Author puts Paddy Meehan on the case

CRIME writer Denise Mina’s choice of name for the heroine in her new book, The Field of Blood, will raise a few memories as well as eyebrows among the hack-pack, the legal eagles and the underworld.

For the "young journalist" is called Paddy Meehan.

"It’s Glasgow, 1981 and 18-year-old Paddy has just started work on a Scottish daily newspaper ..."

She is investigating a miscarriage of justice, which is a bold touch indeed as the real Paddy Meehan was "the most infamous miscarriage of justice" in Scotland in the past 50 years and the only man in Scotland in the last century to receive a Royal pardon.

Mina has been hailed as "the crown princess of crime fiction" and the London Times describes her as "Glasgow’s answer to Ian Rankin", but neither Mina nor Rankin, nor any other crime writer, would surely have the nerve to conjure up the tale of the real Paddy Meehan, "a peterman" convicted for the murder of Ayr pensioner Rachel Ross in 1969. Seven years later, Meehan was pardoned in a case that had walk-on parts for the likes of solicitors Joe Beltrami, Len Murray, his defence counsel, Sir Nicholas Fairbairn, QC, and Ludovic Kennedy. Ludo campaigned on Meehan’s behalf and his book A Presumption of Innocence so upset the legal establishment many reckoned that was why he was blackballed from Muirfield.

Meehan’s freedom was not the end of the tale. Embittered, obsessive and unbalanced by his experience, he claimed he had been set up by MI5 and turned against his legal team.

When Meehan died in 1994, Fairbairn had an astonishing, if not characteristic, outburst in The Scotsman where he described his former client as "a vagabond and I am glad he is dead. To hell with him. He was a psychopath, just a horrible, nasty, evil, loathsome crook".

This prompted a letter to the paper from Jimmy Boyle defending Meehan, whom he had come across in the "cages" in Inverness prison. As they say, you couldn’t make it up.

Making a pitch for iconic status

WHO else are the arbiters of post-modern tabloid culture than the Scotia Nostra who run Shed production.

The television company that makes Footballers’ Wives continues to surf along on the crest of the zeitgeist, with anybody who is anybody queuing up to make a guest appearance their show.

It is what turns a celebrity into an icon, as anybody can be a celebrity these days.

It used to be an appearance on The Archers, Ab Fab or The Simpsons that gave you kudos as a cut above the rest of the showbiz morass, but now its mingling with Chardonnay and the rest of the girls.

Jordan made it on to last season’s show while Victoria Beckham was in the one before. Now Richard and Judy have been booked for the next one.

"We thought it would be great," said Shed, "if one of the Wives actually learned to read and she could take part in their book club."

The already-filmed fourth series starts on Thursday.

But why Shed - Brian Park, Eileen Gallagher and Maureen McManus - were never asked to make The Gathering Place we’ll never know.

Yet another Scottish export

WE REALLY feel we could publish a tome The Life of Pie which, you never know, could be an award winner, as readers’ appetites for such tales never wane.

News of Eric Swinney, our man in Rio, and his plan for a cultural exchange between the Maracana stadium and Dens Park and their version of the pie, "empanadas", prompted reader Andrew Leslie to further enlighten us. "I am always pleased to hear of Scottish entrepreneurial success abroad - particularly where pies are concerned," he said. "However, Eric should be aware that empanadas are already familiar to many Scots; they were part of the staple diet of Ally’s Army in 1978 - ideal for soaking up the local cerveza in Cordoba while waiting for the next disaster to happen.

"I didn’t realise that they were also a delicacy in Brazil, but can only surmise that their fame spread from Argentina where the beef is better. Some of your readers may even be able to prove that empanadas were taken to Argentina in the first place by some of the many Scots who went there to work."

So, it seems, we did not just teach the South Americans how to play football.

• Dan Brown’s infernal tome The Da Vinci Code, having sold five million in paperback, has at last inspired a spoof, The Asti Spumante Code, by Tony Clements, to be published on 14 April. Our literary critic agent says it’s "spot on".

But will they sell it at Rosslyn Chapel?

It's all bite and nae breeks...

WHETHER or not Mark Thompson’s career as Director General of the BBC is "toast", as Jeremy Paxman suggested, we reckon the story will not lose its bite.

Another witness to the "biting" of a colleague on the Nine O’Clock News (as opposed to Not the Nine O’Clock News) surfaced at the weekend.

Although the occasional stramash in the newsroom is nothing new, "man bites man" has that extra bit of cachet in a "man bites dog" kind of way. The Diary has witnessed a colleague throwing an old Remington typewriter at another, and the occasional headbutting, but never a biting except in an amorous fashion at the Christmas party.

Although we did not witness it we are reliably informed a well-known Scottish newsreader once performed the feat with no skirt or trousers on under her desk.

'Murder capital' is really in the pink

DONAL MacIntyre’s latest television series, Gangsters, sees his take on Glasgow’s underworld on Five next week. But we really feel we must take issue with it and defend the "dear green place", as in an interview in the Daily Record, Donal portrayed the city as "the murder capital of western Europe".

Shurley shome mishtake, as there were 134 murders in the Naples area last year and we’d guess there are other more violent places. Old-fashioned stereotypes indeed, as did we not spot "Glasgay" being hailed as the "pinkest" city in Europe just the other day in another Glasgow-based blatt?

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