Val McDermid on Trump and Treasure Island

The author on poetry for Donald Trump, the crime novel that most influenced her – and why she wishes that she had written Treasure Island

The book I am currently reading
I am one of the judges for this year’s Man Booker prize, so it would be extremely indiscreet of me to reveal what I’m currently reading, except that it’s a novel published in the current period of eligibility.

The book that changed my life
Many books have had a profound impact on me but Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics transformed the way I read and also the way I live. It was my first encounter with feminism, and a radical approach to literary criticism. It felt like an explosion inside my head.

The book I wish I’d written
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. It has everything: archetypal characters, atmospheric settings, a terrific story and evocative prose. And an open ending – Long John Silver is still alive, there’s still more treasure to be found. What a gift for the reader’s imagination.

The book that influenced on my work 
William McIlvanney’s Laidlaw was the first crime novel I’d read that dealt with the lives of people I recognised. They spoke in the speech rhythms I’d grown up hearing, theirs were the concerns of ordinary people. It showed me that it was possible to write crime fiction that was rooted in my reality. And it’s as fresh and inspirational today as it was 40 years ago.

The book that changed my mind
I’d always been scornful of fantasy until I read my first Terry Pratchett novel, Mort, the fourth in the Discworld series. That began a love affair that continued until his untimely death. Clever, satirical and bursting with extraordinary creativity, they never grew stale.

The book that is most underrated
Anything by Josephine Tey. She is admired by crime writers but too few readers have discovered her talents.

The last book that made me cry
Close Your Eyes by Michael Robotham. The eighth of his Joe O’Loughlin novels delivers a sucker punch at the end that reduced me to tears. Good series fiction makes us invest in characters and care about their fate.

The last book that made me laugh
The Beautiful Poetry of Donald Trump by Robert Sears. I have composed my own accompanying haiku:

Poetry of Trump –
We keep it in the toilet.
It helps us perform.

The book I couldn’t finish
It goes against my Scottish Presbyterian upbringing, but life is too short to waste on books that don’t engage my heart or mind. So I regularly transfer books to the charity shop pile because they haven’t earned a place on my shelves.

The book I give as a gift
Scotland the Dreich by Alan McCredie. It’s funny and it’s an antidote to the romantic image that’s so often propagated of my country.

The book I’d most like to be remembered for
I have to believe the best is still to come. So, the one after the one I’m writing now. Or the one after that.


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