Reading Confessions: Denise Mina

Denise Mina photo by Neil Davidson
Category: Reading

Denise Mina needs no introduction for countless fans of her bestselling crime fiction, which includes her debut Garnethill (which featured in our 50 Best Scottish Books of thae Last 50 Years list), and The Field of Blood and The Dead Hour, which have been adapted into successful TV series. She is also a graphic novel writer and is currently adapting Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy for DC Comics.

As her latest acclaimed crime novel, The Red Road, is published in paperback by Orion Books, we find out if Denise Mina has committed any crimes of the reading variety (see what we did there?). Warning: readers who feel strongly about preserving the spines of books may want to look away now.  

Do you ever mentally edit someone else’s work while you read?

Yes, and it spoils it. I have an off-season when I'm not writing myself, and it's easier not to edit then. Otherwise I read something factual, because then, even if it's tedious, it feels necessary. Biographies are good!

Do you judge books by their covers?

No. I generally read the first few lines and the blurb. If the sentence structure is annoying I can't read it. As a reader I don't care what's on the cover, although a very cool or retro cover might nudge me into buying something.

What’s your opinion on reading in the bath?

It's long been my dream. I've been trying to perfect it for years. I once bought a contraption in a Chinese supermarket that was a book stand for the bath. It sat on the soap tray that goes across the bath, but I dropped about three books from it into the bath. Turns out it was a plate holder.

Where do you stand on spinebreaking?

I love to own a book so I can break the spine with vigour. It's like a dog weeing on a post. When the spine has been broken, a few chapters in, I'm committed to reading it. 

What’s the worst/trashiest book you secretly love?

Badly written true crime. I still remember lines from various books - 'The old Bill came down on him like the proverbial avalanche of truncheons'.

Which author or fictional character would you most like to party with?

The Devil in The Master and Margarita. He turns people into cats, cloth into money into cloth again. And the catering would be exceptional.

How do you arrange your bookshelf?

By size, then I shove books in front of those books and then cram other books on top of both. Sprinkle with dust. Leave batteries that may/may not be done. Carefully place urgent letters on top or inside the books. Put screws from I-don't-know-what-that's-from in a small bowl on top of the books, plus odd earrings. 

Do you ever turn to the back of a book and read the end first? If not, what would you say to such people?

If I hate it but have to read it, yes. I think it's a sign that I've lost faith in the writer to bring the story to an end. 

Is there a book by someone else that you wish you’d written?

It's a short story by Poe: 'The Tell Tale Heart'. As soon as I'd finished reading it I thought 'God I wish-'. I've never felt that before.

Is there a book you have never been able to finish?

Quite a few: Dostoevsky's The Devils. Misha Glenny's McMafia. Sometimes working out why I can't get into them is as instructive as a good read. But I've made a vow to enjoy reading now, and only read books I enjoy unless it's for work.

Enjoyed these Reading Confessions? Check out the confessions of other top authors Peter May, Caro Ramsay, James Robertson and more in our Reading Confessions blog. 

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