Val McDermid: ‘Even on a romantic holiday my thoughts turn to murrrder’

The queen of crime on the new generation of writers, how the genre has changed in 30 years – and how she’s promised not to kill off Tony Hill and Carol Jordan

“My readers are probably going to kill me,” Val McDermid announces cheerfully when we discuss the ending of her latest novel. Her new Tony Hill and Carol Jordan book, Insidious Intent, is published on Thursday, and the reaction of fans to how she has chosen to end it will be interesting. “There’s a certain fear of being stoned in the street,” she chuckles.

We meet at the Theakston Old Peculier crime writing festival in Harrogate, where McDermid is practically royalty, and she has murder on her mind. This is not unusual, she says; quite frequently a pleasant weekend away will turn her thoughts to homicide. There was the time when she spotted a wedding party during a ...

A new chapter in yoga: why the Society of Authors is reaching out (on one leg)

Joanne Harris, Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman … and a Welsh Cob horse are among those striking poses during the society’s yoga week to promote well-being

More used to wrangling over contracts and offering grants to writers in need, the Society of Authors is suddenly getting into yoga. All last week it was challenging authors and readers to strike a pose and post it on Twitter, ideally inspired by a favourite book.

On Tuesday, Joanne Harris encouraged followers to adopt a yoga position somehow inspired by The Hobbit, and SoA pulled out a real life yoga expert to show off her “flying lizard” moves. On Wednesday, Philip Pullman decided that Pride and Prejudice was the book to yoga to, and the yogini did “the dancer pose” on a doorstep. “I’m sure the great lady would recognise her story at once,” tweeted Pullman. On Thursday, Neil Gaiman asked fans to create ...

Well done Unesco for honouring the culture of the Lake District

Wordsworth’s daffodils, Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons – Cumbria has been fertile ground for countless writers The Lake District has just become the first UK national park to be listed as a Unesco World Heritage site, alongside global wonders such as the Great Wall of China and the Grand Canyon. It has been honoured for its culture as well as its landscape. William Wordsworth, perhaps the most celebrated local writer, called the area “a sort of national property in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy”. He was born in Cockermouth, lived in Grasmere and Rydal Mount, and found his daffodils on the shore of Ullswater. Beatrix Potter is another famous chronicler of the Lakes, though she found her inspiration for Squirrel Nutkin and other characters on her childhood holidays there. She was also crucial to ...

Well done Unesco for honouring the culture of the Lake District

Wordsworth’s daffodils, Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons – Cumbria has been fertile ground for countless writers The Lake District has just become the first UK national park to be listed as a Unesco World Heritage site, alongside global wonders such as the Great Wall of China and the Grand Canyon. It has been honoured for its culture as well as its landscape. William Wordsworth, perhaps the most celebrated local writer, called the area “a sort of national property in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy”. He was born in Cockermouth, lived in Grasmere and Rydal Mount, and found his daffodils on the shore of Ullswater. Beatrix Potter is another famous chronicler of the Lakes, though she found her inspiration for Squirrel Nutkin and other characters on her childhood holidays there. She was also crucial to ...

Matt Haig: ‘I think books can save us. They sort of saved me’

How to follow a bestselling memoir about depression? With a novel about a 400-year-old adventurer …Matt Haig and I meet in a flat in London, the morning after the terrorist attack at the Manchester Arena. Typically, he has already spent several hours battling racists and trolls on Twitter (he has a very large following), but he doesn’t seem stressed. “I’m actually quite relaxed; I like this period just before I get really neurotic [about the launch of a new book],” he laughs. As for social media: “I tweet more when I’m writing more ... I’ve got quite a distracted brain anyway.” Haig is probably best known for his 2015 book Reasons to Stay Alive (it was in the top 10 bestseller lists for nearly a year) – a warm and moving memoir-cum-self-help book about his first descent into depression, aged 24, and his subsequent efforts to climb out of it. Haig is also the ...

Rebus at 30: Edinburgh celebrates

RebusFest, featuring Ian Rankin, is taking place all over the city, dedicated to ‘the many facets of the irascible old rogue’, DI John RebusHappy 30th birthday to DI John Rebus, who will be celebrated all over Edinburgh this weekend with his creator Ian Rankin and their publisher, Orion. RebusFest is taking place at venues around the city, dedicated to “the many facets of the irascible old rogue”, according to the publisher. Appropriately, the Highland Park Whisky masterclasses are all sold out. Rankin conceived of Rebus in his bedsit in Arden Street, Edinburgh in March 1985; the books are bestsellers on several continents. Rebus himself is now technically retired, but nevertheless marked his birthday this week with a No 1 bestseller, Rather Be The Devil, which is also longlisted for the McIlvanney prize for crime books. Continue reading...

Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett review – a life in music

Read the novel, then buy the album: the lyrics that punctuate this tale of a songwriter’s life and loves have also been set to music
When it comes to listening to pop music, there are two types of people: those who pay attention to the lyrics and those who don’t notice them. The former are drawn to artists such as Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen; the latter end up choosing a song about breaking up as the first dance at their wedding. Greatest Hits is a novel for music lovers who pay attention to the words. Now in her 60s, Cass Wheeler is an “ex-musician. Ex-mother. Ex-daughter. Ex-wife.” She is at home, in the remote farmhouse where she lives alone after huge personal loss and a spell in rehab. Spending one day forcing herself to listen to her entire back catalogue, she compiles “a very particular kind of ...