By PAUL RIDDELL
Crime writer Ann Cleeves’ quartet of novels set in Shetland may be turned into a prime-time television drama series after a leading production company bought the rights to film them.
Mrs Cleeves was in Shetland this week to launch the third of the books, Red Bones, which is set in Whalsay, and she insisted that if the dramatisation goes ahead it should be filmed in the isles.
The series, whose main character is detective Jimmy Perez, began with the award-winning Raven Black, followed by White Nights. The final novel in the quartet is almost finished.
The rights have been acquired by Plain Vanilla, set up by Dominic Minghella, brother of the late Oscar-winning director Anthony Minghella who made The English Patient and The Talented Mr Ripley among other acclaimed films. Plain Vanilla was behind the BBC series Robin Hood.
The company has already appointed television writer Mark Grieg to the project and an exploratory meeting is planned with representatives of Shetland Arts this weekend.
At the launch of Red Bones in Shetland Library on Tuesday evening Mrs Cleeves said: “It will be great to see Shetland on popular television. I am determined that they will come here to make the [series].”
Foz Allen of Plain Vanilla said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with Ann Cleeves and the skilled television writer Mark Grieg on the Shetland quartet. Ann’s vivid prose has created a visually compelling and intriguing environment, together with a cast of extraordinary characters that help to make what we believe is a fantastic television offering.
“Translating novels for the screen is a tricky journey full of hidden complications and potential disasters. We hope, however, that by working closely with Ann we can retain the essence of the quartet with their atmospheric evocations of the seasons and graphic imagery while continuing to tell a gripping yarn in an emotionally forceful way.”
Meanwhile, Mrs Cleeves announced the results of the auction of a character in the final book of the quartet in honour of Vaila’s Fund, set up by the parents of Shetland girl Vaila Harvey who died of cancer last year at the age of 16.
The successful bidder was Glasgow lawyer Douglas Barr, who pledged £2,500 in return for having his name as a character in the book. An anonymous donation of £1,700 was also accepted.
Mr Barr said: “Over the years I have been lucky enough to go birding on Fair Isle and experienced many wonderful times there . . . Through birding on Fair Isle and Shetland I obviously met Paul [Vaila’s father] and was aware of the tragic circumstances relating to Vaila. I felt that given the aforegoing that I could think of nothing more appropriate [than] to make a donation to [the fund] as a token of my appreciation for what I have been fortunate enough to enjoy.”
The launch on Tuesday was attended by around 50 people, who heard a talk from archaeologist Val Turner on the role of her profession in helping to solve crimes. Mrs Cleeves gave a reading from the new book and the evening was rounded off with a performance from the drumming group Aestaewast.