QUEEN of Crime Martina Cole makes regular trips to Ireland, and they frequently involve visits to her cousins in Cork.
But this week she crosses the water to attend as one of the headline authors of the Murder One International Crime Writing Festival, which is taking place in Dublin from November 1-3.
She spoke to The Echo ahead of her appearance at the festival and said the audience can look forward to a good chat about her newest book, No Mercy, her back catalogue, and much more besides.
The best-selling writer makes for a dream interviewee, chatty and warm.
Although born and reared in Britain, she gives a lot of credit to her upbringing in a house with a mother from Dublin and father from Cork.
“I come from a big, close family and I think we were like most Irish families were,” says Martina.
“I think if you grew up in an Irish household, I don’t care what country you were in, you had an Irish upbringing. We all did where we lived, there were lots of Irish families.
“One of my nans came for the weekend and stayed for 11 years! It was that kind of family.”
Martina also traces her love of books and reading to her family background.
“My nan taught me to read and write before I started school and I was very close to her, my mother’s mother,” she says.
“She could quote the bible with the best of them, we used call her Billy Graham to annoy her!
“She used to say, you’ll never be lonely if you have a book.”
The love of reading led to a grá for writing.
“I’ve always loved books and I’ve always been a big reader and I think most people who love reading, their dream is to write a book,” Martina says.
I point out that for most readers, it stays a dream. Martina started the manuscript of what would become her debut novel Dangerous Lady in her twenties but put it aside in her life as a busy young working mother.
She went back to it at 30 and the resulting book caused a sensation when it was published by Headline in 1992. She has never looked back, and has gone on to be one of the best selling writers of her generation.
“It was great,” she says. “I suddenly had this job I absolutely loved.”
She chuckles when I mention that at the time, some said Dangerous Lady might be a one-hit wonder: “Well, I’m on the 26th book and I’m still here!”
Given the importance of books in her life, it is no surprise that Martina is a passionate advocate for literacy.
“I think it is very important that people read, especially in this day and age,” she says.
“Everyone is on devices, you rarely see people with a book and I worry that people’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter — they can barely read a Tweet and that worries me.”
She is an ambassador for The Reading Agency’s Reading Ahead programme, which works to inspire and encourage less confident readers, and regularly visits work places, libraries and most notably prisons.
“I was meeting young men who can’t read and write, it’s shocking,” she says. “I used to say to them, with a book you can escape your environment, you don’t have to be in prison, you can be on a rocket, or hunting through a desert or jungle.
“You can be wherever you want to be with a book.”
Martina Cole is in conversation with Breda Brown in the Smock Alley Main Space on Saturday, November 2. Find out more at murderone.ie