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A Minute With: crime writer Ann Cleeves on 'The Long Call'

A Minute With: crime writer Ann Cleeves on 'The Long Call'
By Reuters
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By Mindy Burrows

LONDON - British crime writer Ann Cleeves turned to her teenage stomping ground on the southwest coast for inspiration for her novel "The Long Call", which airs in a new TV dramatisation from this week in the UK and North America.

The book, written after her husband Tim's death in 2017 and released in 2019, follows gay detective Matthew Venn as he returns to his old North Devon home, revisiting the community he was rejected from years ago and embarking on a major murder case.

In an interview with Reuters, Cleeves spoke about her inspiration for the story, the first in her "Two Rivers" series of novels, and seeing her work adapted for the screen.

It is her third series of books to be dramatised for television.

Below are excerpts edited for length and clarity.

Q: What was your inspiration for "The Long Call"?

Cleeves: "(It) came from a time that happened just after my husband died and I wanted to run away from home ... because of the sympathy and the pity and all the people who just wanted to talk about him and I just needed a bit to be away from that.

"And where I ran away to was North Devon, because that was where I grew up. I'd spent my teenage years there, loved it and still had friends there. So I went down and stayed with my oldest friend."

Q: Why did you decide to make Venn gay?

Cleeves: "That wasn't any sort of attempt to do something different or think it was about time we had a gay central character in a in a commercial novel. It was because the people who looked after me when Tim died, who scooped me up from the hospital and fed me wine and tea and actually are still there to support me, were a gay couple.

"I wanted to celebrate a gay marriage and I think they were just in my head."

Q: How does is feel seeing your books adapted for TV?

Cleeves: "I'm not precious about the books at all, because I think that once a reader gets hold of them, they belong to the reader and not to me because the reader builds their own pictures in their head and they see things that are quite different from what I see. And so handing it to a director and a scriptwriter is just one stage further to that."

"The Long Call" began in the UK on Monday on ITV and debuts in North America on Thursday on BritBox.

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