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Kath McKay: Hard Wired

Winner of the Northern Crime Competition 2016

‘Atmospheric and intriguing’ Literary Review

Kath McKay introduces Hard Wired

I have always read crime stories, starting with wildly inappropriate true crime books about John George Haigh, the Acid Bath murderer, and John Christie, the serial killer from 10 Rillington Place, when I was a child, graduating to In Cold Blood by Truman Capote as a teenager. This grew into an adult habit of devouring crime fiction, and binge-watching TV crime dramas.

As a student, my favourite reading was an Irish Times column called ‘In the Eyes of the Law’, by Nell McCafferty, in which she portrayed the daily dramas in the Bridewell Courts, Dublin, where a defendant could be jailed for stealing a pint of milk. I worked at a legal publishers, in an advice centre and as a solicitor’s clerk, all skirting round crime. I was always aware of the law’s class bias, and interested in what pushed people to the limit, often lashing out at those closest.

Yet I published a novel, poetry collections and short stories – none crime-related.

A relative working in a bail hostel told me stories about residents, and I stored this up. When I saw the Northern Crime Novel competition, the bail hostel setting popped back up. I had the image of a male resident, charming but dangerous. He was guilty, but of what? And I could hear a worn-out female worker, who had started off sympathetic to the residents but who had gradually shed her illusions. I began Hard Wired, deciding to set the novel in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1996, a few months before the General Election, as I had Newcastle relatives and visited often.

Michael is the charming but dangerous resident, Charlie the worn-out hostel worker. When Darren, the son of an annoying former friend, Di, is murdered, Charlie is drawn to help, and becomes tugged in so many directions she is oblivious to her own daughter’s concerns. And once Charlie, who has drifted through jobs for years, starts investigating, she realises she is good at detecting, and can’t be stopped until she finds out the truth.

Kathleen McKay’s novel, Hard Wired, won the Northern Crime competition. Her previous publications include the poetry collections Collision Forces (2015), Telling the Bees (2014), Anyone Left Standing (1998) and the novel Waiting for the Morning (1991). Her short stories have been anthologised and broadcast. She was born in Liverpool and studied at Queen’s University, Belfast. She lives in Leeds, teaches creative writing for Hull University and is involved in Hull 2017 Year of Culture. Anyone Left Standing won The Poetry Business competition, and her short stories and poetry have won national awards and prizes. She has received Arts Council awards for short stories and collaborative projects and mentored writers in Africa for the Crossing Borders scheme.


Northallerton Library, 1 Thirsk Road, Northallerton, DL6 1PT
Friday 3 March, 6.30pm

Cockerton Library, Woodland Road, Darlington, DL3 9AA
Tuesday 21 March, 6.30pm

Acklam Library, Acklam Road, Middlesbrough, TS5 7AB
Monday 24 April, 7pm

Cullercoats Library, St George’s Road, Cullercoats, North Shields, NE30 3JY
Tuesday 25 April, 7.30pm

The Word, 45 Market Place, South Shields, NE33 1JF
Tuesday 23 May, 6pm

River’s Meet Cafe, 102 Leeds Road, Methley,  Leeds, LS26 9EP
Thursday 25 May, 7pm 

Chester-le-Street Library, 4 Station Road, Chester-le-Street, County Durham, DH3 3BP
Monday 5 June, 11am

Barrow Library, Ramsden Square, Barrow-in-Furness, LA14 1LL
Monday 19 June, 1.30pm

Advance booking is advisable and all events may be subject to change. See our individual event listings for further information.

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