“His talents adored the profession of his choice, his life recommended the gospel which he preached in every relation of life,” I read aloud off a 19th-century gravestone. “He died universally regretted.”
There’s a pause. “Well, he sounds like he was fun on a Saturday night,” says McDermid, who gives a short, sharp laugh and wanders off.
The Scottish novelist is not one to mince her words, either in her books or in person. Now 60, McDermid emerged in the late 1980s with her pioneering Lindsay Gordon series, which featured the “shocking’” inclusion of a cynical lesbian journalist as the main protagonist, and since then she has published dozens of bloody and suspense-filled novels, selling more than 11m copies around the world. Lauded by critics, in 2010 she was awarded one of the highest accolades in crime fiction: the Crime Writers’ Association Cartier Diamond Dagger for outstanding achievement. Her appearance at the Edinburgh book festival tonight, where she will be interviewed by Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon, sold out instantly.