Gods And Beasts by Denise Mina
Interview by Scott Montgomery
Gods And Beasts by Denise Mina has been moving off our shelves since it arrived. The latest in her Alex Morrow series takes three story lines, one with a robbery, the second with a sex scandal, and the last with two coppers blackmailed after a moment of weakness, all of which give the reader insight into what’s going on in present day Scotland. Denise was kind enough to take a few questions from us about the book.
MysteryPeople: Is it correct that part of Gods And Beasts was inspired by an actual political scandal in Scotland?
Denise Mina: Yes, it was. A Scottish folk hero politician who was a family man was accused of attending seedy sex parties in a swingers club in Manchester . It was so different from the man everyone thought they knew, it was an outrageous allegation. Anyway, he sued the News of the World, who had made the claim. Legally I don’t know if I’m allowed to say anything else about that but you can check out the story on line.
I finished the book the week before he got out of prison but when he got out he sued the NoW again so I had to rewrite the entire book in a week end with Clinton and Strauss Khan’s biographies next to me, or else the lawyers at the publishers said they’d have to shelve it.
MP: The title comes from an Aristotle quote you use in the book that roughly says that someone who is unable to live in society or live sufficiently without it is a god or a beast. How does that reflect what you wanted to explore in the book?
DM: I think the quote means that those who are not part of the society are either gods or beast. That applies to almost everyone in the book. We suddenly have a big thing over here about who is and isn’t paying taxes and how wrong it is of people to use funky tax schemes.
MP: You have three stories that converge in a natural way. How difficult was it to juggle them?
DM: Hopefully part of the tension int he book is the reader thinking ‘how the hell is she going to bring these together’? It certainly kept me wondering! It pretty much resolves on the last page which, technically, I’m very proud of. I don’t know how I did it but I can’t think who else should get the credit , so it must be me.
MP:You have people who make some horrible decisions, but there is a general, at times compassionate, understanding of why they do this. Is it important to you that your sinners can have as much sympathy as your “saints”?
DM: Definitely. I do like books with clean distinctions between good and bad guys but it doesn’t feel realistic, always. There’s a TV sketch show over here where SS men are talking about their uniform and one says to the other ‘We have skulls on our hat emblems. You don’t think that means we’re the bad guys, do you?” I love that. I don’t think many people believe they’re doing awful things, and yet we do. Much more interesting.
MP: I was happy to see your other series character, Paddy Meehan, appear in the book. Had you planned to use her when you started?
DM: No, but the fifty page letter of objection from the lawyer to had some questions about the journalist that appeared there: is this a real person? are they identifiable? I was feeling a bit beleaguered and changed it to Paddy. Scott Free are developing a TV series of the Morrow books and they’d promised that the brilliant actress who plays Paddy Meehen in the TV show will be asked to appear in teat scene. Love that.
MP: This is your third book with Alex Morrow. What has the character allowed you to do as a writer, you couldn’t do with Paddy or you’re other protagonists?
DM: Alex isn’t in the books very much, going by word count, so she leaves a lot of space for other stories, which is wonderful