Val McDermid

Val 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 that McDermid and others have identified as Tartan Noir. At Raith Rovers football stadium, a stand has been named after McDermid.

Val McDermid

Born (1955-06-04) 4 June 1955 (age 66)
Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland
EducationSt Hilda's College, Oxford
GenreCrime fiction


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 awarded an honorary doctorate from 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 four series: Lindsay Gordon, Kate Brannigan, Tony Hill and Carol Jordan, and Inspector Karen Pirie. Her characters include a journalist, Lindsay Gordon; a private investigator, Kate Brannigan; a clinical psychologist, Tony Hill; and DCI Karen Pirie working out of Fife, Scotland. 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]

McDermid considers her work to be part of the "Tartan Noir" Scottish crime fiction genre.[9] In addition to writing novels, McDermid contributes to several British newspapers and often broadcasts on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio Scotland.[10] Her novels, in particular the Tony Hill series, are known for their graphic depictions of violence and torture.

The McDermid Stand

Starks Park, the McDermid stand visible to the left.

She sponsors the McDermid Stand in Stark's Park, Raith Rovers ground in Kirkcaldy. This endeavour was in honour of her father, a scout for the club.[11] 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.[12]

Ink attack

On 6 December 2012 a woman poured ink over McDermid during an event at the University of Sunderland.[13] 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.[14] McDermid said the incident would not stop her from doing signings.[15][16]

Northumbria Police arrested Sandra Botham, a 64-year-old woman from the Hendon area of Sunderland, on suspicion of assault.[16][17] Botham was convicted of common assault on 10 July 2013,[18] received a 12-month community order with supervision and was made to pay £50 compensation and a £60 victim surcharge.[19] She was also given a restraining order forbidding her from contacting McDermid for an undefined period of time.[20] 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 claimed that the book contained a passage that besmirched her and her family.[21]

Personal life

McDermid is a Raith Rovers supporter.[10][22] She formerly lived in both Stockport and near Alnmouth in Northumberland[23] with three cats[24] and a border terrier dog. Since early 2014 she has lived in Stockport and Edinburgh.[25][26]

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 still living between Northumberland and Manchester with publisher Kelly Smith,[27] 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.[28][29]

McDermid is a radical feminist and socialist.[30][31] She has incorporated feminism into some of her novels.[32]


Lindsay Gordon series

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

Kate Brannigan series

  • Dead Beat (1992)
  • Kick Back (1993)
  • Crack Down (1994)
  • Clean Break (1995)
  • Blue Genes (1996)
  • Star Struck (1998) (awarded Grand Prix des Romans d’Aventure in 1998)[33]

Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series

Inspector Karen Pirie series

The Austen Project

  • Northanger Abbey (2014)

Other books

  • The Writing on the Wall (1997); short stories, limited edition of 200 copies
  • A Place of Execution (1999)
  • Killing the Shadows (2000)
  • Stranded (2005); short stories
  • 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)

Children's books

  • My Granny is a Pirate (2012)[36]
  • 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 (1995)
  • Bodies of Evidence (2014)
  • Forensics – The Anatomy of Crime (2014)[37]
  • Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA, and More Tell Us About Crime (2015)


  1. "Dr Val McDermid - English, 1972". St Hilda's College, Oxford. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  2. Nicholas Wroe (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. 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. Hannah Ellis-Petersen (25 August 2015). "Val McDermid: 'I'm working class – I wouldn't be able to go to Oxford now'". The Guardian.
  10. "Val McDermid – Biography".
  11. "Val McDermid's Raith Rovers sponsorship about giving 'something back into the community'". The Courier. 7 June 2014.
  12. 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.
  13. "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.
  14. 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.
  15. Ruth Lawson (13 December 2012). "Author Val McDermid to carry on signings after attack". Journal Live. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
  16. Coreena Ford (29 December 2012). "Author Val McDermid assaulted at Sunderland book signing". Journal Live. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  17. "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.
  18. Liz Bury (10 July 2013). "Reader convicted for Val McDermid ink assault". The Guardian.
  19. "Widow who attacked Scottish author Val McDermid with ink is given a restraining order". Daily Record. 12 August 2013. Retrieved 29 March 2014.
  20. "Val McDermid ink attacker given restraining order". BBC News. 12 August 2013. Retrieved 29 March 2014.
  21. "Pensioner in court over vendetta with crime writer Val McDermid". The Northern Echo. 9 July 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  22. Denise Mina (February 2002). "Denise Mina talks to Val McDermid". Sunday Herald. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 9 July 2007.
  23. Interview: It can be murder, but Val McDermid's love of Raith is no mystery Retrieved 9/4/21.
  24. Susan Flockhart (30 May 2004). "Murder In Mind". Sunday Herald.
  25. "Welcome to Val McDermid's website".
  26. Val McDermid (5 April 2016). "Scotland is now a place where you can be glad to be gay". The Guardian.
  27. Paulo Totaro (21 August 2010). "Death becomes her". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  28. Stuart Macdonald (25 October 2016). "Author Val McDermid gets married to long-term partner Jo Sharp". Daily Record.
  29. "Val McDermid marries partner in Edinburgh". Edinburgh News. 24 October 2016.
  30. "Val McDermid - Crime and reason". The Scotsman. 8 September 2008.
  31. "Interview: It can be murder, but Val McDermid's love of Raith is no mystery". The Scotsman. 10 April 2010.
  32. Sally Rowena Munt (1994). Murder by the Book: Feminism and the Crime Novel. Routledge. p. 67. ISBN 0415109191.
  33. "Val McDermid". British Council: Literature. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  34. Rob Peacock (2 June 2009). "Crime Novel of the Year shortlist announced". Archived from the original on 12 August 2009. Retrieved 17 June 2009.
  35. "How the Dead Speak". David Higham Associates. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  36. Orchard Books. ISBN 978-1-40830-927-8.
  37. "Forensics – The Anatomy of Crime".