Ann Cleeves : Best-selling crime writer

Saturday 12th June 2021 via Zoom

It was both a privilege and pleasure to attend this event organised by South Molton Library and ADSM for their Deep Roots Festival, hosted so expertly by Jane Petch (Librarian) and Alison Verney, with excellent technical input from Marc Cornelius.

I was excited to attend this event, having first read The Long Call (set in North Devon) earlier this year, shortly followed by the whole Shetland Series during Lockdown. I had been initially attracted by discovering Ann attended secondary school in Barnstaple at the same time as I was living there!

Ann shared some of her personal journey with us, her wide variety of jobs including cook at the Fair Isle bird observatory, auxiliary coast guard, probation officer and library outreach worker. Having spent her teenage years in North Devon – and other at times on the Shetland Isles and currently in the North East – Ann shared how locations where we live contribute to shaping our lives and ideas, as do our personal experiences of life and loss.

Although not directly modelled on them, we learnt how places and people who had been important in Ann’s life gave ideas for characters in her books. In her novels a warmth and humanity is clearly expressed and it was memorable that Ann mentioned the importance of kindness: this is reflected in the characters of her detectives.

Discussion also took place on the fact that the stories as portrayed in the TV series often deviate from the books. Ann explained that this is not a concern for her once the books are out in the public domain. She has taken an active interest in the making of the TV programmes, but very is happy for directors/producers to adapt the stories as they see fit. Particularly as with Blue Lightening, which has some very unexpected features in the novel.

It was a rare and lovely opportunity to have a dialogue with an author as renowned as Ann Cleeves, but she reminded us that fame does not always come quickly: it was 20 years before any of her works became commercially successful. How glad we are that her works have now become so accessible; I am sure we are all looking forward to reading The Heron’s Cry, sequel to The Long Call – and, of course, any subsequent sequels.

Many thanks to Ann for sharing her time with us at what was a most enjoyable and informative session.

Kathryn Nall (ADSM supporter)