Val McDermid

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Val McDermid

McDermid in 2007
McDermid in 2007
Born (1955-06-04) 4 June 1955 (age 68)
Kirkcaldy, Scotland
EducationSt Hilda's College, Oxford
GenreCrime fiction
SpouseJo Sharp (m. 2016)
Website Edit this at Wikidata

Valarie McDermid, FRSE, FRSL (born 4 June 1955) is a Scottish crime writer, best known for a series of novels featuring clinical psychologist Dr. Tony Hill, in a grim sub-genre known as Tartan Noir.


McDermid comes from a working-class family in Fife. She studied English at St Hilda's College, Oxford,[1] where she was the first student to be admitted from a Scottish state school.[2]

After graduation she became a journalist and began her literary career as a dramatist. Her first success as a novelist, Report for Murder: The First Lindsay Gordon Mystery occurred in 1987.[3]

McDermid was inducted into the prestigious Detection Club in 2000, and won the CWA Diamond Dagger for her lifetime contribution to crime writing in the English language in 2010. She was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Sunderland in 2011.[4] She is co-founder of the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival and the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, part of the Harrogate International Festivals. In 2016 she captained a team of St Hilda's alumnæ to win the Christmas University Challenge.[5] In 2017, McDermid was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh,[6] as well as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.[7]


McDermid's works fall into five series: Lindsay Gordon, Kate Brannigan, Tony Hill and Carol Jordan, Inspector Karen Pirie, and Allie Burns. Her characters include a journalist, Lindsay Gordon; a private investigator, Kate Brannigan; a clinical psychologist, Tony Hill; DCI Karen Pirie working out of Fife, Scotland; and Allie Burns, an investigative reporter whose stories start in 1979 with a planned set of sequels a decade apart. The Mermaids Singing, the first book in the Hill/Jordan series, won the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger for Best Crime Novel of the Year. The Hill/Jordan series has been adapted for television under the name Wire in the Blood, starring Robson Green.

McDermid has stated that Jacko Vance, a TV celebrity with a secret lust for torture, murder and under-age girls, who was featured in the Wire in the Blood and two later books, is based on her direct personal experience of interviewing Jimmy Savile.[8] In 2010, McDermid received the Cartier Diamond Dagger from the Crime Writers' Association for "outstanding achievement in the field of crime writing".[9]

McDermid considers her work to be part of the "Tartan Noir" Scottish crime fiction genre.[10] In addition to writing novels, McDermid contributes to several British newspapers and often broadcasts on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio Scotland.[11] Her novels, in particular the Tony Hill series, are known for their graphic depictions of violence and torture.

In August 2022 McDermid reported that the estate of Agatha Christie had threatened her publishers with legal action if they referred to McDermid as "the Queen of Crime", stating that the term was copyrighted by the Christie estate.[12]

Raith Rovers[edit]

Stark's Park in Kirkcaldy, the home ground of Raith Rovers football club. The McDermid Stand is visible to the left.

McDermid was a lifelong fan of Raith Rovers football club, her father having worked as a scout for the club.[11][13][14] In 2010, she sponsored the McDermid Stand at Stark's Park, the club's ground in Kirkcaldy, in honour of her father.[14]

A year after sponsoring the stand, she became a board member of the club, and starting in 2014 her website became Raith's shirt sponsor.[15]

In February 2022, McDermid said she would be withdrawing her support and sponsorship from Raith Rovers after the club signed striker David Goodwillie, who had been ruled to have raped a woman and made to pay damages in a civil case in 2017.[16][17] Following the signing of Goodwillie, Raith Rovers women’s team severed ties with the main club and renamed themselves McDermid Ladies, after the writer. McDermid moved her sponsorship to the new ladies' team.[18][19]

Ink attack[edit]

On 6 December 2012 a woman poured ink over McDermid during an event at the University of Sunderland.[20] McDermid was signing books, and a woman asked her to autograph a Top of the Pops annual which contained a picture of the disgraced late TV presenter Jimmy Savile. After McDermid reluctantly agreed the woman threw ink at her and ran out of the room.[21] McDermid said the incident would not stop her from doing signings.[22][23]

Northumbria Police arrested Sandra Botham, a 64-year-old woman from the Hendon area of Sunderland, on suspicion of assault.[23][24] Botham was convicted of common assault on 10 July 2013,[25] received a 12-month community order with supervision and was made to pay £50 compensation and a £60 victim surcharge.[26] She was also given a restraining order forbidding her from contacting McDermid for an undefined period of time.[27] The Northern Echo reported that Botham's actions were motivated by McDermid's 1994 non-fiction book A Suitable Job for a Woman, as Botham said the book contained a passage that besmirched her and her family.[28]

Personal life[edit]

McDermid formerly lived in both Stockport and near Alnmouth in Northumberland[29] with three cats[30] and a border terrier dog. Since early 2014 she has lived in Stockport and Edinburgh.[31][32]

In 2016, McDermid captained a team of crime writer challengers on the TV quiz Eggheads, beating the Eggheads and winning £14,000.

In 2010, she was living between Northumberland and Manchester with publisher Kelly Smith,[33] with whom she had entered into a civil partnership in 2006.[2]

On 23 October 2016 McDermid married her partner of two years, Jo Sharp, a professor of geography at the University of Glasgow.[34][35]

McDermid is a radical feminist and socialist.[36][29] She has incorporated feminism into some of her novels.[37]


Lindsay Gordon series[edit]

  • Report for Murder (1987)[38]
  • Common Murder (1989)[38]
  • Final Edition (1991)[38] US Titles: Open and Shut, Deadline for Murder
  • Union Jack (1993),[38] US Title: Conferences Are Murder
  • Booked for Murder (1996)[38]
  • Hostage to Murder (2003)[38]

Kate Brannigan series[edit]

  • Dead Beat (1992)[39]
  • Kick Back (1993)[39]
  • Crack Down (1994)[39]
  • Clean Break (1995)[39]
  • Blue Genes (1996)[39]
  • Star Struck (1998) (awarded Grand Prix des Romans d’Aventure in 1998)[38]

Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series[edit]

Inspector Karen Pirie series[edit]

  • The Distant Echo (2003)
  • A Darker Domain (2008)
  • The Skeleton Road (2014)
  • Out of Bounds (2016)
  • Broken Ground (2018)
  • Still Life (2020)
  • Past Lying (2023)

Allie Burns series[edit]

  • 1979 (2021)[44]
  • 1989 (2022)
  • 1999 (TBC)
  • 2009 (TBC)
  • 2019 (TBC)

The Austen Project[edit]

  • Northanger Abbey (2014)[45]

Other books[edit]

  • The Writing on the Wall (1997);[38] short stories, limited edition of 200 copies
  • A Place of Execution (1999)
  • Killing the Shadows (2000)
  • Stranded (2005); short stories[38]
  • Cleanskin (2006)
  • The Grave Tattoo (2006)
  • Trick of the Dark (2010) dedicated to Mary Bennett (1913-2003) & Kathy Vaughan Wilkes (1946-2003)
  • The Vanishing Point (2012)
  • Resistance: A Graphic Novel (2021), illustrated by Kathryn Briggs (Profile Books/Wellcome Collection, London, ISBN 978-1-78816-3552)
  • The Second Murder at the Vicarage in Marple, Twelve New Mysteries (2022) p. 33-52, (HarperCollins, New York, ISBN 978-0-06-313605-2)

Children's books[edit]

  • My Granny is a Pirate (2012)[46]
  • The High Heid Yin's New Claes, published in The Itchy Coo Book o Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales in Scots (2020)


  • A Suitable Job for a Woman (HarperCollins, 1994)
  • Forensics – The Anatomy of Crime (Profile Books & Wellcome Collection, 2014)[47]
  • Published in the United States under the title Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA, and More Tell Us About Crime (Black Cat, 2015)
  • My Scotland (Little, Brown, 2019)
  • Imagine a Country (Little, Brown, 2020)


  1. ^ a b "Dr Val McDermid – English, 1972". St Hilda's College, Oxford. 29 January 2016. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  2. ^ a b Wroe, Nicholas (12 August 2011). "Val McDermid: a life in writing". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  3. ^ "I never spook myself, says top Scots crime writer Val McDermid". Daily Record. 31 August 2016. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  4. ^ "Queen of crime in stadium thriller". University of Sunderland News and Events. 14 July 2011. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  5. ^ "Congratulations to St Hilda's Alumnae Team on their Christmas University Challenge Victory". St Hilda's College, Oxford. 2 January 2017. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  6. ^ "RSE Welcomes 60 New Fellows" (Press release). Royal Society of Edinburgh. 15 February 2017. Retrieved 28 March 2017.
  7. ^ Natasha Onwuemezi (7 June 2017). "Rankin, McDermid and Levy named new RSL fellows". The Bookseller.
  8. ^ "I based psycho on Jimmy Savile, says writer Val McDermid". The Daily Record. 28 October 2012.
  9. ^ Pauli, Michelle (12 January 2010). "Val McDermid 'gobsmacked' by Diamond Dagger award". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 February 2022.
  10. ^ Hannah Ellis-Petersen (25 August 2015). "Val McDermid: 'I'm working class – I wouldn't be able to go to Oxford now'". The Guardian.
  11. ^ a b "Val McDermid – Biography".
  12. ^ Ferguson, Brian (29 August 2022). "Val McDermid reveals 'Queen of Crime' legal threat from Agatha Christie estate". Edinburgh Evening News. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  13. ^ Mina, Denise (February 2002). "Denise Mina talks to Val McDermid". Sunday Herald. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 9 July 2007.
  14. ^ a b "Val McDermid's Raith Rovers sponsorship about giving 'something back into the community'". The Courier. 7 June 2014.
  15. ^ Anna Burnside (2 September 2016). "Straight-talking Val McDermid lifts lid on her latest novel and why she's the badass woman of the week". Daily Record. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  16. ^ "Val McDermid ends Raith Rovers support over David Goodwillie deal". BBC News. 1 February 2022. Retrieved 1 February 2022.
  17. ^ McKenzie, Lewis (1 February 2022). "Val McDermid ends Raith Rovers sponsorship over Goodwillie signing". STV News. Retrieved 1 February 2022.
  18. ^ "Raith Rovers ladies' first match since breakaway". BBC News. 6 February 2022. Retrieved 28 June 2022.
  19. ^ "From the ashes: defiant McDermid Ladies stand firm in the spotlight | Soccer | The Guardian". Retrieved 28 June 2022.
  20. ^ "Author attacked by OAP after she gave talk". Shields Gazette. 12 December 2012. Archived from the original on 24 October 2013. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
  21. ^ Ruth Lawson (13 December 2012). "Ink thrown at author Val McDermid during Sunderland book signing". Journal Live. Archived from the original on 8 April 2013. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
  22. ^ Ruth Lawson (13 December 2012). "Author Val McDermid to carry on signings after attack". Journal Live. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
  23. ^ a b Coreena Ford (29 December 2012). "Author Val McDermid assaulted at Sunderland book signing". Journal Live. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  24. ^ "Woman denies attack on crime writer at Sunderland talk". Sunderland Echo. 11 April 2013. Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
  25. ^ Liz Bury (10 July 2013). "Reader convicted for Val McDermid ink assault". The Guardian.
  26. ^ "Widow who attacked Scottish author Val McDermid with ink is given a restraining order". Daily Record. 12 August 2013. Retrieved 29 March 2014.
  27. ^ "Val McDermid ink attacker given restraining order". BBC News. 12 August 2013. Retrieved 29 March 2014.
  28. ^ "Pensioner in court over vendetta with crime writer Val McDermid". The Northern Echo. 9 July 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  29. ^ a b "Interview: It can be murder, but Val McDermid's love of Raith is no mystery". The Scotsman. 10 April 2010.
  30. ^ Flockhart, Susan (30 May 2004). "Murder In Mind". Sunday Herald.
  31. ^ "Welcome to Val McDermid's website".
  32. ^ McDermid, Val (5 April 2016). "Scotland is now a place where you can be glad to be gay". The Guardian.
  33. ^ Totaro, Paulo (21 August 2010). "Death becomes her". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  34. ^ Macdonald, Stuart (25 October 2016). "Author Val McDermid gets married to long-term partner Jo Sharp". Daily Record.
  35. ^ "Val McDermid marries partner in Edinburgh". Edinburgh News. 24 October 2016.
  36. ^ "Val McDermid – Crime and reason". The Scotsman. 8 September 2008.
  37. ^ Sally Rowena Munt (1994). Murder by the Book: Feminism and the Crime Novel. Routledge. p. 67. ISBN 0415109191.
  38. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Val McDermid". British Council: Literature. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  39. ^ a b c d e "Val McDermid". Oxford Reference. Retrieved 16 April 2022.
  40. ^ Rob Peacock (2 June 2009). "Crime Novel of the Year shortlist announced". Archived from the original on 12 August 2009. Retrieved 17 June 2009.
  41. ^ "Cross and Burn by Val McDermid: Undiscovered Scotland Book Review". Retrieved 16 April 2022.
  42. ^ "Val McDermid: 'Even on a romantic holiday my thoughts turn to murrrder'". the Guardian. 19 August 2017. Retrieved 16 April 2022.
  43. ^ "How the Dead Speak". David Higham Associates. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  44. ^ "The best recent thrillers – review roundup". the Guardian. 7 September 2021. Retrieved 16 April 2022.
  45. ^ "Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid review – 'Austen for the Facebook age'". the Guardian. 26 March 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2022.
  46. ^ Orchard Books. ISBN 978-1-40830-927-8.
  47. ^ "Forensics – The Anatomy of Crime".

External links[edit]