Monday, 10 December 2007

Minette Walters

I’ve talked to Minette Walters, as part of my preparation for an article about her which will appear in a forthcoming issue of ‘Mystery Scene’ (a great US magazine for crime fans, if you don’t know it.) We’ve never met, but I’ve followed her career with admiration since she published her first novel the year after I published my first. Mind you, in the intervening years, she’s sold many more books and won many more awards than me. Her UK publishers describe her as ‘England’s bestselling female crime writer’, and if that’s correct, it’s quite something – she must be outselling not only Christie, but also Ruth Rendell and P.D. James.

I found Minette a charming and very helpful interviewee. She must have done this sort of thing a thousand times before, but her answers were fresh and stimulating. It’s quite a challenge to devise questions that haven’t been asked endlessly in the past, but I focused on her mastery of technique, and that extraordinary ability she has to combine in-depth characterisation with complex and subtle plotting. What she had to say set me thinking about my own approach to the craft of crime writing; very timely, given that I’m now at work on the synopsis for the next Lake District book

Minette Walters’ gifts are demonstrated in books such as The Sculptress, which is one of my all-time favourites. And I’m enjoying her latest, The Chameleon’s Shadow, the US publication of which prompted Kate Stine of ‘Mystery Scene’ to commission the article.

Among the things that I discovered about Minette are that she’s very knowledgeable about true crime; the writers in this field whom she admires include Brian Masters and David Canter. And she has a lot of time for Dame Agatha, especially later books such as The Pale Horse and Endless Night. More will be revealed when the article sees the light of day in the New Year.


Maxine Clarke said...

I have enjoyed reading Minette Walters over the years, though I did not find her last couple that interesting, I have to say.
What I liked about the first six or seven books of hers that I read was the fact that they were all so different, for example one was written over a 24 hour period, she plays with genres, themes, styles, viewpoints and so on. I am not aware of other crime fiction authors who are so varied. So although I didn't like her last book, I'm certainly prepared to read her next, as she is now fixed in my mind as an author who "rings the changes" with each book. If one reads a series which "goes off", one simply does not read any more. One can't fairly do that with Walters.

Anonymous said...

Walters is an absolute darling and never fails to enthrall her readers.

With each novel she starts from a blank canvas and creates an original story, yet again, but her strong writer's "voice" is always present in full force.

That's what brings the reader back for more.

I thought she went off the boil many years ago with a novel set on the seas. But I allowed her that "one off" for my taste. Every novel is different and each explores a contemporary theme.

When it comes to psychological thrillers, Walters will never let anyone down. She has it coined.

If I can offer this, at least, I'd suggest the novice reader starts with her novel "The Scold's Bridle". It really is an eye opener and a wonderful tale.

Maxine Clarke said...

Yes, I agree CrimeFic, The Scold's Bridle was one of the first Walters I read, and I remember it to this day!

Martin Edwards said...

I agree; it's a terrific read. The point about 'ringing the changes' is very interesting and I shall write more about it before long. The difficulty for most writers who do not sell as well as Minette is that publishers tend not to like it when we try to ring those changes. The two books of mine that were truly very 'different' proved by far the hardest to sell -yet I believe they were in many ways about my best work. One of the two books hasn't appeared even now, though I have finally received an offer for it. After quite some time, I might add...