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 Reviews: OUT OF BOUNDS by Val McDermid

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I’m delighted to be hosting a stop on the OUT OF BOUNDS blog tour today and reviewing the fantastic new book by Val McDermid.

What the blurb says: “A teenage joyrider crashes a stolen car and ends up in a coma, a routine DNA test reveals a connection to an unsolved murder from twenty-two years before. Finding the answer to the cold case should be straightforward. But it’s as twisted as the DNA helix itself. Meanwhile, Karen Pirie finds herself irresistibly drawn to another mystery that she has no business investigating, a mystery that has its roots in a terrorist bombing two decades ago. And again, she finds that nothing is as it seems.”

Still grieving over the death of her partner, DCI Karen Pirie, head of Police Scotland’s Historic Cases Unit, finds throwing herself into work is the only way to cope. By day she hunts down leads and looks for evidence to find justice for those victims whose murderers have gone unfound, and by night she walks the streets of Edinburgh hoping to exhaust herself physically so that she will finally sleep. She’s a compelling lead character – damaged yet determined to get justice for those who can’t get it for themselves, and principled yet willing to flex the rules in order to do the right thing or find the truth. Brave and dynamic, she’s exactly the kind of person you want in your corner, and also the kind of person you could have a laugh with in the pub or over a meal.

In OUT OF BOUNDS she’s working two cold cases. Both involve complicated, fractured family situations. Both have gone unsolved for many years. To succeed in finding the truth, they require a tenacious and creative approach, and that’s what Karen has in spades.

Her sidekick, DC Jason Murray aka “The Mint”, isn’t overly bright but he makes up for that with his easy going nature and willingness to do whatever Karen says. And it’s good she’s got an ally, because her boss, Assistant Chief Constable Simon Lees aka “The Macaroon”, isn’t a fan of Karen and is always looking for a reason to give her a bollocking or, if he can, get rid of her. Karen isn’t fazed though. She follows the evidence, using her honed investigation skills and her ability to get people to trust and confide in her, in order to find leads that others have missed.

OUT OF BOUNDS has all the twisty-turny suspense that you’d expect from a writer at the top of her game. And it has all the procedural complexity – criminal and family law – combined with the forensic details that give a real authenticity to the story. But it also delivers more than this. It engages the reader in some of the big social questions of our time, not in a preachy way, but in a way that makes you stop and consider how life is changing (or not) and how we are all part of that – either through our action or in-action. It’s a compelling, page turner of a read, and one that stays with you long after the final page has been turned.

OUT OF BOUNDS is out now. You can buy it here from Waterstones or from Amazon here

To find out more about Val McDermid and her books visit her website here and follow her on Twitter @valmcdermid

And be sure to check out all the stops on the OUT OF BOUNDS blog tour …

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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 …

Confessions from #TheakstonsCrime (Part 3): Some New Blood, A Secret Garden and the Crime Writers Football Match

The annual Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate happened last weekend and, as always, it was an amazing weekend of crime fiction, bookish antics, parties, and awards. It was a time to rub shoulders with like-minded types who write and read crime fiction, and to catch up with friends and meet new ones.

Here are a couple more of the highlights from the weekend …

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The New Blood Panel

Every year Val McDermid picks her four favourite debuts and showcases them on the New Blood panel. It’s a fab panel for readers to be introduced to some brilliant new authors, and always has a great vibe to it. This year was no exception, with the four debut authors – Martin Holmen (CLINCH), JS Law (TENACITY), Beth Lewis (THE WOLF ROAD) and Abir Mukherjee (A RISING MAN) – doing a fantastic job of enticing the audience to read their books.

I was lucky enough to get to sit in the front row for this panel. It was great to see the four debut authors having such a fun time with Val McDermid who expertly put them at their ease. As they talked about their books, it was fascinating to hear about their inspirations and research. It emerged that something they all had in common was the desire to explore what it is to be an outsider, and to have lead characters who recognised their own ‘otherness’.

Martin Holmen said that his inspiration for writing CLINCH was to create a book that combined Swedish expression with the great American thriller tradition. JS Law talked about coming to the realisation that a female naval officer’s experience of the armed forces was very different to his own as a male officer – Val McDermid referred to TENACITY as a feminist Submarine Thriller – and wanting to explore that difference with a female main character. Beth Lewis jumped into THE WOLF ROAD with the premise – what if the person you love is actually a monster? And Abir Mukherjee talked about creating his main character, who while being British in India doesn’t align himself to either culture. Add in Abir’s stories of researching in Indian, Beth’s survival skills course anecdotes (what ever did happen to that pigeon??) and JS Law’s talk of putting his arm into the waste tanks on-board a submarine – which had the whole audience recoiling at the grossness! And this panel had to be a top highlight of the festival.

All four debut authors are well worth checking out:

Click here to buy CLINCH by Martin Holmen

Click here to buy TENACITY by JS Law and follow him on Twitter @JSLawBooks

Click here to buy THE WOLF ROAD by Beth Lewis and follow her on Twitter @bethklewis

Click here to buy A RISING MAN by Abir Mukherjee and follow him on Twitter @radiomukhers

And, of course, be sure to pre-order Val McDermid’s latest book OUT OF BOUNDS here and follow her on Twitter @valmcdermid

 

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The Bonnier Zaffre Secret Garden Party

When you get a party invitation that promises ‘Prosecco, canapés and cake’ and is being held in a secret garden, you just have to go! And Bonnier Zaffre know how to throw a seriously good party. In a (relatively) secret location, the sun shone as I drank Prosecco and mingled with the fabulous stable of authors that Bonnier Zaffre have put together.

It was great to catch up with the Bonnier authors including the ever-bubbly Alex Caan (CUT TO THE BONE), my pal David Young (STASI CHILD) who I did the MA in Creative Writing at City University London with, the lovely David Jackson (A TAPPING AT MY DOOR) and criminal lawyer Neil White (FROM THE SHADOWS). I also got to have a good chat with bloggers Liz Barnsley, The Book Trail and Northern Lass, PR wonder Jamie-Lee Nardone, and crime writers Susi Holliday, Anya Lipska, Zoe Sharp, Martyn Waites, and Mark Hill.

 

The North vs South Crime Writers Football Match

The annual crime writers’ football match was held on Saturday afternoon in front of a large crowd, and as well as crime writers there were a few agents and publishers among the players.

Players for The North were: Luca Veste, Craig Robertson, Howard Linskey, Col Bury, Nick Quantrill, Michael Fowler, Vincent Holland-Keen, Rob Sinclair, and Neil White

Players for The South were: Tim Weaver, James Law, Ian Ayris, Darren Laws, Ed Wood, Phil Patterson, Tom Witcomb, Steven Dunne, and Emad Akhtar.

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As always it was a fiercely fought battle, with the South scoring first (Emad Akhtar), and the North equalising shortly after (due to an own goal by Ian Ayris). Both sides had brought their A-games, but as the end of the match drew closer they started to tire. When referee Mark Billingham announced there would be a penalty shoot out, and the players started to take their shots, it looked for a while as if there’d be no goals. But Rob Sinclair came through for The North and won them the match when Phil Patterson missed the last kick.

So The North remained victorious and, unlike last year, there were no bones broken during the course of the match so all players from both sides were able to celebrate fully in the bar afterwards!

 

Be sure to stop by the CTG blog again tomorrow to see my photo galley from Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival (including lots more action shots from the football)!

Sound like your kind of thing? Make sure you check out Harrogate Festivals and join the mailing list for the details of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival 2017

Confessions from #TheakstonsCrime (Part 2): The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2016

Val McDermid - Life Time Achievement Award Crime Novel of the Year Award 2016 Clare Macintosh - Winner Best Crime Novel of the year (c) Charlotte Graham/Guzelian

Val McDermid – Life Time Achievement Award (on left) and Clare Macintosh – Winner Crime Novel of the Year 2016 (on right) Photo credit: Charlotte Graham/Guzelian

 

The annual Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate happened last weekend and, as always, it was an amazing weekend of crime fiction, bookish antics, parties, and awards. It was a time to rub shoulders with like-minded types who write and read crime fiction, and to catch up with friends and meet new ones.

Here’s one of the highlights from the weekend …

The first big event was the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2016 ceremony. Sponsored by T&R Theakston Ltd and supported by WHSmith and The Radio Times the award is one of the most hotly contested crime fiction prizes and had a stellar shortlist.

After introductions from the festival organisers and sponsors, each of the six shortlisted authors was presented with a silver tankard and invited to speak about their novel. The shortlist was:  Time Of Death – Mark Billingham (Sphere), Career Of Evil – Robert Galbraith (Sphere), Tell No Tales – Eva Dolan (Harvill Secker), Disclaimer – Renee Knight (Black Swan), I Let You Go – Clare Mackintosh (Sphere), Rain Dogs – Adrian McKinty (Serpent’s Tail).

Then the winner was announced … Clare Mackintosh for her outstanding debut novel, the psychological thriller I LET YOU GO. I Let You Go was one of the fastest selling books of 2015, a Sunday Times bestseller and a Richard & Judy Book Club winner. Clare was presented with the award by Simon Theakston and broadcaster Mark Lawson. On winning, Clare said: “I first came to Harrogate as an unpublished author so to win this award tonight is a dream come true. I would like to thank my publishers and agent for supporting me, everybody who has read and recommended I Let You Go, and the crime writing community for their endless encouragement.”

During the ceremony, a special presentation of the Theakston Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award was made to the fabulous Val McDermid. Mark Billingham paid a heartfelt tribute to Val saying: “It’s fitting that Val should receive this award at a festival she was instrumental in starting, and it’s one that is richly deserved. She has represented this genre quite brilliantly all over the world, both in person and through her novels, which have earned her legions of fans and a place among the very greatest crime writers of all time. She is the Queen of Crime, and long may she reign over us.”

On receiving the award, Val said: “It’s an honour and a thrill to receive this award. The community of writers and readers at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival is unlike any other in its warmth and generosity and so this means a huge amount to me. This year sees the publication of my 30th novel and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate that.”

It was a fabulous high energy kick-off to the festival, and afterwards everyone spilled out to the bar and the lawn to congratulate the winners and much fun (and drink) was had!

New Blood 2016 announced for Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival

Last week, Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in partnership with HW Fisher & Company, invited 50 authors and publishing professionals to its ‘New Blood’ reception in London. The event was designed to showcase new talent in the crime fiction genre in advance of the announcement of the New Blood panel for the July festival.

The event was hosted by leading crime writers Mark Billingham, author of the Tom Thorne series, and David Mark, creator of the hit DS McAvoy series of crime fiction books.

David Mark, who was one of Val McDermid’s New Blood picks at the 2012 crime festival, said: “The Festival is the most important in the literary calendar for the crime genre. I was incredibly excited, and proud, to be one of the New Blood authors chosen by Val. It was part of the whirlwind that led me to being signed in Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Turkey and America. I know how much it means when you’re starting out to not only get that recognition and platform, but the support of veteran crime authors, which is why I felt honoured, and delighted, to co-host this inaugural London New Blood celebration.”

For the 2016 festival, Val McDermid’s 2016 New Blood authors have been announced as Martin Holmen for Clinch, JS Law for Tenacity, Beth Lewis for The Wolf Road and Abir Mukherjee, author of A Rising Man.

Gemma Rowland, Literature Festivals Manager at Harrogate International Festivals – the arts charity that delivers the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival – said: “As well as celebrating the best crime writers around, the Festival is also about introducing new writers to crime fans.”

One of the top crime writing festivals in the world, Theaksons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival is a must attend weekend for all crime fiction fans.

Val McDermid’s New Blood panel takes place at 12pm on Saturday 23 July at the Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate during the 14th Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.

This year the Programming Chair is Peter James, and Special Guests include Jeffery Deaver, Martina Cole, Neil Cross, Tess Gerritsen, Gerald Seymour and Linwood Barclay.

For the full programme, visit www.harrogateinternationalfestivals.com

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!)