'The Queen Of Noir' – Booklist

I hate these mini biographies because if you only tell the good bits you sound conceited - and if you tell the bad bits people greet. Greet is the Scottish word for crying, or at least it was in my home town of Dundee.

I went to primary school there and the gym teacher voted me Least Likely To Succeed.Luckily my English teacher disagreed and named me the Master Storyteller. A research student did a dissertation on my creativity and gave me sweets - this started a lifelong addiction to chocolate for which I may yet sue.

Like many late developers, I was still being labelled with Least Likely To Succeed at secondary school where I bore an increasingly-strong resemblance to Stephen King's Carrie. I left at fifteen with five O-Grades and worked as an office junior, a clerical assistant, a post office clerk and a dental nurse, but I always had my eyes glued to the clock (ouch!) and had Friday on my mind.

During these years I sat an English Higher at nightclasses and got an A. Encouraged, I went back to college at age nineteen and got two further Highers in History and Economics and an A-Level English. I was the only person to pass the A-Level so my lecturer phoned me up and said I should think about going to university.

I thought about it for a nanosecond but did nothing. I was a labourer's child and had been told all my life that only middle class people went to university. Instead, I got a job as an editorial assistant on a woman's magazine. I enjoyed editing the medical, gardening and problem pages but missed the essay-writing that I'd done in college and realised I preferred the academic life.

So I went to Dundee University and gained a Master of the Arts degree in English and Social Administration. The latter included criminology which complimented my obsession with true crime.

After graduation, I started working with battered and emotionally-abused women. This was a year-long post and at the end of it I decided to do a postgraduate diploma in Adult & Community Education at Edinburgh University. I'd already done some voluntary work in Adult Basic Education helping adults learn to read and write.

Towards the end of my postgraduate course, I had to produce a dissertation on Adult Returners To Work. At one stage an Employment Officer asked each of us "What would you do with your life if you could do anything you wanted? If you didn't have to please your parents or your partner or listen to what your teachers said?" I felt my eyes fill with tears and admitted that I'd always wanted to write.

After graduation I heard of the Enterprise Allowance Scheme which offered new-start businesses forty pounds a week for their first year. But I also knew of another would-be writer who'd been turned down because the official who interviewed him said that writers didn't qualify for the scheme. I went along and told them of all the jobs I'd had - and almost lost - and all the courses I'd taken. There were violins playing in the background by the end and the staff were slashing their wrists.

So I was officially endorsed and started writing eight days a week. The ideas must have been building up during the Post Office Years because they poured onto the typewriter. I sold everything from health journalism to lifestyle features to humorous verse. I also tutored in non-fiction for several years and sold short stories to literary, erotic and women's magazines.

But getting that first book taken on was still hell - remember this is the industry which turned down George Orwell's satirical Animal Farm with the words 'animal stories don't sell' and who told J.K. Rowling that there was no interest in wizards. Undaunted (oh okay, seriously daunted but unable to qualify for any other profession) I persevered and my published books are all in this site’s Book Gallery.


Every time that I make an overnight trip to the doughnut factory (er, fitness studio) I return to find emails from journalists about to go to press who need last minute photographs. So please feel free to use the images below. The photographer doesn’t require a credit - indeed, he’s gone into hiding - but if you need a name for your files, mine will suffice.