Val McDermid at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

This is a guest post by Lin Anderson

Pub. Sept 13th

When I received an email asking me to chair Val at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this year I shouted ‘Ya Beauty’ and sent off a swift ‘Yes please’ reply. Her new standalone, The Vanishing Point, arrived soon after (out in September but available in the EIBF bookshop) and I settled down to devour her latest tale.

The opening is gripping. The scene – an American airport where a woman with metal in her knees sets all the alarm bells ringing. She’s hustled away and put in a perspex box to be patted down, a euphemism for ‘mild’ sexual assault.  While this happens, she’s horrified to see the little boy whose guardian she is, snatched by a unknown man. When she tries to escape her perspex prison to run after him, she is swiftly brought down. Her fear and desperation make the authorities think she is the danger and no one believes her about the boy. The Vanishing Point is a great psychological thriller with an in-depth study of the cult of celebrity which keeps you guessing until the very last moment.

Looking back over Val’s career in preparation for the event was a real eye-opener. Three major series, plus a number of standalones, books were written back to back, often two a year. When I asked about the series, Val explained that she never did two successive books about the same character. She preferred to come back to them fresh and wonder what they had been up to in her absence. She chooses the characters best suited to tell the story that she wants to tell.

Val McDermid | Photo: Mimsy Moller

The inspiration for The Vanishing Point came from visiting America with her own son. With metal in her knee she set off the alarm and was hustled away. She fretted in the perspex box, having had that ‘what if’ moment, common to every crime writer. That ‘what if’ became the seed of this story.

Asked by a member of the audience how being Scottish had influenced her writing, Val spoke eloquently about the Scottish (Tartan) Noir scene and the influence of William McIllvanney’s book Laidlaw on her own career.

The 17th Sept 2012 is the 25th anniversary of the publication of Val McDermid’s first book coinciding with the 35th anniversary of Laidlaw and the 25th anniversary of the first Rebus novel.

The magnificent triumverate of McIllvanney, Rankin and McDermid blazed the trail for the rest of us and put Scottish crime writing on the international map. As they say in Scotland (and in the movie Brave): Ya beauty!