CTG REVIEWS: BLOODY SCOTLAND – the bloody brilliant book! #BloodyScotland

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What happens when top crime writers Val McDermid, Chris Brookmyre, Denise Mina, Ann Cleeves, Louise Welsh, Lin Anderson, Gordon Brown, Doug Johnstone, Craig Robertson, E S Thomson, Sara Sheridan and Stuart MacBride put together a collection of short stories inspired by some of Scotland’s most dazzling and iconic historical sites?

A bloody brilliant book, that’s what!

Like an adrenaline fuelled road (and across water) trip through Scotland and the islands, the Bloody Scotland book is a heart-pumping exploration of geography, history and breathtaking crime fiction and suspense.

I loved the ancient mystery of the runes in Lin Anderson’s present day/1151 story ORKAHAUGR – evoking the mystical elements of Maeshowe on Orkney as a Professor sets out to experience the phenomenon of the setting sun entering a 5000 year old chambered cairn and discovers the secret within its walls. The heartbreaking ANCIENT AND MODERN by Val McDermid has the intriguing The Hermit’s Castle as the setting for both romance and revenge, and Doug Johnstone’s PAINTING THE FORTH BRIDGE provides a nail-bitingly tense thriller. One of my favourites has to be Chris Brookmyre’s THE LAST SEIGE OF BOTHWELL CASTLE – it’s full of twists and turns, and brilliant dialogue (especially the hilarious discussions about who’s the better character – William Wallace or Legolas – and whether Robin Hood is real!).

So how did the book come about?

Well, Historic Environment Scotland (HES) is the lead public body charged with caring for, protecting and promoting the historic environment. 2017 has been designated the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology and The Bloody Scotland book is a part of that. James Crawford, Publisher HES and editor of the book says, ‘I found myself talking to the co-founder of the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival, Lin Anderson, and its director Bob McDevitt, in the Authors’ Yurt at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August 2016. ‘What if?’ I asked them. ‘What if we asked twelve of Scotland’s top crime writers to write short stories inspired by twelve of our most iconic buildings? What would they think? What would they come up with?’ This book is the answer… Bloody Scotland, then, is a tribute to two of our nation’s greatest assets – our crime writing and our built heritage’.

The Bloody Scotland Book is out today (21st September 2017). You can order it from Amazon HERE and from Waterstones HERE

The Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in Stirling is a must-attend festival for all crime fiction lovers. Next year the festival will run from Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd September 2018. Hop over to the website HERE for more information.

And don’t forget to check out all the fantastic stops along THE BLOODY SCOTLAND BOOK blog tour…

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CTG’s TEN (+1) COOL THINGS THAT HAPPENED AT BLOODY SCOTLAND

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Slice Girling it up at Crime in the Coo! [L-R: Louise Voss, CTG, AK Benedict]

Bloody Scotland (9-11 September) was, once again, bloody brilliant!

It’s a super friendly and dynamic festival with a brilliant team of organisers and volunteers.

It’s hard to pick just ten things, but I’ve done my best and cheated slightly by adding an additional thing (so technically it’s now eleven cool things!!) – and added a bunch of photos to show the rest …

  1. Getting picked up from the station and chauffeur driven to the hotel by lovely crime fiction blogger @GrabThisBook after being on a delayed train for over 10 hours
  2. Raising a glass to celebrate Craig Robertson’s brilliant new novel MURDERABILIA and catching up with all my crime writer and blogging friends
  3. Hearing Daniel Pembrey read from his debut novel THE HARBOUR MASTER in front of a massive crowd at the Albert Halls
  4. Laughing till I cried at the (NOT) BORN IN THE USA panel with Steve Cavanagh, Mason Cross, Gordon Brown and Catriona McPherson
  5. Singing with THE SLICE GIRLS (Alexandra Sokoloff, AK Benedict, SJI Holliday, Louise Voss) at The Curly Coo bar as part of the Crime in the Coo event
  6. Marvelling over the mouthorgan playing genius of Stuart Neville (at Crime in the Coo)
  7. Cheering at the bravery of the pitchers at the PITCH PERFECT event
  8. Being fascinated by Neil McKay and Alexandra Sokoloff (chaired by Alexandra Benedict) talking about the nature of evil
  9. Watching a piper shoot fire out of his bagpipes on every top note in Stirling town centre
  10. Sitting back and enjoying the conversation between top-of-their-game crime writers Ian Rankin and Quintin Jardine
  11. The England crime writers team beating the Scotland crime writers team at football (with some great moves – chesting the ball – by Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books; the only lady player).

Find out more about this brilliant festival at www.bloodyscotland.com and be sure to book your ticket for next year – I just know that it’s going to be fantastic.

You can buy Daniel Pembrey’s THE HARBOUR MASTER here

You can buy Craig Robertson’s MURDERABILIA here

Check out the GRAB THIS BOOK blog here

Check out THE SLICE GIRLS on Facebook here

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Bloody Scotland Preview: INTO THE DARK with Malcolm MacKay, James Oswald & Craig Robertson

 

 

Another of the events I can’t wait to see at Bloody Scotland is the Sunday 11.45am INTO THE DARK panel with Malcolm Mackay, James Oswald and Craig Robertson. These bestselling writers know a thing or two about the dark side of human nature, and I think their panel on the subject will be totally fascinating. So, in advance of the festival, I thought I’d put a few questions to them, to get them warmed up …

Firstly, for those new to your work, can you tell us a little bit about your latest novel?

MALCOLM: For Those Who Know the Ending opens with Martin Sivok tied to a chair in an empty warehouse, bleeding from the head. As the story spools back to reveal the journey that’s led him here we follow two men, Martin and Usman Kassar, coming at organised crime from different directions, risking the wrath of the dangerous Nate Colgan as they test the value and limits of loyalty.

JAMES: The sixth instalment in the ongoing Inspector McLean series, The Damage Done sees Tony McLean with egg on his face when a raid on a suspected brothel goes spectacularly wrong. Expecting to find prostitutes and clients, instead the police interrupt a private swingers party. Investigating how their intelligence could have been so badly wrong, McLean finds alarming similarities with another raid, twenty years earlier, but when he begins to look deeper he opens up a nasty can of worms.

CRAIG: Murderabilia is my seventh novel and the fifth featuring DI Rachel Narey and her partner, photographer Tony Winter. It revolves around the pursuit of serial killer collectibles, something most people won’t have heard of but which is big business online. There are a number of specialist websites selling items related to killers and Rachel gets reluctantly drawn into this world after items go missing from a murder scene. There is often a high price to be paid for murderabilia – as Rachel and Tony find out.

You’re on stage at 11.45am – 12.45pm on Sunday 11th at Bloody Scotland – what can the audience expect?

MALCOLM: Well the event promises to explore the dark side of human nature, which is a slightly worrying thought. In the true spirit of Bloody Scotland I doubt it’ll stay too grim for too long.

JAMES: I’m really not sure. A hangover? The title of the discussion is Into the Dark, so maybe they’ll just turn the lights off? Seriously though, I imagine we will be examining the enduring appeal of tales that delve into the darker side of human nature. Why are we drawn to the worst in people and so fascinated by the horrible things they do? I don’t think it will be for the faint-hearted.

CRAIG: Revelations, insight laughs, shocks. All three of us tend to enjoy delving into the dark side of humanity and it will be fun to explore the psychology of that during the event. I’m keen to know what attracts James and Malcolm to that side of the genre and what it says about them – and me. I’ve appeared with both of them before and know that as well as being terrific writers, they’re fascinating to listen to too.

Bloody Scotland is one of my favourite crime fiction festivals. What makes it great for you? 

MALCOLM: This will be my third Bloody Scotland, and it’s always been a brilliant experience, laid back and friendly, like a gang of old mates taking a weekend to recharge batteries and gain inspiration for future acts of fictional criminality.

JAMES: I’ve been to every Bloody Scotland since it started, so I’m something of an old hand. The panels are always great and informative, but what I most like is meeting up with other writers, chatting with readers and generally relaxing for a weekend. So what makes it great for me? I’d have to say the bar.

CRAIG: Well I’m a bit biased because I’m one of the festival organisers and have been for its five-year existence. I like to think Bloody Scotland is friendly and fun, welcoming and a bit different. We try to think outside the box so events like Crime at the Coo, the crime writers football match and holding a play in Stirling’s Sheriff Court are what makes us what we are. There is also a great opportunity for readers and authors to mingle and we encourage that.

And, lastly, do you have any pre-panel routines, green room riders, or quirky foibles, that you’ll have to do before you go on stage?

MALCOLM: If turning up slightly late and terribly baffled counts as a routine then I’ve got it down to an art form.

JAMES: Boringly, no. Like most writers, I am something of an introvert. The thought of talking to a crowd of people fills me with sweaty-palmed dread. The reality of it has turned out to be a much better experience though. I spent a few years working as an Agricultural Consultant and that has been good training in public speaking. Farmers are a hard audience to please, especially the ones who’ve only come for the free food and a beer. Talking to people who are interested in crime fiction, or just writing in general, is genuinely one of the best parts of being a published author, and I’ve never really found it necessary to calm my nerves before going on stage. I get to wear my famous pink jacket though. I suppose I would feel naked without it.

CRAIG: For luck, I always read a chapter of Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely written in the original Spanish then sing the first two verses of the Star Spangled Banner. In the green room, I have to have a bowl of red smarties and small glass of chartreuse. Apart from that, I just go on stage and make stuff up as I go along.

You heard it here folks, be sure to get a ticket for the INTO THE DARK panel for an hour of revelations, laughs and shocks, and perhaps a few red smarties if we can wrestle them away from Craig!

Huge thanks to the terrific MALCOLM MACKAY, JAMES OSWALD, and CRAIG ROBERTSON for chatting with me in the run up to the fabulous BLOODY SCOTLAND CRIME WRITING FESTIVAL.

It’s not too late to get yourself a ticket for the INTO THE DARK panel. Hop over to the BLOODY SCOTLAND website and grab one quick at www.bloodyscotland.com

To find out more about MALCOLM MACKAY follow him on Twitter @malcolm_mackay and FOR THOSE WHO KNOW THE ENDING is out now, you can buy it here

To find out more about JAMES OSWALD follow him on Twitter @SirBenfro and THE DAMAGE DONE is out now, you can buy it here

To find out more about CRAIG ROBERTSON follow him on Twitter @CraigRobertson_ and MURDERABILIA is on the 8th September, you can pre-order it here

THE BLOODY SCOTLAND CRIME WRITING FESTIVAL is held in Stirling from the 9th – 11th September 2016. It’s a fantastic programme. Find out more at their website here and be sure to follow them on Twitter @BloodyScotland to stay up-to-date with all their news

Happy August: CTG has “Gone Reading”

For the next few weeks I’m having a little blogging holiday. I’ve got a stack of fantastic books to read, some cool interviews to do, and I’m cracking on with writing the first draft of the follow-up to DEEP DOWN DEAD.

I’ll be back on 1st September with a revamped look and bursting to tell you about the books I’ve read.

Until then, here’s a sneak peep at my August TBR pile …

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Until then, you can catch me over on Twitter …

The (Not So) Secret Diary of a Slice Girl #BloodyScotland (part 2)

L-R: Kati, Elizabeth, Lucy, CTG (me!), Susi, Alex (c) Eoin Carey

L-R: Kati, Elizabeth, Lucy, CTG (me!), Susi, Alex (c) Eoin Carey

So I’m one of The Slice Girls – a group made up of crime writers, a publicist, and me – who took to the stage (actually, onto the bar) to perform a number at Bloody Scotland’s Crime in the Coo cabaret night. And this is how it happened …

I got ‘the call’, or rather, ‘the IM’ about four months ago. A short message from Slice Girls leader, Alexandra Sokoloff, that simply said, ‘Steph, do you sing?’ It was a simple question, but answering it made me feel a little like Neo in the Matrix – should I take the red pill or the blue one – what should I say? No. Yes. Kind of, well, there was that one time I sang with Danny La Rue …

In the end, I said yes. And so, it began. Well, after Harrogate in July, it began, anyway. I got sent the lyrics and the music for The Cell Block Tango from Chicago, was allocated my part (the “POP” monologue, and given instructions to practice. And practice I did. I also watched Chicago the film, watched clips of the Cellblock Tango performed on Broadway, and also by an all-male cast as part of a Broadway Backwards charity event (and the best rendition of the song in my book!).

L-R: Kati, Elizabeth & Lucy (c) Eoin Carey

L-R: Kati, Elizabeth & Lucy (c) Eoin Carey

But, as the months, weeks and days counted down to Bloody Scotland, I’d still only practiced on my own and in private. The fear set in. What if I forgot the words? What if I couldn’t do it in front of other people? Luckily I wouldn’t be up there alone, I was a Slice Girl now, and I’d be performing with fabulous crime writers Kati Hiekkapelto, Lucy Ribchester, SJI Holliday and Alexandra Sokoloff; and awesome Simon & Schuster senior publicist Elizabeth Preston. I told myself it was going to be fun (and I tried to believe it).

Before long, it was time. I arrived on Friday evening (late, as usual) at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival, and missed the first practice. Not such a great start, but at least I’d made it to the hotel – and the bar. I soon forgot my nerves after a few drinks, but the next day – Saturday, performance day – they were back, along with all the ‘what ifs’.

But I needn’t have worried – Alexandra had a plan. She gathered us together and had us rehearsing for as long as it took to change six people who’d never sung together into a group that might have a chance of looking like they knew what they were doing. There was choreography to learn too. And the challenge of actually getting up onto the bar in the first place (without putting our heels through the barstool covers). But we practiced, and practiced, and weirdly it was kind of fun.

So, to the evening. We met up at the hotel and headed down to the Curly Coo for our technical rehearsal at 7pm (with the bar due to open at 8pm). Dressed in our costumes we got more than a few odd looks from people out and about in Stirling. We had our rehearsal, with the lights being put up and cameras being fixed in place around us, and then, as the doors were about to be opened, I allowed myself a large glass of wine – for courage, you understand.

L-R: Lucy, CTG (me!), Susi, Alex (c) Eoin Carey

L-R: Lucy, CTG (me!), Susi, Alex (c) Eoin Carey

There were some fantastic performances – Val McDermid singing with Doug Johnstone on guitar, Mason Cross reading a rather entertaining one-star review, and numerous brilliant others. But I have to admit it was hard to concentrate knowing that soon we’d be up on the bar, performing our song.

When crime writer (and Maestro of the evening) Craig Robertson gave us a twenty-minute warning two things happened. First, we all got another drink, and second, we started running through our monologues, quietly, in the upstairs hallway.

Then it was time, and we made our way through the crowded bar, climbed up onto the bar (me in a far less elegant fashion than the others), and the music started …

And, you know what, it actually wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it’d be. All the way up to the music starting, I felt the fear – absolute and utterly terrifying. But all the practices of the day had done their work, and we all remembered our words, sung in time and had a very fun time. There’s even a bit of video around, taken by crime writer Mari Hannah – you can watch it here

So a massive thank you to Alexandra Sokoloff for pushing me out of my comfort zone, to the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival for letting it happen, and to my fellow Slice Girls – Alex, Kati Hiekkapelto, Lucy Ribchester, SJI Holliday, Elizabeth Preston.

I truly had a bloody brilliant time!!

L-R: Elizabeth, Lucy, CTG (me!), Susi, Alex (c) Eoin Carey

L-R: Elizabeth, Lucy, CTG (me!), Susi, Alex (c) Eoin Carey

 

L-R: Lucy, Elizabeth, Alexandra, Susi, Kati, CTG (me!)

L-R: Lucy, Elizabeth, Alexandra, Susi, Kati, CTG (me!)

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]