Friday, August 29, 2014

9mm interview with Ann Cleeves

As we roll through August, the 9mm series is well and truly humming again after a long hiatus. It's an absolute pleasure to bring you these regular (now back to weekly, again) interviews with some of the world's very best crime writers.

Today it's my privilege to share with you my recent interview with British crime writer Ann Cleeves, who is the Programme Director for the 2015 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate. Cleeves is famous for several series of crime tales, including her George and Molly series (which began with her debut A BIRD IN THE HAND in 1986), the Inspector Ramsay series, the Vera Stanhope series, and the Shetland Islands series.

Twenty years after her debut, Cleeves won the 2006 Duncan Lawrie Dagger, the richest crime writing prize in the world, for RAVEN BLACK, the first in her Jimmy Perez/Shetland Island series. That series has been adapted for the television series Shetland, and the Vera Stanhope series has also been adapted for screen.

Cleeves' books have been translated into 20 languages, received strong reviews worldwide, and been shortlisted for several crime writing awards in Britain and abroad. She was inducted into the Crime Thriller Hall of Fame in 2012, and last month was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of Sunderland "in recognition of her outstanding achievements as a crime writer".

But for now, Ann Cleeves becomes the 80th crime writer to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective? 
This is really difficult and like being asked to choose a very best friend, but today I'll go with Sara Paretsky's VI Warshawski. The books are well-written and thought-provoking and it was great to have a strong central female character.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why? 
I was an Enid Blyton child - she gave me my first taste of crime fiction. I remember going to my local library and the librarian pulled The Island of Adventure from behind the counter like a magician with a rabbit from a hat.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles? 
A Bird in the Hand was my first published novel and the first piece of writing I ever completed. Other than that I kept a diary. And when I was working on Fair Isle, the most remote inhabited island in the UK, I wrote lots of letters.

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise? 
I enjoy travelling and spending time in Shetland. But I have six grandchildren now so there's not much spare time...

5. What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider? 
I live in Whitley Bay, on England's north east coast.  It's a slightly faded sea-side town now, but I love being an easy walk to the beach. On New Year's Day there's an annual swim in the sea. Completely crazy because the water's freezing but great fun.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you? 
Brenda Blethyn, who plays VERA in the ITV adaptation of my books. She doesn't look like me but she's become a friend and I think she'd do me proud.

7. Of your writings, published and unpublished, which is your favourite, and why? 
Raven Black, the first Shetland novel changed my career so I'm very fond of that. But I'm proud of Harbour Street, the most recent Vera book.

8. What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a online or physical bookseller’s shelf? 
My initial reaction was relief.  Our car had broken down and we didn't have the money to fix it. I knew that the advance for the novel would pay to get it back on the road.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival? 
Recently I did a signing on a train between London and York to celebrate the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival - I'm programme chair next year. That was good fun.

Thank you Ann Cleeves. We appreciate you taking the time to chat to Crime Watch


You can read more about Ann Cleeves and her books here:

Comments welcome. 


  1. I met Ann at Harrogate one year, she was a lovely lady, sounds like she leads a pretty interesting life. I particularly like her Jimmy Perez series, and am loving the Vera series on tv at present.


  2. I love her Vera series and so far our public tv has only aired series 1 & 2, don't know when series 3 & 4 will be shown and I understand that series 5 will be aired in the UK in 2015, luck viewers there.
    betsy shipley