Meet Ann Cleeves
Ann is an award-winning crime writer who has published five novels set in Shetland featuring police detective Jimmy Perez.
Her most recent Shetland book, Wild Fire, was published by Pan Macmillan in September 2018. Ann has a long association with Shetland and confesses to being in love with the place.
Her relationship with the archipelago began in 1975, when she took a job as assistant cook at the Fair Isle bird observatory. She told the Daily Telegraph: “I’d dropped out of university – I was studying English at Sussex and arrogantly thought I could read books anywhere. I was 19, looking for adventure and was running away from a proper job.”
On Fair Isle Ann met her late husband Tim, a visiting ornithologist, and it was on a return trip that a single stark image provided inspiration for her first Shetland novel.
“There were lots of ravens, very black against the snow. So, because I’m a writer, I thought, ‘What if there were blood as well? And would ravens eat a body?’ I checked with Tim, who said they would.
“Initially it was going to be a short story, and my editor said it would stretch credibility if I wrote more than one novel. But after the good reviews and winning the Dagger, we decided we could stretch to a series. My research in Shetland now is just sitting in croft kitchens, chatting and drinking lots of tea. I have such good relationships there, and I know they offered amazing support for the TV production.”
“My first visit to Shetland was a time of dramatic change in the islands. Oil was being extracted from the North Sea for the first time, and the big terminal at Sullom Voe in North Mainland was under construction. On my rare visits to Shetland Mainland, Lerwick – the islands’ biggest settlement – had the feel of a gold-rush town. There was an influx of people who saw the chance of making money; I bumped into suited executives, contractors and oilmen on their way to the rigs.
Shetland has a history of people arriving from outside, though, and I think it managed the time of transition well. It still welcomes visitors with grace and hospitality, whether they’re tourists desperate to experience the fire festival of Up Helly Aa or a BBC film crew. I enjoy writing about the islands just because they are dynamic, changing and energetic. Don’t come to Shetland imagining a Viking theme park, a place fixed in the past. History is important here, but the community
looks to the future...”
The award winning TV Series 'Shetland' has been adapted from Ann's books. Series 1 was based upon stories within the books, but from series 2 onwards the storylines written for the screen and are not based on the books, though the main characters are the same.