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Once Upon a True Crime: Meet the Authors - Denise Mina

Author Denise Mina

Denise Mina’s body of work shows her true pedigree as a crime novelist. Publishing books since 1998, Denise has picked up awards since her first release and developed a unique, immediately recognisable style. The Long Drop took her writing in a new direction, as a reimagining of the Peter Manuel case.

Early Life and Career

Denise Mina was born in East Kilbride in August 1966. Her father was an engineer, so she spent her childhood moving regularly. In total the family relocated 21 times in just 18 years, living in a wide variety of places from different parts of Scotland to Paris and The Hague.

After school Denise went straight into work at a range of jobs, before eventually studying Law at Glasgow University. She went onto work towards a PhD in criminal law and it was during this time that her first novel, Garnethill, was published by Transworld. Denise now lives in Glasgow and is considered an author of the ‘Tartan Noir’ genre. She also writes graphic novels, screenplays and plays for the stage.

Her works have earned several awards, including the John Creasey Dagger for Best First Crime Novel for Garnet Hill, and two Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Awards. Denise regularly tours UK literary festivals and has judged both the Bailey’s Prize for Fiction and the Cohen Prize.

The Long Drop and the Case of Peter Manuel

The Long Drop was published in 2017 and is based on the trial and execution of notorious Scottish killer, Peter Manuel. Denise explores Manuel’s activities in 1950s Glasgow and looks at the unique oddities of his case.

Manuel was notorious for his murder of three women living in a suburban Glasgow villa. On 19th September 1956, he broke into the home, shot the victims in their beds and then made himself a ham sandwich.

The patriarch of the home he destroyed, William Watt, was five hours away by car on a fishing holiday. Despite this, he was still the number one suspect and spent three months in prison, accused of murdering his wife, daughter, and sister-in-law. With no evidence, Watt was released and took it upon himself to investigate the horrific events that destroyed his family.

On sharing the word that he’d pay for information about the crime, he found himself face to face with Peter Manuel in a Glasgow pub. They reportedly spent 11 hours in each other’s company, drinking and talking. The next time they saw each other was in Glasgow’s High Court, where Manuel was facing charges for those very three murders, as well as four others. No one knows what really went on during that drunken night, but Denise seeks to give us some of this story in The Long Drop, as well as reimagining the trial.

Her work on The Long Drop did not go unnoticed, as it won both the MacIlvanny Prize 2017 for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year and The Gordon Burn Prize 2017.