Lynda La Plante on breaking boundaries and why there STILL aren't enough good roles for women

My guest this week is a woman who - to coin a bit of 1980s jargon - punched through the glass ceiling for women in TV, creating not just one but a series of female lead characters who broke the mould. And not just any old female lead but OLDER female leads. There would be no Happy Valley or Scott & Bailey if it wasn’t for Lynda La Plante’s groundbreaking creation, detective Jane Tennison, brought to life by Helen Mirren. The BAFTA and Emmy award winning screenwriter of Prime Suspect, Widows and many other hit TV shows, Lynda has written 43 bestselling books, including the young Tennison series - the latest of which is Unholy Murder - that takes Jane Tennison back to the 80s as she battles to break through in the macho Met. 

Lynda is now 78 and it’s 30 years since her groundbreaking creation hit our small screens (back when there were only four channels and primetime telly really mattered). But Lynda started out as a dyslexic drama student who, she says, was “too short and plain” to get good parts. Lucky for us, she decided to try her hand at writing them instead. Lynda tells me what it was really like to be a woman in TV in the 80s and 90s (and noughties!), the humiliation that shaped her, how she learnt not to let things get to her and why you should always always ALWAYS read the small print!

She has a few things to say about contemporary crime TV drama, but this is a bit of a masterclass for any wannabe crime writers.

• You can buy all the books mentioned in this podcast at, including Unholy Murder by Lynda La Plante and the book that inspired this podcast, The Shift: how I lost and found myself after 40 - and you can too, by me!

The Shift (on life after 40) with Sam Baker is created and hosted by Sam Baker and edited by Emily Sandford. If you enjoyed this podcast, please rate/review/follow as it really does help other people find us. And let me know what you think on twitter @sambaker or instagram @theothersambaker.

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