What happened at the brilliant #BloodyScotland Crime Writing Festival 2015 (Part 1)

Whose Crime Is It Anyway? (c) Eoin Carey

Whose Crime Is It Anyway? (c) Eoin Carey

The Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival is one of those festivals that goes from strength to strength. This year the organising team, led by the ever sparky Dom Hastings, put on a fabulous programme of events from panels to interviews, an awards dinner, a pub cabaret, and a football match – there really was something for everyone. In fact, it was so good it’s taken me a week to recover enough to blog about it!

The weekend kicked off with Val McDermid and Peter May in conversation, followed by Whose Crime is it Anyway? – with TV presenter Hardeep Singh Kohli throwing out the challenges to crime writers Christopher Brookmyre, Kevin Wignall and Caro Ramsay to improvise on the spot. Once the opening events finished, as ever at crime writing festivals, the rest of the evening was spent in the bar at the Stirling Highland Hotel with a glass of wine (or two, or three …).

Scotland v England

Scotland v England

On Saturday, I wasn’t able to get to many events as I was in training for a special performance with The Slice Girls at the Crime in the Coo event later that evening. But I heard great things about the Killer Women panel – Louise Millar, Helen Giltrow, and MJ McGrath – who discussed whether the Woman is deadlier than the Male? The thought provoking Self Publishing session with Alexandra Sokoloff and Allan Guthrie, and the New Crimes panel with debut authors Lucy Ribchester (The Hourglass Factory), Chris Dolan (Potter’s Field), SJI Holliday (Black Wood) and Mark Legatt (Names of the Dead) – which all sound like fabulous reads.

In the afternoon, in a brief pause between practices, I did get along to the Breaking the Law panel which had dynamic law buffs Steve Cavanagh, Neil White and Jeffrey Siger, along with Craig Sisterson, talking about the difference between the law in crime thrillers and crime fact, how they draw on their real life experiences in their writing, and the legal thrillers that they especially admire. After that, it was a quick sprint to get ready for the Crime in the Coo before meeting my fellow Slice Girls for one final practice (more about that on the blog tomorrow!)

(c) Eoin Carey

(c) Eoin Carey

After a late, late night on Saturday, my start on Sunday wasn’t especially early! The first event I got along to was the Thriller panel with Simon Kernick, Tom Wood, G.J. Brown and Mason Cross. In a lively debate they talked locations – whether to visit them or not, and the perils if you don’t, the fun of writing “lone wolf” characters, and about their routes to publication (the key, so they say, is not to let rejection stop you).

Then, with the sky getting darker by the minute, it was a short walk up the hill to the bowling green at Cowane’s Hospital where the Bloody Scotland Crime Writers Football Match: Scotland v England was happening. After Scotland’s convincing win last year there was a lot at stake, and as the game kicked off both teams looked very determined. In a tense game, where the players had to contend with alternating sunshine and pouring rain, the two sides looked pretty evenly matched with goal keepers Luca Veste (England) and Craig Robertson (Scotland) kept busy as both sides battled it out to win.

(c) Eoin Carey

(c) Eoin Carey

At the end of the match, the score was 5-5.

The Scotland goals came from Mark Stanton, Christopher Brookmyre, and Doug Johnstone (3). For England the scorers were Vincent Holland-Keane (2), Col Bury (2) and Howard Linskey. The team captains – Ian Rankin (Scotland) and Simon Kernick (England) held the trophy aloft and then, as the rain got heavier, it was time to trot back down the hill (to the bar!).

The final event of the festival was Literary Agent, Jenny Brown, interviewing bestselling crime thriller writer, Linwood Barclay, who was on his first visit to Scotland. To a packed audience, Linwood talked about his writing career, his latest book Broken Promise – the first of a sequence of three connected stories – and on creating a story with a killer hook. Very interesting and highly entertaining, this was the perfect session to end the festival with. Then it was back to the bar, for one final night, before setting off home the next morning.

Jenny Brown interviewing Linwood Barclay (c) Eoin Carey

Jenny Brown interviewing Linwood Barclay (c) Eoin Carey

Next year the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival runs from 9 – 11 September 2016. If you love crime fiction then you absolutely need to be there – put the dates in your diary and book a hotel, now! Trust me, this is one festival that you won’t want to miss out on.

But, of course, there’s something that I haven’t told you about in this blog post – just what happened at Crime in the Coo on Saturday night.

If you want to know, pop back tomorrow for my “(Not so) Secret Diary of a Slice Girl post. 

In the meantime, here’s a sneaky peep …

The Slice Girls on the bar at The Curly Coo (c) Eoin Carey

The Slice Girls on the bar at The Curly Coo (c) Eoin Carey

CTG reports from Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival: Day 3

the big screen in the Albert Halls

the big screen in the Albert Halls

Onto Sunday, and it was hard to believe that the festival was almost over. But there wasn’t time to feel sad as I was booked into a full day of sessions.

The morning started with So You Want to Be a Crime Novelist? A bunch of eight brave writers pitched their novels to the panel – agent Mark Stanton, editor Alison Hennessey, and last year’s winner (and bookseller) Joseph Knobbs. All the participants pitched brilliantly and showed nerves of steel. Massive congratulations to the winners – Alex Cox and Dan Stewart – who both won a gorgeous Toshiba tablet.

Next was the Masters of the Dark session with Mark Billingham and Stewart Neville (chaired by Peter Guttridge). Both writers talked about how freeing it could be to write a standalone novel after focusing on a series, and touched on their research methods (like going out in a patrol car with a couple of Police Officers for the night shift). They also discussed the art of the plot twist – when it works, when it doesn’t, and when there are just too many of the damn things.

After lunch I headed to the Craig Robertson & Chris Carter session (again chaired by Peter Guttridge) entitled Chasing Serial Killers. They discussed where their ideas for stories begin – a murder scene, a motivation, or a character – and the strange places they can suddenly get ideas. Chris Carter talked about being on the beach when one of his story ideas popped into his mind.

In the final session of the day, At the Top of his Game, the ever-sparkling Peter Guttridge chatted to the ever-charismatic Lee Child with an audience packed to the rafters listening in. Peter focused the interview more on Lee than on Reacher, asking him about his own experience growing up, whether Reacher’s fighting techniques, including the head-butts,  are skills Lee himself honed (answer:  yes!), and what his plans are for the series (answer: three more books agreed, after that he’ll see if people want more – I expect that we will!). Of course Lee’s new book NEVER GO BACK was discussed, but as to whether Reacher finally gets to visit with ‘the woman with the great voice’ that he’s been travelling to meet for the past couple of books, well, I guess you’ll just have to read the story to find out! [No spoilers here!]

And then it was over.

All that remains is to say a huge thank you to Dom Hastings and his amazing festival team. Their friendliness, great festive spirit and endlessly positive responses to queries both before and during the festival made for a warm and welcoming atmosphere that I’m sure will bring people back to Bloody Scotland for 2014 and beyond.

[hop on over to www.bloodyscotland.com to check out the early bird offers for Bloody Scotland 2014]