Bloody Scotland… Bloody Brilliant

This year was the year that I attempted four… yes, four, different crime festivals: Dark and Stormy (Brighton, May), CrimeFest (Bristol, June), Theakston’s Crime (Harrogate, July) and the last one for me this year – Bloody Scotland, in Stirling.

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As with all the others, the whole weekend whizzed by in a blur of book-talk, meeting old friends and making new ones, drinking, exploring the town, and the obligatory hangovers – although for me, this was one of the least liver-damaging festivals I’ve attended (despite the late nights in the bar). I must be getting old…

Here are just a few of the many highlights:

  • Mark Billingham and Stuart MacBride doing a Points of View style, readers letters event. Highlights include: audience participation of Skeleton Bob ‘not suitable for children’ reading by Stuart, Mark’s tales of upsetting various audience members and digging himself into very deep holes, and of course, Stuart’s International Stovie Champion award.
  • Haggis and Tattie Scones for breakfast. As a Scot living in London, I don’t get to stuff myself with my home-foods as often as I would like… so I made up for it there. This was followed up on Saturday morning with a hilarious chat with authors Neil White and US-based Scot, Dirk Robertson, who once received a review headlined ‘I can’t believe this shit got published’ and has been mistaken for his ‘adult entertainment’ namesake on more than one occasion.
  • Interviewing Kati Hiekkapelto who was launching her debut novel The Hummingbird at the weekend. This was my first face-to-face author interview, as I usually do them via email. Luckily I was able to enlist the services of CrimeThrillerGirl as my trusty scribe (I recorded it too. Interview will be live as soon as I’ve been able to bear listening to my own voice).
  • The Scotland vs England football match – which took place on a bowling green in the grounds of an old hospital… I tried to live tweet a commentary, but it was such a fast-paced game that it was a bit of a challenge. Not as challenging as it seemed for the England team though, who lost 13-1 despite the distractions of Arcadia’s Karen Sullivan in a football strip and Dirk Robertson’s impressive barnet.
  • Women in Crime Fiction (Lin Anderson, Catriona MacPherson and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, chaired by Donna Moore). The key message I took from this was a simple one – factual crime is always much, much worse that anything that a crime writer could come up with. It IS brutal, why try to dress it up any other way?
  • Luca Veste, Michael J. Malone and Martyn Waites (chaired by Mark Billingham) – funny, a bit sweary and the revelation that not only does Luca desperately miss Brookside, Mark’s wife has actually lived there. Sort of.
  • Ian Rankin and Kathy Reichs. A fantastic chat between two top authors. Kathy’s life is fascinating and the rapport between the two made for an entertaining hour in the beautiful Albert Halls. I don’t recommend the very steep ‘short cut’ down from the Stirling Highland though, unless you’re wearing Spiderman’s sticky shoes. This was followed by a interesting conversation with CrimeThrillerGirl, Mason Cross and Katy Loftus from Avon… there’s talk of a new genre-crossing crime novel featuring a christian cat detective (on a train). I really hope someone decides to write it.
  • Pitch Perfect. The event where aspiring crime writers are invited to pitch their novel ideas to a panel of editors. I had two friends pitching in this, so I will avoid bias by saying that all seven made a brilliant effort. Interesting to see that all were women (as were the panel) when there is so much talk about the lack of female writers/publishers… The winning pitch featuring a Forensic Geologist was a worthy champion. I’m not too sure about the last one though… which seemed to be an X-Files, Geo-Warrior, Sci-Fi Comedy. But I’m sure there’s a market for that somewhere…

It was great to mingle with the authors, bloggers, publishers, reviewers and event organisers in the bar. Well done to the whole team for a fabulous event. Can’t wait for next year.