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Clocktower.Monday 6 August 2018 10:07am

Val McDermid image
Val McDermid

The University of Otago is delighted to announce the appointment of Scottish novelist Val McDermid as a Visiting Professor in the Division of Humanities.

The crime novelist, who holds fellowships from the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and whose books have sold over fifteen million copies, will serve as a Visiting Professor of Scottish Studies and Crime Fiction.

Her appointment will run from 2019 to 2021. For each of these three years, Professor McDermid will spend up to eight weeks a year in Dunedin, where she will be attached to the University's Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies.

Professor McDermid will mentor postgraduate students in the Scottish Studies and the creative writing programmes, and will also contribute to undergraduate courses in Scottish Studies, crime fiction and creative writing, as well as giving a number of public lectures and readings.

Welcoming the appointment, Scotland's First Minster, Nicola Sturgeon, says: “As one of Scotland's greatest crime writers Val McDermid has a talent for keeping readers on the edge of their seats with her suspense-filled mysteries. She also has a real understanding of Scottish history, our politics and the Scots psyche that should make for a fascinating contribution to Scottish studies.

“This new appointment is a fantastic opportunity for Val to provide advice and support to a new generation of crime writers and to promote Scottish literature in New Zealand.”

For the University, Professor Liam McIlvanney, Stuart Chair of Scottish Studies and Co-Director of the Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies added: “This is a hugely exciting appointment for Otago. To have a writer of Val McDermid's eminence and experience attached to the centre over a sustained period will be of significant benefit to our students, our programmes and our whole institution.

“Professor McDermid is one of the most accomplished and acclaimed exponents of her chosen literary genre. She is also a charismatic speaker, a formidably clear-eyed observer of the current political scene, and a generous but exacting mentor. She will be a tremendous asset to Otago and I can't wait to work with her.”

Professor McDermid expressed her excitement at the appointment: “I have wonderful memories of Dunedin, so I'm delighted to be returning as Visiting Professor at Otago.

“I'm excited at the prospect of working with Professor McIlvanney and his colleagues in Scottish Studies and in Creative Writing over an extended period. And I anticipate this change of environment will fuel my creativity and drive it in new and challenging directions. It's a tremendous opportunity – a dream ticket, really.”

Additional comments from eminent writers and academics about the appointment:

Stella Duffy (prize-winning novelist, playwright and performer): “Val McDermid is a great woman, a fine colleague and a dear friend. I'm so excited for her that she will spend more time in Aotearoa/New Zealand, a land and people she already loves and is excited to get to know better. I'm thrilled for Otago that you will get the benefit of a great writer, a generous and supportive teacher, a passionate advocate of reading and writing, of Scotland and of creativity. It's a glorious match.”

Damian Barr (prize-winning author of Maggie and Me and former University of Otago Scottish Writers Fellow): “Liam McIlvanney and his colleagues have established and expanded their area of academic enquiry across disciplines attracting a diverse and engaged student body and building up a truly world-class range of associations. Val is one of the finest writers of her generation and not just in her chosen genre—she will bring an incredible energy to the department and the students lucky enough to work with her will benefit from her unflinching eye.”

Louise Welsh (prize-winning novelist and former University of Otago Scottish Writers Fellow): “Val McDermid is one of Scotland's most eminent, politically aware and generous writers. She will be a superb mentor to students at Otago. As a previous fellow of the University of Otago, I know that Val will receive a warm welcome and that she will find the country and its people an inspiration.”

Craig Sisterson (book critic, founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards, and Chair of Judges of the McIlvanney Prize in Scotland): “Calling Val McDermid the modern-day Queen of Crime actually undersells her significance in the world of storytelling and culture. She is a woman of huge mana, formidable intellect, and a generous and compassionate heart. I am absolutely stoked that she will be a Visiting Professor at Otago over the next three years, both for the student body who will get untold value from her presence and for Professor McDermid herself who gets to spend an extended period in a great part of the world.”

Graeme Macrae Burnet (author of Booker-shortlisted novel, His Bloody Project): “This is a tremendous appointment for the University of Otago. Val is an inspiring and influential figure for many in the literary world and beyond. She's a brilliant speaker and has a long-standing commitment to nurturing new talent. I'm sure the students of Dunedin will benefit hugely from her presence there.”

Professor Gerard Carruthers (Francis Hutcheson Chair of Scottish Literature at the University of Glasgow): “Otago's appointment of Val McDermid as Visiting Professor is good news not only for New Zealand but for Scottish Studies everywhere. She is one of our sharpest observers of human life in fiction and that collocation of 'Scottish Studies and Crime Writing' in her title at Otago marks out the wide and cosmopolitan reach of Val McDermid and modern Scottish literature. This is a tremendously satisfying and exciting development for Scottish Studies and its students in both hemispheres of the world.”

Additional information about Val McDermid:

  • One of the most popular and acclaimed crime writers in the English language.
  • Her novels have been translated into 40 languages and have sold over 15 million copies worldwide.
  • Recipient of the Crime Writers' Association Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for outstanding achievement.
  • Honorary Fellow of St Hilda's College, Oxford.
  • The ITV series Wire in the Blood is based on McDermid's Tony Hill & Carol Jordan novels.
  • Previous winner of the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger Award, the LA Times Book Prize, the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, the Portico Prize for Fiction, the Lambda Literary Award for Fiction and the Grand Prix des Romans d'Adventure.
  • Winner of an Anthony Award in both the fiction and non-fiction categories, two Barry Awards, a Sherlock Award and a Macavity Award.
  • Stonewall Writer of the Year in 2007.
  • Her novel, A Place of Execution, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 2000.
  • Has made regular appearances on BBC's Question Time, has appeared on the satirical BBC TV news quiz Have I Got News For You?, and led the Scottish team to victory in Radio 4's Round Britain quiz in 2014.
  • Led the St Hilda's College Oxford alumnae team to victory in University Challenge in 2016, the first ever all-women team to win any series.
  • Lead vocalist for crime fiction “supergroup”, Fun Lovin' Crime Writers.
  • Holds honorary degrees from the universities of Sunderland, Northampton, Dundee and Bath Spa.
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

For more information, contact:

Professor Liam McIlvanney
Stuart Chair in Scottish Studies
Co-Director of the Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies
University of Otago
Tel 479 4936

A list of Otago experts available for media comment is available elsewhere on this website.

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