Saturday, 13 August 2016

Kathleen McKay on Turning to Crime

© Vicky Matthers
A winner of the Northern Crime Awards, Kathleen McKay's crime debut Hard Wired is published by Moth this August. Here she talks about what drew her to crime.

My fascination with crime was first sparked at age 8, by secretly reading my father’s True Crime books, hidden in a trunk: John George Haigh, the Acid Bath Murderer, who killed nine people, with his ‘perfect’ method; and John Christie, who strangled at least eight women. How did they pass themselves off as ‘normal’? 

Inspired by these books, I formed a ‘Secret Seven’ detectives’ club with two church-going twins, and the three of us rode around on buses looking for murders to solve.

I grew up on lies. We thought my father was Irish, that he fought in the Irish Civil War. He sang us popular Irish songs, alongside Spanish revolutionary songs, and said he fought in the International Brigade against Franco. After his death, my mother laughed at these notions: ‘I’m more Irish than he was.’  The mystery of others intrigued me. Truth was malleable.

Once I spent a perfect summer in a white tiled house above El Médano beach in Tenerife, ploughing my way through a Penguin Green crime collection, whilst the wind outside blew so strong you had to shout to be heard.  Locked room mysteries, whodunits; political thrillers, I devoured them all: Dorothy L Sayers, Margery Allingham, Raymond Chandler, John Dickson Carr and Carter Dickson.

Mostly I read contemporary work. Flawed protagonists in a brutal battle for truth. A murder pierces the shell of my protagonist Charlie in my new novel Hard Wired, and once looking for the murderer, she won’t let go.   

Hard Wired by Kathleen McKay published by Moth Publishing (£7.99)

September 1996. Newcastle United have just bought Alan Shearer for a record-breaking £15 million from Blackburn Rovers and across the city regeneration and investment are reshaping the landscape. Charlie works in the local bail hostel where, exhausted and made cynical by the job, she expects the worst of everyone. When her friend s son is found dead in the local park she is dragged into the hunt for the murderer. Darren was no angel but as she begins to dig into the crime she unwittingly sets in motion a series of threats against the hostel. Her attempts to uncover the truth find her probing failures in the justice system and searching for the men who have fallen between the cracks. As Charlie gets closer to the murderer she places her own family in danger. Meanwhile, her daughter is keeping her own secrets.

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