Crime cohort set to graduate
Published on Wed 13 Nov 2019 by Grant Hill
A publican used to hearing customers complain about the price of a pint being ‘murder’ will this Thursday become one of the first students to graduate from a unique crime writing course at the University of Dundee.
Zoe Cooper will receive her MLitt Crime Writing and Forensic Investigation degree at the University’s Winter Graduation ceremony on Thursday 14 November, as will classmates Gillian Duff and Scot Mackenzie.
The Masters course is the first of its kind in the UK and sees academics from the University’s School of Humanities and Centre for Anatomy & Human Identification (CAHID) share their expertise and guide students through key aspects of crime, science and the law. Modules include creative writing, the history of forensic science and the inner workings of crime investigation.
The course was created in response to the surge in popularity of crime fiction in recent years, with the genre increasingly gaining more critical attention and being studied by academics.
Zoe, from Arbroath, works as assistant manager at Dundee’s Trades House Bar. She is a long-time crime writing obsessive, and says the MLitt was perfect for her as it allowed her to not only develop as a writer but also ensure that the forensic details that underpin her plots remained scientifically accurate.
“I am absolutely delighted to graduate and the whole experience has been really positive,” she said. “I always loved crime writing and became interested in forensic science when I started to write myself. About six different people sent me the link to this course when it was first launched because they knew I would be interested.
“Aside from helping me as a writer, the best thing about the course were the classes we got to take in forensic science. I learned so much from them and it has made an enormous difference to my writing.”
Prior to returning to education, Zoe worked as a sound engineer and ran music venues. She also spent time working in television and hopes her Masters will help her return to the medium. For her dissertation project, Zoe wrote the pilot episode of a crime drama, and she is now working on scripts for the remainder of the series.
Her classmate Gillian is also hoping that the course will help her realise her creative ambitions. The former teacher now runs a garden furniture shop in her hometown of Forfar and has set her debut novel in a fictionalised version of Angus.
“I think every teacher believes they have a novel in them and I was no different,” she said. “Crime was what I liked to read so that was what I wanted to write as well. To be a good crime writer you need to know so much about forensic science and I always said that if I won the lottery I would do two courses – one on the forensic side and one in creative writing. So when I saw there was a course that combined the two I had to go for it.
“It has given me confidence, first and foremost, in my writing but it has also given me an understanding of forensic science that is absolutely invaluable. Crime readers are very perceptive and knowledgeable so it is vital you have your information right because you have to give readers the best experience possible.”
Thursday’s Graduation ceremony will also see Gillian receive the inaugural Val McDermid Award for producing the best dissertation on the course and, as a big fan of the best-selling author, is delighted by the honour.
Val is an honorary graduate of the University, while CAHID’s Val McDermid Mortuary was named in her honour following a campaign to raise money for the cutting-edge facility. She and other crime writers regularly work with staff at CAHID to ensure the scientific veracity of the gory scenes in their books.
The University’s Graduation ceremonies take place in the Caird Hall this Thursday and Friday and will see hundreds of students from Scotland and around the world receive their degrees, diplomas and doctorates.
To find out more about the MLitt Crime Writing and Forensic Investigation course, please visit to www.dundee.ac.uk/study/pg/crime-writing-forensic-investigation.