A graduate of Glasgow (Medicine) and Wolfson College, Oxford (Anthropology), Anne Pettigrew was a GP with interests in psychiatry and women’s health. She has been a BMA Press officer, EEC Committee Member, book reviewer and wrote medico-political/humorous articles for The Herald, medical newspapers and periodicals. On retiring, she took writing classes at Glasgow University and continues in a critical writer’s forum there with her tutor.  After winning short story and article trophies, her first novel about sixties female med students, Not the life Imagine,d was runner up in the Scottish Association of Writers’ Constable Silver Stag Award 2018 and honoured by a Bloody Scotland Spotlight in 2019. Her second book Not the Deaths Imagined followed the same  women  into General Practice (with a murderous colleague), her third had a divorced Glasgow teacher embroiled in a Oxford University murder and Iraq War fall out, while her new book Medicine, Money and Murder, concerns 1971 female Ascots med students on a US summer placement encountering the pitfalls of commercialised medicine and murder. Anne has two grown up children and lives with her husband in the West of Scotland. She enjoys art, good food, wine and travel.


Where did you grow up?

Near Queen’s Park on the southside of Glasgow. In our family education for girls was thought as important as for boys and I didn’t know this wasn’t the norm in the sixties when my English teacher at Queen’s Park Secondary School suggested teaching as the only sensible career for a woman- to be home to make hubbie’s tea and tend the kids in the summer holidays. Luckily, there was a wonderful classics teacher, Miss J.C Muir, our Miss Jean Brodie, who even regularly for years met ‘her gals’ who’d left school for encouragement in Wendy’s Tearoom. Her dream that I should go to Oxford was partly responsible for my age 52 Masters’ in Medical Anthropology at Wolfson College. You’re never too old!

When did you start writing?

Age eight I wrote a medieval mystery, Bridget’s Key – fully illustrated in pen and ink with cover in cellophane wrapper to imitate a library book! When my children were small, I tried writing children’s books but after one rejection, shelved them.

How important is reading to you?

As a child, I practically lived in Langside Library. My childhood memories are not of endless sunny days, but rainy ones curled up with a book. When I was told off for borrowing too many books in one week, my umbrella-wielding granny went to  tackle the librarian. I’d read six books in a week and even badgered them to let me borrow ‘adult’ Compton Mackenzie!’ My father introduced me to many stirring authors from Ernest Hemingway to Nigel Tranter. And to poetry. John Masefield’s sea poems and Coleridge were favourites. I still read widely. I also loved art, though the school insisted I took History instead. To compensate, my Dad arranged Saturday classes at Glasgow School of Art, where I studied drawing, painting and History of Dress & Design.

So, loving writing and art, why did you do medicine?

Being asthmatic as a child, I met many fantastic doctors and one told me that women could become doctors, though I never saw one. ‘I did apply for English Literature at Glasgow as well but decided on medicine. No one in my family had been to University and it was very scary. My parents were delighted when I won the Women’s Graduate Prize and a handful of medals (including one for surgery though for theory: I’m not keen on scalpels.

What is the story behind Not the Life Imagined?

After retiring as a GP, I stopped and started several novels. My son gave me Stephen King’s inspiring ‘On Writing’ then I enrolled for Creative Writing Classes at University of Glasgow’s Centre for Lifelong Learning which were terrific. Finding few novels written about women doctors, I decided to write about female medics facing discrimination in the sixties. But I added male characters who also faced barriers and ethical dilemmas.

Is NTLI autobiographical?

No characters are me or specific people. My story would have been boring. Thankfully, I never met anyone as awful as Conor and Frank in Not The Life  Imagined. Many of the incidents though were based on my or friend’s experiences. And the camaraderie is true: intense medical working practices forge deep life-long friendships which stand medics in good stead when facing personal disasters and mental illness. It’s also true that sixties students were unbelievably naïve about life and sex compared to the present day.

What do you do when not writing?

Paint landscapes, lunch, travel. Before Covid we were fortunate enough to visit far flung lands such as Patagonia, the Galapagos, Namibia and the Far East. We’ve been privileged to be able to help several girls from the Darjeeling hills through tertiary education and enjoyed visiting them In India whenever we can.

Are there more books starring Dr Beth Slater?

Not The Deaths Imagined is a sequel. The Carnelian Tree stars a divorced teacher on sabbatical in 2003 Oxford and the upcoming book (Sept 18 2024)  Medicine, Money and Murder has a different set of female med students facing a murderous time on a 1971 US summer placement.

Who are your favourite authors?

I have dozens! I like serious stories for dark nights and frivolous tales for planes and holidays. Fiction? Christopher Brookmyre (aka as half of Ambrose Parry along with his medic wife, Marisa Haetzman), Steig Larsson (skilful depiction of women, abuse and socio-cultural problems), Joanne Harris (evocative portrayals of identity and women’s issues), Philippa Gregory (the best for historical novels on women), Stella Rimington (a great spy storyteller), Peter May (a page turning expert), Sebastian Faulks (again great women) and Andrea Camilleri for Italy, food, wine, sun and daft characters.  I also like the timeless Moon’s a Balloon biography by David Niven and Michelle Obama’s Becoming while Guns, Germs and Steel by US professor Jared Diamond is an eye-opening read.

Authors I’ve loved whom you rarely hear about now are Taylor Caldwell (Dear and Glorious Physician on St Luke and The Arm and The Darkness  on Cardinal Richelieu for well-researched, atmospheric novels and John Verney, delightfully spider illustrated kid’s books ahead of their time with environmental themes.