Thursday, 30 June 2016

Longlist Announced for the McIlvanney Prize Scottish Crime Book of the Year 2016

‘I went to Bloody Scotland and I was just knocked out.... I’ve been at literary events where a lot of people have knives sticking out their back that they don’t know are there and this event was so friendly, so supportive I was honestly overwhelmed’
William McIlvanney – speaking on BBC Scotland, 2012

This year’s Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing festival is the first since the death of the great William McIlvanney, the man who, more than anyone, established the tradition of Scottish detective fiction. Bloody Scotland 2016 is dedicated in his honour and the winner of the Scottish Crime Book of the Year will now be awarded The McIlvanney Prize at an awards ceremony on the opening evening, Friday 9 September, in Stirling.

The award recognises excellence in Scottish crime writing, includes a prize of £1000 and nationwide promotion in Waterstones.

The longlist which has been chosen by an independent panel of readers and features 6 male and 4 female writers, established authors and debut writers, small Scottish publishers and large London conglomerates, is released today:

Even Dogs in the Wild (Orion) Ian Rankin
Open Wounds (Luath) Douglas Skelton
The Damage Done (Michael Joseph) James Oswald
The Special Dead (Macmillan) Lin Anderson
In the Cold Dark Ground (Harper Collins) Stuart MacBride
Black Widow (Little, Brown) Chris Brookmyre
The Jump (Faber) Doug Johnstone
Splinter the Silence (Little, Brown) Val McDermid
Beloved Poison (Little, Brown) E. S. Thomson
A Fine House in Trinity (Sandstone) Lesley Kelly

The judges will be journalist, Lee Randall, award-winning librarian, Stewart Bain and former editor of The Scotsman and The Times Scotland, Magnus Linklater.

Hugh McIlvanney OBE brother of Willie, will travel from London to present the award.

Longlist books available from Scottish branches of Waterstones (booksellers for Bloody Scotland).

Previous winners are Craig Russell with The Ghosts of Altona in 2015, Peter May with Entry Island in 2014, Malcolm Mackay with How A Gunman Says Goodbye in 2013 and Charles Cumming with A Foreign Country in 2012.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Mapping the Story

I love it when a novel comes with a map.

What would Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings be without that wonderful map of Middle Earth and more recently, Westeros in George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. A map brings a place to life, helps you place your characters and makes you feel an integral part of the tale.

When I began writing the new Rhona MacLeod novel, None but the Dead, I knew it had to have a map. Earlier Rhona novels have featured Glasgow and Edinburgh, although she also ventured at times into rural Scotland. In the city-set books, I use real places, streets and buildings, easily located at a mouse click on any online map.

When I decided  to set Book 11 predominantly on the island of Sanday in the Orkney Isles, it seemed impossible to imagine it without the inclusion of a map.

Cut off from the rest of Orkney, and Scotland, by bad weather, in None but the Dead, Sanday becomes an almost mythical land, like Middle Earth or Westeros, where its imagined inhabitants (I make them up) take part in the dramatic unfolding of a tale that encompasses the distant past, the recent past and the present.

Evidence of the past is everywhere on the island, Neolithic remains sitting side by side with the remnants of both world wars.

The landscape, the shorelines,  the distinctive soils of the island all have a part to play in the story, even sometimes a forensic role. I created the small hand drawn map below as my initial guide.

Gradually it evolved, via my publishers, into the final map for inclusion in the book.

Delving into the wonderful Orkney archives at the library in Kirkwall, I found a strange part-drawing, part-photograph, of the famous Start Lighthouse in the eastern tip of Sanday, where part of the story takes place. This became the the inspiration for the suitably sinister book cover image.

The archive too was an excellent source for old school photographs showing Sanday children of the past, who also play a pivotal role in the story.


Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Giving it Five for Bloody Scotland in Stirling

The Bloody Scotland 2016 programme launched today in Stirling at The Golden Lion hotel, our main base for the crime writing festival this year. It’s incredible to think that this is the festival’s fifth birthday.

Bloody Scotland 2012 (Ian Rankin, Alex Gray, Lin Anderson)

The idea of a Bloody Scotland came into being at a CWA (Crimewriters Association) Conference in beautiful Lincoln as Alex Gray, Alanna Knight and I pondered why, despite Scotland producing so many successful crime writers, we did not have a festival to celebrate ‘our other national export’. From such musings, helped by the now legendary second bottle of Prosecco, Bloody Scotland was conceived.

Three years in the planning and organising, it was born in September 2012, with the title 'Bloody Scotland' coined by Alex, and the historic location of Stirling (ideal for a festival with such a name) selected by the committee of volunteers, which included crime writers Craig Robertson and Gordon Brown.

Launch event for Bloody Scotland 2012 

The first Bloody Scotland launch event took place at the Stirling Museum and Art Gallery in Stirling, with Ian Rankin pointing out that ‘Scandinavia doesn’t have better crime writers than Scotland. It has better PR’, which was exactly the challenge that Bloody Scotland was set up to address. And it has. Five years after its inaugural year, almost anyone interested in crime writing  knows the name Bloody Scotland.

Dedicated to encouraging and showcasing new Scottish talent through our Bloody Scotland Masterclasses and our Pitch Perfect competition, which has seen three new authors reach publication, it also celebrates current excellence via The Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award.

Bloody Scotland isn’t just a weekend event. Our authors go out year long into prisons and schools, and to libraries and appear at other festivals, including Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime in the USA, and at the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival in India, to promote Scotland and our crime writing.

With over 50 authors and 35 events over multiple venues across Stirling, and with audience numbers close on 6,000 in 2015, this year promises to be even bigger. Running three steams of events simultaneously over the weekend allows us to promote new Scottish crime writing, showcase our established authors, and feature international and UK stars.

This year we are partnered by Bookdonors, a Social Enterprise company with a strong ethical focus, who endorse our initiatives to widen public access, while supporting established and emerging authors.

Bloody Scotland also aims to bring a fresh look at the world of crime fiction, working with scientists, police professionals and the Open University to inform and of course entertain our audiences.

Perhaps our greatest achievement to date has been to bring new audiences to the work of  the late William McIlvanney, arguably the Godfather of Tartan Noir. This year will see both the festival and the Crime Book of the Year award dedicated to his memory.

William McIlvanney at rhe opening event of Bloody Scotland 2012

A festival such as Bloody Scotland is not just a single event, but 35 performances, all of them unique, from hilarity with Chris Brookmyre to last year’s gruesome fascination via the forensic wonder of maggots with Val McDermid. From newly published writers being given the opportunity to do a reading in front of a sell out audience of 700, to staging crime dramas where the actors are your favourite authors. And, perhaps, the most exuberant event of them all, the annual Scotland/England crime writers’ football match, with Ian Rankin captaining Scotland (his dream) … and that one’s free.

Truly Bloody Scotland is a unique Scottish blend of the serious, the quirky and the outright outrageous. And the audiences keep coming back for more… from Scotland, UK, USA and all over Europe.

Bloody Scotland 2016 runs from 9th-11th September. More details and ticket sales here: