Events Alert: Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival, Stirling on 11 – 13 September 2015


This week the marks the official launch of the 2015 Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival. The wonderful event runs this year from 11-13 September in the historic Scottish town of Stirling and is fast becoming one of the top crime writing festivals.

The fabulous programme, announced this week, features exclusive appearances from Martina Cole and Linwood Barclay, and a brilliant range of events from interviews to panel sessions with best selling authors including Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, Ann Cleeves, Arne Dahl and over 50 other authors.

There’s also some great evening entertainment including ‘Whose Crime is it Anyway?’ with Hardeep Singh Kohli, Christopher Brookmyre, Kevin Wignall and Caro Ramsey, ‘Crime at the Coo’ – an evening of readings, poems, stories and songs hosted by Craig Robertson – and the gala dinner where the fourth annual Bloody Scotland Crime Book of the Year Award will announced. On Sunday lunchtime, there’ll be the return of the infamous Scottish vs English All-Crime-Writers football game, with the English team hoping to settle some of last year’s scores!

The festival will also celebrate Agatha Christie’s 125th anniversary with an spellbinding event looking at the grande dame of crime fiction’s obsession with poisons. Dr Kathryn Harkup, author of the book A is for Arsenic, and Christie expert Ragnar Jonasson, who has been Christie’s Icelandic translator since he was seventeen, will discuss the art of chemistry Christie used to kill the vast majority of her ‘victims’.

For those looking to write crime fiction there’s the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Masterclass – a full day of workshops including ‘The Craft of Crime Writing’ with Denise Mina, ‘Self-Editing for Crime Writers’ with Allan Guthrie, and ‘Screenwriting for Crime Writers’ with Alexandra Sokoloff. And for those ready to pitch their novel, there’s the popular ‘Pitch Perfect’ session where a line-up of unpublished authors get the chance to ‘live pitch’ to a panel of industry experts.

I’ve been to this fantastic festival twice before and I’ve already booked my tickets for this year. Always a super-friendly festival, and with such an amazing star-studded programme, Bloody Scotland 2015 is going to be tremendous.

To find out more about this wonderful festival pop on over to their website at

And be sure to follow them on Twitter @BloodyScotland for all the latest updates

Event Alert: Dead Good Books announces the Dead Good Reader Awards

Dead Good Reader Awards logo

Dead Good Reader Awards logo

The fabulous team behind Dead Good Books have created six new crime writing awards which will be presented in Harrogate this July at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.

Created in collaboration with the Dead Good Facebook community each of the six awards celebrates a unique element in crime writing.

The awards are:

  • The Lee Child Award for Best Loner or Detective
  • The Val McDermid Award for Fiendish Forensics
  • The Reichenbach Falls Award for Most Epic Ending
  • The Dr Lecter Award for Scariest Villain
  • The Patricia Highsmith Award for Most Exotic Location
  • The Dead Good Recommends Award for Most Recommended Book

The plan is for readers to nominate their favourite authors and books for the awards online through the Dead Good website. The nominees with the most votes will make the shortlists, and readers will then be able to vote for the final winners both online and in person at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival itself.

The awards will culminate at a special festival event on Friday 17th July with well-known crime authors including Lee Child and Val McDermid presenting the awards. Each winner will receive a specially designed magnifying glass trophy.

So, be sure to vote by hopping on over to


Review: CROSS and BURN by Val McDermid


What the blurb says: “Tony and Carol are facing the biggest challenge of their professional lives: how to live without each other. No one has seen Carol in three months, and the police brass no longer need Tony’s services. Even worse, both hold Tony responsible for the bloody havoc their last case wreaked on Carol’s life and family, and Carol has sworn she’ll never speak to Tony again. But just because Tony and Carol’s relationship is finished doesn’t mean that the killing is: a body has been discovered in an abandoned flat inhabited by squatters. Paula McIntyre, the number two detective investigating, is struggling to adapt to her new job and new boss who is emphatically not Carol. As connections to other missing or dead women emerge, a horrifying pattern becomes clear: someone is killing women, all of whom bear a striking resemblance to Carol Jordan. And when the evidence begins to point in a disturbing and unexpected direction, thinking the unthinkable seems the only possible answer.”

At the start of this book police detective Carol Jordan and clinical psychologist Tony Hill are not in a good place. Carol is broken. She’s turned her back on her career and her friends and thrown herself into a restoration project. Blamed by Carol for her brother’s death, Tony is guilt-ridden and lost. He’s buried himself in his work and his living alone. The rest of the MIT have moved on, but things just aren’t the same in their new roles. But when Paula McIntyre, ex MIT and now newly appointed bagman to DCI Fielding, gets a call that puts her on a case to challenge both her skills and her loyalties she knows that she’ll need the help of her old colleagues to make sure justice is done.

As you’d expect from Val McDermid the story is beautifully crafted, and although the book is focused around a murder case,  it is the relationships between the characters that make it such compelling reading. The characters feel utterly real: smart, flawed, passionate, withdrawn, searching, misguided, determined. The relationships that bound them together at MIT and made the team so strong have drifted, but to solve the case Paula has to reconnect them. It’s not easy, but as she juggles the pressures of working a tough case under a new boss, the changed dynamic in her personal life of a teenage boy to look after with her partner, Elinor, and gradually draws in input from her MIT colleagues it seems that they’re getting closer to the killer. Then the forensic evidence points in a direction none of them would ever have expected.

With her new DCI unable to see past the forensics, Paula draws on the skills of her ex MIT colleagues – Carol, Tony, Stacey to name a few – to investigate an alternative line of enquiry. She’s treading a dangerous path, one false move and her career will be over. But some things are more important – justice, both for the victims and for the wrongfully accused. But as another woman goes missing, can Paula find the real killer and save his latest victim before it’s too late?

Luckily Paula isn’t alone. As Carol’s strong sense of justice, and her determination to see it brought, gradually bring her back into the environment she’d left behind. But the question remains: will Carol and Tony’s relationship ever recover?

Utterly compelling and unputdownable.

Highly recommended.

[With thanks to Grove Atlantic for my copy of CROSS and BURN]

CTG Reports: Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival Day 1

wine and ticket

wine and ticket

Stirling in Scotland is a pretty long way from where I live, but this fabulous new crime writing festival was well worth taking the seven hour train journey from my home to the Stirling Highland Hotel and immersing myself in the activities of Bloody Scotland 2013 for a few days. This was the second year of this new but fabulously organised crime writing festival, and my first visit to both it and Stirling.

And what a treat I was in for.

The festival began on Friday 13th September with three wonderful sessions held in the magnificent Albert Halls. Firstly, Quintin Jardine opened the festival sharing tales from the dark side with festival co-founders Lin Anderson and Alex Gray.

The second event followed, with Val McDermid, interviewed by Christine Hamilton, in a session entitled ‘Can You Sleep at Night?’ and sponsored by The Open University in Scotland. During the interview Val McDermid shared how she still feels ambitious, that she still strives to write better books, and she enjoys reading books that make her think about her craft, mentioning Margaret Atwood and Kate Atkinson as two of those writers that she enjoys to read.

Mark Billingham and Chris Brookmyre closed the evening’s events with the most hilarious, sweary and laugh-till-you-cry session. Through their quick-paced banter and sparky anecdotes they gave the audience a glimpse into the world of a crime writer – their working habits, their (other) festival horror stories and the interesting reader emails they get, from the complements and the complaints through to the downright scary! The memory of Mark Billingham reading from his novel as Chris Brookmyre performed modern dance across the stage behind him will stay with me for a long time to come!

Then it was back up the hill to the gorgeous Stirling Highland Hotel, to catch up with friends in the bar and plan which sessions to attend the next day …


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

Notes from Harrogate: Part 2

Lee Child interviewed by Sarah Millican

Lee Child interviewed by Sarah Millican

Saturday at Harrogate was again gorgeously sunny. After a fabulous breakfast, I went along (with minimal hangover) to Forensics: Val McDermid in conversation with Sue Black. It was a great session, and especially useful for any budding crime writers. Sue Black demystified the world of forensics with a special focus on identity including DNA sampling and facial reconstruction.

After a quick coffee (my fifth of the day) I went back into the hall for the New Book panel. Expertly chaired by Val McDermid, debut authors Derek B. Miller (Norwegian by Night), Anya Lipska (Where The Devil Can’t Go), Malcolm Mackay (The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter) and Colette McBeth (Precious Thing), discussed their novels, their journey to publication, and what was next for them. From this panel I heard one of my favourite quotes of the festival. It was from Derek B. Miller, who said, “crime writers don’t love crime, they love justice.” Brilliant.

After a quick lunch (sandwiches and crisps on the lawn – no alcohol) I headed to the Library for the C&R Crime party (and a glass of wine!). It was great to catch up with the team from C&R Crime, hear about all the exciting releases they’ve got coming up, and talk to their authors.

By this point it was almost five o’clock, and that meant it was time to get my seat for the Lee Child interview. The hall was packed to bursting, but with my trusty Festival Friend card (which gave the equivalent of ‘speedy boarding’ into the hall) I was able to get a seat three rows from the front. Comedienne Sarah Millican did a superb job with the interview – it was witty, insightful and all round entertaining. The hour-long session went past far too fast, but I was thrilled that I managed to meet Lee Child afterwards (he is my literary hero) and get a photo with him. I was grinning for the rest of the evening.

Anyway, from there it was a mad dash to the License to Thrill dinner. Author David Mark had written a bond themed murder mystery puzzle for the tables to solve during dinner. It was great fun and although the table I was on didn’t win, we had a lot of fun trying.

After a brief rest in the bar (!) it was on to the Late Night Quiz with quizmasters Mark Billingham and Val McDermid. Although the rules clearly stated teams should have six members, we flexed the rules a little and went with seven. It didn’t matter, we reasoned, we were going to lose anyway. But, with plenty of wine (plus the Theakstons beers that we ‘had to’ drink as part of the Name That Beer Round) we discovered that we were not quite as rubbish at the questions as we had thought that we would be. We didn’t win a prize, but we weren’t too far off. So to celebrate we returned to the bar until the early hours.

And then it was Sunday. After a ridiculously late night/early morning I needed a bit of a lie in, so I only made it to one session. But what a great one it was. Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse series (which became HBO’s True Blood) and a whole bunch of stand-alone novels and other mystery series’, was interviewed by Paul Blezard. An inspiring and highly entertaining hour.

And then it was over.

As I packed up my bags, loaded the car, and said goodbye to all the fabulous people I’d met over the weekend I knew one thing for sure. I’ll definitely be back next year.

Shortlist Announced for Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year: Vote, vote, vote!

Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year logo

Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year logo

The shortlist has now been announced for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award. This is the ninth year of the coveted award that is open to British and Irish authors whose novels were published in paperback over the previous twelve months.

The shortlist is:


Rush of Blood by Mark Billingham

Safe House by Chris Ewan

The Lewis Man by Peter May

Gods and Beasts by Denise Mina

Stolen Souls by Stuart Neville

A Dark Redemption by Stav Sherez


Huge congratulations to all the shortlisted authors.

Now it’s time for readers to do their part. Voting is open at where you can vote for your favorite. The online vote is counted alongside votes from the expert panel. This year the judging panel are Val McDermid (2013 Festival Programming Chair), David Swillman (WHSmith’s Head of Fiction), Simon Theakston (Executive Director of title sponsor T&R Theakston, and Kate Mosse (award-winning author and broadcaster).

The winner will be announced on Thursday 18th July at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.

PS. If you’d like to read the shortlisted books, pop into WHSmith between 4th July and 1st August and look out for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year stickers.


Looking forward to summer: Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival

 With the snow around us, one thing that’s keeping me going is planning how I’ll be spending the summer (hopefully warmer) months.

Something I’m really looking forward to is the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate. This festival of all things crime fiction is my idea of a perfect weekend getaway. So from 18 – 21 July 2013 I’ll be staking out the festival hotel and making optimum use of my weekend rover ticket.

It promises to be a fabulous weekend with special guests including Lee Child, Kate Atkinson, Charlaine Harris, Susan Hill, Ruth Rendell interviewed by Jeanette Winterson and Programming Chair, Val McDermid.

Weekend Break packages can be booked now, and individual event tickets go on sale in the Spring when the full programme is announced.

If you’re a fan of the genre, avid reader and/or budding writer, the festival website is well worth checking out 

I’m really looking forward to it.

Perhaps I’ll see you there?