BLOODY SCOTLAND Crime writing festival.
BLOODY SCOTLAND, Bloody Hell, Bloody Marvellous. –what a festival! What can I say? I’ll be back.
Having being unable to attend Bloody Scotland 2016, I was determined to make the most of Bloody Scotland 2017. This meant I attended every event I could –My Bloody Scotland got off to a good start with an excellent writing workshop led by writer Doug Johnstone. The official start of Bloody Scotland took place with a reception at Stirling Castle, an inspired choice of venue. Guests walked up the cobbled street to the castle, which enjoys panoramic views over the surrounding countryside, and were then were piped through the courtyard and into the Great Hall. Here we were treated to glasses of fizz, a selection of excellent nibbles including haggis in breadcrumbs with a spicy sauce- not a variant I had tried before but it tasted delicious. The writers participating in the festival were piped into the hall, to much applause, followed by speeches and more applause. As a finale, Denise Mina was announced as the winner of the McIlvanney prize for her novel “The Long Drop.”
The piper returned to lead Denise Mina, Val McDermid and Ian Rankin and the other writers from the Great Hall out onto the ramparts of the castle. Those who wished to carry a torch in the torch procession from the castle to the Albert Halls waited as night fell and the torches were distributed and lit.
I, off course, had enrolled for the torchlight parade at the first opportunity, and, by chance I had been at the back of the Great Hall when the reception came to a close. I fell into place behind the writers as they were piped from the hall. Again, by chance, I found myself just behind Denise Mina, Ian Rankin and Val McDermid as the procession began to form and I tucked myself in behind them as the procession began to wind its way down the castle wynd and along the Spittal to the Albert Halls, which is how I managed to appear in the background in a number of photos of the procession.
Stirling old town is medieval, and very atmospheric. Walking along the cobbled streets, holding a lit torch it was easy to imagine another place and time.
After the procession Ian Rankin gave an entertaining talk on Thirty Years of Rebus. I attended further events on Saturday and Sunday. The events, for the most part involved several writers talking about their projects and inspirations with a period at the end of each session for questions from the audience.
I enjoyed all the events I attended. Highlights, what can I say? There were many. I was thrilled to hear Dame Sue Black, forensic anthropologist, anatomist and Professor of Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology at the University of Dundee, a native of Inverness, who has long been a hero of mine. She was in the course of her talk at great pains to thank Bloody Scotland and the Scottish Crime Writers for their assistance in raising funding for the recent morgue in Dundee. It was great to hear John Simenon talking about his father Georges and forthcoming Maigret projects, Graeme Macrae Burnet chatting about France and his writing-for me His Bloody Project is an extra-ordinary book. Chris Brookmyre –one of my favourite writers, as entertaining in person as in his books. Can You Handle the Truth was a must for me-three talented lawyers by day, three talented crime writers by night. G.J.Moffat, Steve Cavanagh and Imran Mahmood each read a section from their book. All were completely different but equally compelling. Another must for me was From Cops to Robbers- three former police officers turned crime writers. This was the most author exposed event I have ever attended. All three speakers had differing perspectives of law enforcement and its operation yet all three were passionate, some to the point of tears about their work as police officers. For me, an added bonus to meet R.J. Mitchell, not often I run into someone who worked in Blackhill, Glasgow at the same time I did. Another unexpected bonus was hearing The Fun Loving Criminals in action. A band formed from the ranks of the writers proving just how talented these people are. Val McDermid has an amazing voice, Doug Johnstone- fantastic drummer, Chris Brookmyre-shaky egg-a league of his own. Lynda LaPlante wound up the Crime writing festival that is Bloody Scotland. All I can say is –if you ever get an opportunity to listen to this lady –grab it.
Best of all I left with some great new friends-thank you Vicki Clifford, Wendy H. Jones and Robin Morton.