible – collected as ‘Empathy is the Enemy’ and ‘The Red Right Hand’.

Denise recalled: “We set up a website and the next day I got an e-mail from DC Comics asking would I be interested in writing ‘Hellblazer’. Of course I thought it was a joke.

“I said I’d eat my own guts to write ‘Hellblazer’!

“It was brilliant. I loved ‘Hellblazer’ so much. It was a pure joy.”

It’s Denise’s eclectic background – and her devastating Scottish charm, wit and smarts – that will make her one of the must-see speakers at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which this year is offering ‘Stripped’ – a celebration of comics, art and graphic novels.

Denise said: “I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a lovely time to catch up with pals. It’s always really stimulating.

“Stripped is so forward thinking. Edinburgh has really picked it up.”

Denise will be speaking about her work on the Stieg Larsson graphic novels and adapting books for television.

She will also speak at the event ‘The Dying Days Of The Red Road’, about her latest thriller tomorrow (Thursday).

The book takes battle-scarred Alex Morrow – a Glasgow cop unafraid to tackle social injustice and the dark side of society – from the infamous flats to the heart of a mystery spanning years.

Denise is renowned for her strong female characters – including Morrow and investigative journalist Paddy Meehan (protagonist of ‘The Field of Blood’ and four other amazing books).

Excitingly, she reveals: “I would love to go back to Paddy. There’s another two books in the series.”

Denise was born in Glasgow in 1966. Due to her father’s job as an engineer, the family followed the North Sea oil boom of the 70s around Europe. She studied law at Glasgow University and went on to research a PhD thesis at Strathclyde University on the ascription of mental illness to female offenders, teaching criminology and criminal law in the mean time.

It was then she wrote a novel, ‘Garnethill’, and her life changed forever...

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Interview: Alan Muir

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