If any readers of my Forensic Scientist Dr Rhona MacLeod series of crime thrillers have wondered how Rhona originally met her live-in lover Sean, then the answer can be found by reading BLOOD RED ROSES, a prequel to DRIFTNET (Book 1 in the series).
BLOOD RED ROSES was originally published in the Sandstone Press Vista Series of 'Quick Reads', and the challenge I set myself when commissioned to write this novella was to tell a 'full' crime thriller story in around 12,500 words. The other novels in the Forensic Scientist Dr Rhona MacLeod series can run to 90,000 words or more, so this was a significant challenge which at the outset I wasn't certain could be done.
However, by sticking to a single 'A' story, and keeping the 'B' story mainly to Rhona first meeting her lover Sean, I succeeded in moving from the opening incident, where a bride-to-be is murdered on her hen night, through twist and turns in the darker side of Glasgow, to Rhona solving the case, all in just over 12,500 words. The story was well received on first publication in the Sandstone Vista Series, and was credited with a number of instances of helping emergent readers to make the breakthrough to reading full-length novels.
When does desire become obsession? A hen night in Glasgow leaves the bride-to-be dead on a toilet floor. Her body is twisted, her face a mask of terror. Who would kill a girl just before her wedding? Dr Rhona MacLeod and her team are called in to find out. As they go through the evidence, they find themselves in a world where sex is bought and sold, and more violent death is lying in wait.
Here was the result of an idea, born nine years ago, in all its wonder.
The conception, birth and success of the Bloody Scotland festival is, like all good stories, entirely dependent on the characters involved.
For those of you who don’t know the whole story, let me give you the bones of it.
The idea for a Scottish Crime Festival was born in Lincoln, England at a Crime Writers’ Conference in 2009 famously after a couple bottles of Prosecco. At its conception were myself, Alex Gray and Alanna Knight. The question which prompted it… why, when we have such a wealth of crime writing talent in Scotland, do we not have our own festival?
Having the idea is the easy bit of course. After that you have to persuade other people that it is a great idea. Fortunately that wasn’t difficult. The first to join our trio was Jenny Brown, our Chair for the past six years. This was swiftly followed by Gordon Brown. Alex came up with the brilliant name, Bloody Scotland, and we were on our way.
Our initial committee was formed and we lost and found members en route. One of the most successful decisions we made in those early years, apart from the name, was to make Stirling our home, which led in turn to us welcoming Stirling-based Craig Robertson onto our committee.
And at the heart of our project was always the late great William McIlvanney, who had inspired us all to become crime writers in the first place.
Lee Randall explains the judging of the 2017McIllvanney Prize
As I said, it’s all about character.
We launched in 2012 after three years planning and hit the ground running and we have gone from strength to strength, thanks to the passion and commitment of all our past and present Board Members and of course, our current and former festival directors, Bob McDevitt and Dom Hastings.
However, as Alex and I walked from Stirling Castle to the Albert Hall, one thing was clear. Bloody Scotland now belongs to everyone – our Bloody Scotland team (including our sponsors), the wonderful authors, the readers, the bloggers, the volunteers, and of course the welcoming people of Stirling, of Scotland and beyond.
Any reader can take part from 6pm by following and participating in the discussion through Orkney library’s twitter account @orkneylibrary, the Glasgow libraries twitter account @glasgowlib and the hashtag #hurricanebookclub.
Lin Anderson will be taking part from the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. See more details HERE.
In the YouTube video above Alex Saunders of Pan Macmillan introduces FOLLOW THE DEAD.
There is a Storify of this FOLLOW THE DEAD Hurricane Book Club HERE.
I had the good fortune of being in the first car
stopped by the Police and asked to wait, to allow the ride-out to funnel back into a
single lane as they headed north out of Aviemore. (Honestly, I didn't arrange this with the Aviemore Police!)
So the video below is a single shot from the centre of the road towards
the oncoming thousands of bikers as all of them pass.
If you were in the ride-out, then there is a pretty good chance you will be able to spot yourself. I was watching out for biker girl Ellie from my FOLLOW THE DEAD book, but I didn't see her :o)
(It takes 20 minutes for the ride-out to pass)
BTW: There is a fine display of my books in Waterstones Aviemore.
It’s always a pleasure to return to Orkney, and to my friends at Kirkwall Library in particular, who have been great supporters of the Rhona MacLeod series, but this event also has resonance for this year's Bloody Scotland crime writing festival.
In a chance encounter with James Crawford (publisher with Historic Environment Scotland) last August in the EIBF author’s yurt, we chatted about the possibility of a 'Bloody Scotland' book of short stories by twelve of Scotland’s leading crime writers, which would celebrate the 2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, each story featuring one of Scotland’s historic and iconic built locations. I loved the idea and promptly offered to write a story set in Orkney.
With its inimitable Professor of Criminal Psychology Magnus Pirie, Orkney already stars in two of the books in my Rhona MacLeod series: in Paths of the Dead, when a body is found in the Ring of Brodgar, and more recently in None but the Dead, which takes place mostly on Sanday. So I jumped at the chance to weave a story featuring Magnus for the collection.
My choice of location was Maeshowe, the 5,000 year old burial mound, known in old Norse as Orkahaugr, and I took this quote from the wonderful writings of George MacKay Brown as my inspiration:
In my Orkahaugr story, Magnus solves a cold case from the time when the Vikings were making their mark in runes on the inside walls of Maeshowe.
The book also features stories by Val McDermid, Christopher Brookmyre, Denise Mina, G J Brown, Ann Cleeves, Louise Welsh, Lin Anderson, Doug Johnstone, Craig Robertson, E S Thomson, Sara Sheridan and Stuart MacBride, all of whom explore the thrilling potential of Scotland's iconic sites and structures.
The Bloody Scotland 2017 festival programme will launch on June 1st in Stirling, and on 6th June in London.
We have a magnificent line up for readers this year, with fabulous and unique events, which you could only find at Bloody Scotland. So, remember to sign up for the Bloody Scotland newsletter to be the first in the know.
And of course watch out for tweeting from Kirkwall Library on Monday afternoon around 3pm, where we celebrate, at one of the best libraries and archives in Scotland, how important libraries are to our country’s history and heritage.
There are 14 million people living in Kolkata, and around 5 million living in the centre of the city. The Kolkata Book Fair is the biggest in the world, with 2.5 million people visiting it to buy books as well as to attend the festival events.
It’s hard to believe those numbers until you step inside one of the numerous entrances and see the hoards of enthusiastic readers who throng the multitude of bookshops. Indians love reading and all age groups were in the packed book tents.
My favourite memory was of a boy of about ten who had chosen his book from a selection of classics. Clutching it to his chest like a prize possession he was approaching the pay desk with a broad smile on his face. The book he had chosen was Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott – not the easiest of reads in English for any ten year old, but Indians love the classics as well as contemporary fiction.
Many people speak five or six languages including English. In India there are 1000 languages spoken. A melting point for different cultures, Kolkata is the most diverse city I’ve ever visited. Its inhabitants are aspirational and see reading as the doorway to knowledge about everything.
The aim of our visit was of course to promote Bloody Scotland and Scottish crime writers in general. At our second event, Bloody Scotland took centre stage with Doug Johnstone and myself plus two Indian crimewriters, Monabi Mitra and Krishnendu Mukhopadhyay, chaired by Jenny Brown. It was a lively and well received event. We even managed to teach them a few words in Scots.
The third event I was involved in was entitled Who Are My Readers. The six person panel included Egyptian lecturer and writer Khaled Alkhamissi, Vivek Shanbhag who writes in Kannada (one of India’s languages), poet and dramatist Nishi Chawla and Natalie Holborrow from Wales who is a poet.
It was chaired by Denes Gazsi, Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Languages at the university of Iowa. It was a fascinating discussion during which I learned that over 75% of people in Egypt are under 25 years of age, all potential readers.
As well as the festival itself, Doug and I were involved in the British Council outreach programme. We visited the Shri Shikshayatan Girl’s school where we gave a talk to seventy eager readers. I can honestly say we’ve never had such informed and searching questions about being a writer and how to tell stories.
Like Scotland storytelling is very much a part of the Indian culture. At the end we were treated to the Indian version of Auld Lang Syne, beautifully sung by the girls… I think Robert Burns himself would have been delighted.
Perhaps my most abiding memory will be of our Confluence Of Cultures walking tour of old Calcutta. Kolkata has witnessed many more cultures in its past than most other cities have in our globalised present.
Communities of Chinese, Parsis, and Armenians who gave the city its oldest surviving Christian church, live alongside Anglo-Indians, Muslims, Marwaris, Biharis and the many more that made this city a great melting pot of diverse cultures.
One interesting fact I learned was that India was the only country that did not persecute the Jews.
It was these immigrants that made this great city bringing their knowledge, skills, literature, and cultures to make Kolkata the City of Dreams.