Hamish Macbeth and Agatha Raisin author MC Beaton dies aged 83

She wrote more than 160 novels in a prolific 40-year career.

Writer Marion Chesney, who wrote under the name M C Beaton. Pic: Louise Bowles
Writer Marion Chesney, who wrote under the name M C Beaton. Pic: Louise Bowles

The author and creator of fictional detectives Hamish Macbeth and Agatha Raisin has died at the age of 83.

Marion Chesney Gibbons, who wrote under the pseudonym MC Beaton, wrote more than 160 novels in her prolific 40-year career and sold more than 21 million copies globally.

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Her son, Charles Gibbons, announced that his mother passed away after a brief illness via Twitter on Thursday.

His post said: "Author of over 160 novels in her prolific 40-year career, this news will sadden many of her readers almost as much as it has her family and friends.

"The support of her fans and the success she enjoyed in her later years were a source of great pride and satisfaction to her, and for that I will be eternally grateful."

Her Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth novels were translated into 17 languages and both made into TV dramas.

Robert Carlyle starred as Macbeth in the BBC series and Ashley Jenson played Raisin in the Sky TV dramas.

Life and Career

MC Beaton, who was born in Glasgow, is consistently the most borrowed UK adult author in British libraries.

Her online author bio says she started her first job as a bookseller in charge of the fiction department at John Smith & Sons Ltd. There, she started to review variety shows for the Scottish Daily Mail and quickly became their theatre critic.

She left Smith’s to join Scottish Field magazine as a secretary in the advertising department, without any shorthand or typing experience, but quickly got the job of fashion editor instead.

She then moved to the Scottish Daily Express where she reported mostly on crime. This was followed by a move to Fleet Street to the Daily Express where she became chief woman reporter.

She lived in the US after marrying Harry Scott Gibbons and having a son, Charles.

Initially she worked as a waitress in Alexandria while Harry washed the dishes, but they both managed to get jobs on Rupert Murdoch's new tabloid, The Star, and moved to New York.

In a bid to spend more time at home with her son, she started to write Regency romances. After writing close to 100, she moved on to write detective stories under the pseudonym MC Beaton.

On a trip from the States to Sutherland on holiday, a course at a fishing school inspired the first Hamish Macbeth story.

Marion and Harry returned to Britain and bought a croft house in Sutherland where Harry reared a flock of black sheep.

When her son graduated, and both of his parents tired of the long commute to the north of Scotland, they moved to the Cotswolds, where Agatha Raisin was created.