RAMSAY, the Scot with the 'sunshine-yellow hair' has been basking in some
decidedly glowing press recently.
The 'hair' line
featured in one of the nationals recently where the 38-year-old is rapidly
becoming what the Scots call, a kent face.
Full-page spreads in
both the Edinburgh-based Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald have announced the
arrival of a sunny new character on the literary scene, and one that we would do
well to note. Well, we don't get much sun in Scotland.
"I think we all are a sum of
different personalities and we use the most appropriate one for any occasion and
this applies particularly to dealing with the press," Ramsay insists.
"I am humorous and tend to find a
funny side to everything -- but that is a personality trait of anybody who does
a serious job -- paramedics and firemen often have a wicked sense of humour,
itís how they cope and I think I am a bit like that also."
The medic analogy is an
appropriate one. Born in Govan, the younger daughter of a
shipyard crane-designer and an office worker, Ramsay grew-up planning to go to
medical school herself, eventually becoming an osteopath at the
British School in
It's a training she
now draws upon in her recently acquired new role as writer.
"Medical training obviously helps
to kill people easily!" she jokes.
"The diagnostic puzzle solving
mind is also useful. I see a lot of the TV character Gregory House in me -- I
like difficult patients with difficult problems.
"The huge benefit of a job like
mine is working with the public -- I am exposed to all human frailty -- which
sinks into my subconscious and emerges in some bizarre and twisted plot, from my
bizarre and twisted mind."
Bizarre, twisted ... so not
'sunny' all the time. A Jekyll and Hyde perhaps?
but I think that is true of all of us, and maybe the nicer we appear to be, the
more awful our thoughts. More scary is when characters keep butting in with
their thoughts on your life and refuse to shut up. Schizophrenia canít be that
Until the launch of
her new novel, Absolution, Ramsay was leading the quiet life in a rural village
on Scotland's west-coast. It was a painful back problem which heralded the
genesis of her first book.
"I was lying flat on my back,
looking out a hospital window and being taken off morphine," Ramsay says of her
first thoughts of attempting a novel.
"The ward was full of folk
shouting out the wrong answers to Who Wants to be a Millionaire. So I quietly
escaped deep into my subconscious and out popped Absolution Ö which you might
notice starts with a blonde lying in a hospital ward Ö but I never made the
connection at the time -- honest."
Ramsay modestly described the
first draft as "150,000 words of nonsense" but immediately the book attracted
the attention of literary agent Jane Gregory.
"I think it impressed the first
agent who saw it, and she took it. But then she realised they had somebody on
their hands who had no idea what she was doing.
"She might as well have given me
a Woolies snorkel set and told me to go ahead and get the Titanic up. I really
had no idea what I was doing, but I am a hard worker and a quick learner.
"I feel I did my apprenticeship
in reverse. The big lesson Ö being a good writer is not the same as being able
to craft a good novel."
Since Absolution's launch the
press have waxed lyrical about Ramsay, describing her as the 'New Rankin'.
comparison her publishers are keen to propagate.
Director, Beverley Cousins recently commented: 'Every editor waits in hope for
the submission that is so good your heart starts pounding and your pulse starts
racing. And after only the first three pages I knew this novel was extra
chilling and intelligent crime thriller set in Glasgow, Caro Ramsay is, in her
own very unique way, the female Ian Rankin.'
Ramsay, politely says she is
"flattered" by the comparison.
"I have been called the new
Denise Mina as well. It's purely geographical and the style of writing is quite
different ... or maybe thatís for you [the reader] to judge.
Despite the comparison, Ramsay
points out that Rankin is east coast, from Edinburgh, and she is west coast,
from Glasgow. It's a subtle difference, which for non-Scots deserves an
She says: "Glaswegians are
lovely, highly intelligent, beautiful folk who grace the planet they walk on!
"Seriously though I do
believe there is a difference. My boyfriend is
Australian and he also says there is a difference.
"Edinburgh is hidden behind its
elegance, in Glasgow what you see is what you get? Maybe I should just quote
from my book that you get more fun at a Glasgow stabbing than an Edinburgh
wedding and leave it there before I get into too much trouble."
Regardless, the comparison
persists, if only in the media.
"I have been very surprised by
the media attention, I had a slight suspicion that the book might make a little
splash in Scotland but when the Sunday Express and Radio 2 came knocking it was
a bit of a shock."
that she will have to get used to the attention is, however, now dawning on her.
Along with a sense that she is perfectly placed to achieve still greater things
in the publishing sphere.
"I never had a desire to be a
writer -- I certainly never starved myself in a garret, waiting for my big break
-- I fell into it by accident (literally actually, it was a fall that hurt my
back right at the start!) -- and I know how fortunate I have been for that to
happen to me.
"I was certainly an avid reader
from a young age and developed an early interest in crime -- I was devouring
Agatha [Christie] by the age of nine. There are no writers or journalists in the
family -- they are all draughtsmen and welders on the Clyde. I think they gave
me books to keep me quiet."
She now lists her favourites as
Val McDermid, Agatha Christie, PD James, Ian Rankin, ďof courseĒ, and Chris
"To tell the truth I admire
anybody who can type without looking," jokes Ramsay.
But she finds it harder to detail
what attracts her to the crime genre.
"[I've] no idea, I think you get
it, or you donít," she says.
"I am still told that if I
thought a bit harder I could write proper fiction from those who really canít
understand why we like to delve down deep into the darkness of the human mind.
ďAs it said in the newspaper, I
laughed all the way to the bank."
Well, they do say
blondes have more fun.
ē Absolution, by
Caro Ramsay is out now, published by Michael Joseph and priced at £12.99.