Alex Gray and Karen Campbell: Don't mess about with these ladies

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FOOTBALL referees aren't always the most popular people on match day. Unless, of course, they've just awarded your team a penalty in the final minute of 0-0 draw.

Yes, they may be blind and have mislaid their father somewhere along the way, but do they really deserve to die – horribly?

Waterstone's East End bring out their (footballing) dead this evening, at a book signing by two of the nation's top women fear-mongers, Alex Gray and Karen Campbell.

Specialising in detective thrillers about the murder capital of Europe, Glasgow, both authors are certainly not short of material or realism in their novels.

First time author Campbell, a former policewoman, will be discussing her murder mystery The Twilight Time set in the dark world of prostitution and drug dealing, while Gray will talk about her fifth book in the best selling DCI Lorimer series, Pitch Black.

The tale sees Lorimer investigating the seamy side of Kelvin FC when a dead football player turns up and his wife suddenly leaves for the Isle of Mull. However, it's the death of a referee that turns the story from a suspected domestic incident into a sinister race against time.

It's the sort of plot that most readers would expect from a male writer and Gray is not surprised by the number of people who turn up to book events expecting to meet a man.

She laughs, "It is ironic that the book's about football too. Alex is short for Alexandra. I was a bit confused when the first book came out and there was no picture of me on the inside cover. But my publisher quite likes that people think I'm a man. It gets away from that idea of women writing for women or a man picking up the book and then putting it down because he sees the author is a woman."

Women like PD James, Agatha Christie and Ruth Rendell, however, have formed a large contingent in the crime writing genre for many years and Gray is enthusiastic about their contribution.

"I think women are successful crime writers because they think more deeply and empathise more. Not just with the reader but about their character's feelings and motivation too.

"Although, saying that, Rebus is brilliant and Chris-topher Brookmeyer's charac-ters make me laugh out loud".

Gray has been fascinated by human behaviour and her place in the universe since childhood.

"I was always a serious child. My mother would describe it as morbid curiosity. Even at three or four I remember asking myself what was beyond the world and the universe. I read all the Russian classics in my early teens." Her curiosity has lead her to take a different approach with her latest book (scheduled for release in 2010), a study into the nature of evil.

"I recently took a course in forensic psychology and I asked the teacher, 'Well, what about evil?' I saw two of the students, who were policemen, nodding in agreement. There's a difference between bad and mad. Some things could only have been thought of by an evil mind".

For now, however, it's on hold as she promotes Pitch Black, a novel that, like all crime fiction, she believes is an excellent way of escaping everyday life to find a certain sense of satisfaction.

"Statistically most killers are caught. But do people really get what they deserve?" she asks. "When you hear about the sentences perpetrators get for their crimes, in real life people are dissatisfied. I get to give my killers a fitting end."

Alex Gray, philosopher, crime writer and would-be high court judge . . . fictional criminals everywhere beware, do the crime and this lady will ensure you do the time.

&#149 Alex Gray and Karen Campbell, Waterstone's East End, Princes Street, tonight, 6pm, free but ticketed, 0131-556 3034

&#149 Pitch Black by Alex Gray is available in hardback (19.99) and paperback (11.99), published by Sphere The Twilight Time by Karen Campbell is available in hardback (12.99), published by Hodder and Stoughton

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