I’m delighted that The Girl in the Green Dress is out in paperback this week. The novel tells the story of teenager Allie Kennaway who heads off for Prom night, cheered on by her dad Steve and her little sister Teagan. But Allie never comes home, beaten to death in an apparent hate crime because of her transgender identity. Back in September, on first publication, I wrote about how my experience as a parent of a transgender child had been the inspiration for writing the book. You can read that post further down the page.
Most of my recent stand-alone titles have focused on ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events, they have taken the point of view of victims, relatives, suspects or even perpetrators rather than investigators. I’ve been interested in telling stories about how crime impacts on people’s lives, the sort of nightmare situations that any of us might find ourselves in.
With The Girl in the Green Dress I chose to combine that perspective with the more traditional police procedural, something I’d experience of with my Blue Murder series and for the Scott and Bailey books. So in the novel we hear from Steve and from two parents whose sons may be involved in the crime and also from the two detectives working on the murder – DI Donna Bell and DC Jade Bradshaw.
Donna and Jade grew on me as I got to know them and there’ve been several readers asking if we’ll see them again. All I can say is I do hope so as I’d love to revisit them but there are no immediate plans for that.
Meanwhile thanks to everyone who has given me such lovely feedback on the book, and to the readers who have come up and talked to me about it at readings – and shared their own stories. It’s wonderful how books can connect people.
I nearly always tweet about what I’m reading with #FridayReads. I like to share recommendations with other readers. This week I decided to post a batch of titles I’ve enjoyed on my blog instead. Enjoy.
It’s been a good while since I posted – my website was hacked and has taken ages to sort out. So I’ve been building up a backlog of recommended reads. There’s plenty of variety in this first selection from a unbearably tense psychological thriller and a beautifully written epic Western to an homage to the world of Highsmith, an unusual and poignant examination of death and love and a stunning crime debut with a deaf central character.
The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne
Fever City by Tim Baker
The Brittle Star by Davina Langdale
The Crime Writer by Jill Dawson
Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic
Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane
The Girls by Emma Cline
Being Dead by Jim Crace
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Hello, you’ve reached the website of Manchester based, crime writer Cath Staincliffe. I’m the author of the Sal Kilkenny private eye stories and creator and scriptwriter of Blue Murder, ITV’s hit detective drama starring Caroline Quentin as DCI Janine Lewis. I write the Scott & Bailey books, based on the much loved ITV1 police series. My standalone titles, psychological fiction, explore the lives of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events. Thank you to everyone who has borrowed, bought or downloaded one of my books. Happy reading.
The starting point for a novel, the spark that ignites an idea, varies. It can be a location that sets my imagination alight or an item in the news, it might be a particular image, or a question that is troubling me. The Girl in the Green Dress sprang from something very close to home, my experience as a parent of a transgender child. In the novel, teenager Allie Kennaway heads off for Prom night, cheered on by dad Steve and her little sister Teagan. But Allie never comes home, beaten to death in an apparent hate crime because of her transgender identity. I’ve written about hate crimes before, crimes rooted in racism, in Stone Cold Red Hot and Split Second. But never about a transphobic crime. When I shared early chapters of the book with my writing group, people found it illuminating – no one had friends or family who were transgender. And I realised there weren’t many transgender characters in the fiction I’d read (with some notable exceptions like Breakfast on Pluto and Tales of the City read years ago and more recently the wonderful The Sunlight Pilgrims). I had a lot to learn myself, from my child and from reading information on transgender advice and support sites. Crime fiction is renowned for being a very effective genre for exploring social issues and contemporary hot topics and with this novel, at a time when increasing numbers of young people are questioning their gender identity and turning to gender identity clinics for support and health care, I wanted to shed some light on what it is like to have a transgender child, and hopefully to increase understanding of transgender issues.
The big question I ask in the book is how far you would go to protect your child – what if you suspected them of involvement in a terrible crime? Is your duty to keep them safe and shield them? Or to respect the law and make them take responsibility for what they’ve done? The parents involved have very different responses to the dilemma. Responses that put the search for truth and justice, for Allie and her family, in jeopardy.
And as is only right, the book is dedicated to my wonderful daughter Kit, the inspiration behind the story
I read as widely as I can, my only criteria is a good story. By that I mean a satisfying narrative, characters who draw me in (I don’t have to like them but I do have to be interested in them) and a well-realised setting or world where events unfold. This latest selection includes contemporary and historical fiction as well as some crime novels. But, whatever the genre, in my opinion they’re all criminally good. See what you think.
My last blog described writing about victims and survivors in my novel The Silence Between Breaths which examines a terrorist attack and its impact on people caught up in it. Nineteen days after posting that blog came the brutal attack on Manchester, where I live. The response of people to that violence, the shared humanity and compassion and resilience have been humbling – and also made me so proud. This poem, written sometime ago, says something of what I feel about my adopted city.