What happened at the brilliant #BloodyScotland Crime Writing Festival 2015 (Part 1)

Whose Crime Is It Anyway? (c) Eoin Carey

Whose Crime Is It Anyway? (c) Eoin Carey

The Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival is one of those festivals that goes from strength to strength. This year the organising team, led by the ever sparky Dom Hastings, put on a fabulous programme of events from panels to interviews, an awards dinner, a pub cabaret, and a football match – there really was something for everyone. In fact, it was so good it’s taken me a week to recover enough to blog about it!

The weekend kicked off with Val McDermid and Peter May in conversation, followed by Whose Crime is it Anyway? – with TV presenter Hardeep Singh Kohli throwing out the challenges to crime writers Christopher Brookmyre, Kevin Wignall and Caro Ramsay to improvise on the spot. Once the opening events finished, as ever at crime writing festivals, the rest of the evening was spent in the bar at the Stirling Highland Hotel with a glass of wine (or two, or three …).

Scotland v England

Scotland v England

On Saturday, I wasn’t able to get to many events as I was in training for a special performance with The Slice Girls at the Crime in the Coo event later that evening. But I heard great things about the Killer Women panel – Louise Millar, Helen Giltrow, and MJ McGrath – who discussed whether the Woman is deadlier than the Male? The thought provoking Self Publishing session with Alexandra Sokoloff and Allan Guthrie, and the New Crimes panel with debut authors Lucy Ribchester (The Hourglass Factory), Chris Dolan (Potter’s Field), SJI Holliday (Black Wood) and Mark Legatt (Names of the Dead) – which all sound like fabulous reads.

In the afternoon, in a brief pause between practices, I did get along to the Breaking the Law panel which had dynamic law buffs Steve Cavanagh, Neil White and Jeffrey Siger, along with Craig Sisterson, talking about the difference between the law in crime thrillers and crime fact, how they draw on their real life experiences in their writing, and the legal thrillers that they especially admire. After that, it was a quick sprint to get ready for the Crime in the Coo before meeting my fellow Slice Girls for one final practice (more about that on the blog tomorrow!)

(c) Eoin Carey

(c) Eoin Carey

After a late, late night on Saturday, my start on Sunday wasn’t especially early! The first event I got along to was the Thriller panel with Simon Kernick, Tom Wood, G.J. Brown and Mason Cross. In a lively debate they talked locations – whether to visit them or not, and the perils if you don’t, the fun of writing “lone wolf” characters, and about their routes to publication (the key, so they say, is not to let rejection stop you).

Then, with the sky getting darker by the minute, it was a short walk up the hill to the bowling green at Cowane’s Hospital where the Bloody Scotland Crime Writers Football Match: Scotland v England was happening. After Scotland’s convincing win last year there was a lot at stake, and as the game kicked off both teams looked very determined. In a tense game, where the players had to contend with alternating sunshine and pouring rain, the two sides looked pretty evenly matched with goal keepers Luca Veste (England) and Craig Robertson (Scotland) kept busy as both sides battled it out to win.

(c) Eoin Carey

(c) Eoin Carey

At the end of the match, the score was 5-5.

The Scotland goals came from Mark Stanton, Christopher Brookmyre, and Doug Johnstone (3). For England the scorers were Vincent Holland-Keane (2), Col Bury (2) and Howard Linskey. The team captains – Ian Rankin (Scotland) and Simon Kernick (England) held the trophy aloft and then, as the rain got heavier, it was time to trot back down the hill (to the bar!).

The final event of the festival was Literary Agent, Jenny Brown, interviewing bestselling crime thriller writer, Linwood Barclay, who was on his first visit to Scotland. To a packed audience, Linwood talked about his writing career, his latest book Broken Promise – the first of a sequence of three connected stories – and on creating a story with a killer hook. Very interesting and highly entertaining, this was the perfect session to end the festival with. Then it was back to the bar, for one final night, before setting off home the next morning.

Jenny Brown interviewing Linwood Barclay (c) Eoin Carey

Jenny Brown interviewing Linwood Barclay (c) Eoin Carey

Next year the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival runs from 9 – 11 September 2016. If you love crime fiction then you absolutely need to be there – put the dates in your diary and book a hotel, now! Trust me, this is one festival that you won’t want to miss out on.

But, of course, there’s something that I haven’t told you about in this blog post – just what happened at Crime in the Coo on Saturday night.

If you want to know, pop back tomorrow for my “(Not so) Secret Diary of a Slice Girl post. 

In the meantime, here’s a sneaky peep …

The Slice Girls on the bar at The Curly Coo (c) Eoin Carey

The Slice Girls on the bar at The Curly Coo (c) Eoin Carey

Confessions from Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival (Part 2): The Football Special

The Ref and The Players - The North (in Red/Black) The South (in Yellow/Blue)

The Ref and The Players – The North (in Red/Black) The South (in Yellow/Blue)

One of the great new additions to the festival programme this year was the football match. At 6.30pm on Saturday evening two teams of brave crime writers lined up to be counted in a passionate and thrilling match for the Harrogate Crime Writers North vs South Challenge Cup.

The teams, pictured here at the start of the match with Referee Mark Billingham, were:

  • For the North (sponsored by Fox Spirit): Luca Veste, Craig Robertson, Nick Quantrill, Col Bury, Howard Linskey, Vincent Holland-Keen, Dan Stewart and Graham Smith.
  • For the South (sponsored by Crime Files): Tim Weaver, Chris Ewan, James Law, Graeme Cameron, Tom Witcomb, Adam Hamdy, Ian Ayris and Darren Laws.

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With a large crowd of spectators assembled to watch them the match kicked off and right from the start the competition was fierce. The North, with great form from their convincing win at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writers Football Match last year, started strong, but the South were determined to give them a challenge and at first possession seemed equally held.

Then the first goal came – from Luca Veste for the North – and from then on the goals from the North kept on coming.

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A short time later it seemed like the South might shorten the gap with Tim Weaver putting the ball in the back of the net. But the goal was disallowed because it occurred after Craig Robertson saved a goal from Tom Witcomb – whose momentum took him illegally (but accidentally) into the box where he illegally (accidentally) flattened Craig – both players were still on the ground when the ball went in the net). Despite some player protests, Referee Mark Billingham stood firm in his decision to disallow the illegal goal, and the teams played on.

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The action was fast and the teams were cheered on as they chased the ball up and down the field with vigor and determination right to the final whistle. Although the South played valiantly to the end, this match was all about the North – with the final score standing at 6-0 to the North. The goals scored by Luca Veste (1), Howard Linskey (2) and Col Bury (3). Craig Robertson saved two penalties.

The match was a real crowd pleaser, with the enthusiastic crowd cheering on the teams the whole way through. But this sporting event didn’t pass without the sheading of blood, sweat and (probably) tears. Confirmed injuries included a fractured wrist (Graeme Cameron) and a fractured ankle (Luca Veste) – and it’s worth noting the grit of these players as they played on with their injuries, Luca still managing to hit the bar and post after his.

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As the triumphant North held high the Harrogate Crime Writers North vs South Challenge Cup later that evening, talk was already turning to the 2016 rematch, and the rigorous training schedules that the players would be putting in place in preparation.

Massive kudos to all who played. It was a fabulous event and one that I’ll be super excited to see return in 2016!

Val McDermid presents the cup to The North (photo credit: Fenris Oswin)

Val McDermid presents the cup to The North (photo credit: Fenris Oswin)

[with thanks to Kat Miller and Luca Veste for the excellent action photos]