A little over twelve months ago, I caught sight of Bloody Scotland being mentioned over on Twitter. Although I hadn’t been reading again for very long, and I was pretty much a blogging newbie (let’s be honest – I still am), having attended and loved CrimeFest it sounded right up my street. I am lucky in that my work takes me up to Scotland quite regularly, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to combine work and the festival and make a long week of it. I am so very glad I did. By Saturday afternoon I had already booked my hotel for this year and ‘persuaded’ my sister to join me.
When I was asked if I would like to be a part of the Bloody Scotland short story collection blog tour I didn’t hesitate for a second. IMHO (for all that it is worth) Bloody Scotland has to be one of the best festivals on the UK literary festival calendar, and with some of the most iconic names in Scottish crime fiction having supplied stories for this collection, how could I even think about saying no? And believe me when I say it is only ‘some’ of Scotland’s best crime authors because when it comes to our favourite of literary genres, Scottish authors absolutely bloody rock.
Whilst I am sunning myself (?) in Stirling, and enjoying all the festival has to offer, it is my absolute pleasure to be able to share with you all a guest post from one of Bloody Scotland’s founders, actor extraordinaire (well his turn in Inspector Faro last year was a hoot, but probably for all the wrong reasons), and super talented author Gordon Brown, on how he came to be involved in this literary marvel and his personal highlights from Bloody Scotland.
You’ve heard more than enough from me now. Here’s Gordon … (am I the only one now having visions of a manic tall Scots bloke with an axe, stalking the corridors and the ballroom at the Golden Lion…)
Bloody Scotland – Bloody Marvellous
This weekend I’m in the midst of a festival celebrating the world of crime writing. Bloody Scotland, Scotland’s International Crime Writing Festival, is in its sixth year and this is our most successful to date. As I type, looking up at Stirling Castle, we have close to a hundred authors participating over three days and have sold over seven thousand tickets for a wide range of diverse events including Ian Rankin celebrating 30 years of Rebus, a rock band composed of some of the world’s best crime writers and a torch-lit procession involving over two hundred and fifty people.
And, in part, I’m responsible for it all.
How did I get involved?
Good question. I’ve been a book addict since I was a kid and I’ve been writing since my teens but you need to go back to a day, 23 years ago, when I was watching Rage Against the Machine, as they drowned out the traffic from the nearby M74, sending the crowd wild while rain poured from the night skies. It was my first involvement in a festival. It was called T in the Park. I was the new Brand Manager for Tennent’s Lager, the festival sponsor, and I remember thinking that I’d just taken on the coolest job on the planet – booze and music – what was not to like. Festivals are a beast I love. A celebration of diversity linked by a common thread.
Fast forward some fifteen years and, after the publication of my first crime novel, Falling, I was asked to a Crime Writers Association lunch to meet other authors. Amongst them were Lin Anderson and Alex Gray.
During the lunch, Lin and Alex talked about their idea for a festival to celebrate the influence and quality of Scottish crime writing. Spurred on by my previous involvement in music festivals I found myself, a few days later, sitting with Lin, enjoying a cup of tea in Princes Square in Glasgow, discussing the art of the possible. At some point, during the conversation, I remember uttering the words ‘A writing festival. How hard could that be?’ Words that would come back to haunt me.
On a wing and prayer, and after assembling a fantastic committee, we branded ourselves Bloody Scotland and settled on Stirling as the location for the inaugural festival – a fitting venue given its bloody history.
There have been a lot of highlights over the last six years. The satisfaction of collapsing in a chair at the conclusion of year one. Experiencing the delight of crime writing fans meeting their idols. Watching us grow year on year and, of course, we have enjoyed the support of some of the world’s best authors, without whom there would be no festival.
If I had to select a couple of my personal, proudest moments from the last six years, I would pick out something we call Crime in the Spotlight and the new Bloody Scotland anthology.
One of Bloody Scotland’s aims is to encourage new authors and, a few years back, I had a simple idea, shamelessly lifted from the music world, to allow debut authors a chance to be the support act to more established authors. This became known as Crime in the Spotlight. For a few minutes, just before the Bloody Scotland main events get underway, the new authors have the opportunity to tell the audience a little about themselves and read from their work. My Spotlighters, as I call them, have been wonderful and some, like the Man Booker shortlisted Graeme Macrae Burnet, have gone on to great things.
The other highlight came with my inclusion, this year, in the Historic Environment Scotland short story anthology, called Bloody Scotland. Eleven of Scotland’s best crime writers, and myself, were asked to pen a short story that featured a famous Scottish monument. I chose the little known but fascinating Crookston Castle, located on the south side of Glasgow, and set my story around the idea of a siege for the 21st century.
On my own writing front, I’m about to celebrate two book launches this month. Furthest Reaches, the middle novel in my Craig McIntyre trilogy comes out on the 28th of September in the UK and the second in my Charlie Wiggs series, Falling Too, comes out in the U.S.A. on the 18th of September.
However, if I ever wanted to know how far I’ve come in my writing career and how Bloody Scotland has changed my world, all I have to do is open up the new short story anthology. It’s sitting on the table next to me, where my story lies between the works of Stuart MacBride and Louise Welsh – need I say more.
The Bloody Scotland short story anthology by Historic Environment Scotland is out now priced £12.99.
Thank you Gordon. I can’t wait to see what the rest of this weekend holds in store for us all, and I’ve already premptively booked my leave from work for next year so … well no pressure 😉
So what, I hear you ask, is this wonderful book all about? Gordon’s given you a good flavour above, but here is the official Historic Environment Scotland press release, book blurb and buying links for any of you still in doubt.
BLOODY SCOTLAND – THE BOOK
Featuring 12 of Scotland’s best crime writers
Edited by James Crawford
21 September 2017 – £12.99 – HES
‘I found myself talking to the co-founder of the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival, Lin Anderson, and its director Bob McDevitt, in the Authors’ Yurt at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August 2016. ‘What if?’ I asked them. ‘What if we asked twelve of Scotland’s top crime writers to write short stories inspired by twelve of our most iconic buildings? What would they think? What would they come up with?’ This book is the answer… Bloody Scotland, then, is a tribute to two of our nation’s greatest assets – our crime writing and our built heritage’ – James Crawford, Publisher HES
Stellar contributors Val McDermid, Chris Brookmyre, Denise Mina, Ann Cleeves, Louise Welsh, Lin Anderson, Gordon Brown, Doug Johnstone, Craig Robertson, E S Thomson, Sara Sheridan and Stuart MacBride explore the thrilling potential of Scotland’s iconic sites and structures. From murder in an Iron Age broch and a macabre tale of revenge among the furious clamour of an eighteenth century mill, to a dark psychological thriller set within the tourist throng of Edinburgh Castle and a rivalry turning fatal in the concrete galleries of an abandoned modernist ruin, this collection uncovers the intimate – and often deadly – connections between people and places.
Prepare for a dangerous journey into the dark shadows of our nation’s buildings – where passion, fury, desire and death collide.
Historic Environment Scotland (HES) is the lead public body charged with caring for, protecting and promoting the historic environment. 2017 has been designated the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology and runs from 1 January to 31 December. The Bloody Scotland book forms part of that.
Bloody Scotland is Scotland’s International Crime Writing Festival, providing a showcase for the best crime writing from Scotland and the world, unique in that it was set up by a group of Scottish crime writers in 2012. It runs this year from 8-10 September. The Bloody Scotland book will have an early launch on the opening night of the Festival in the Great Hall at Stirling Castle attended by most of the contributors.
I’ll be publishing a full review of the book in the coming weeks. I have started reading a few of the short stories already and I can tell you this book is an absolute cracker. Capturing the spirit of their locations perfectly, they blend, history, intrigue and humour, each in the author’s own unique style.
History Lesson by Gordon Brown, is a wonderful short story in which the main protagonist, Jamie, returns to his roots after the death of his father. Set in and round Crookston Castle, the story takes us on a journey into Jamie’s past. It evokes the sense of solitude and sanctuary that the Castle brings to Jamie, and the pain and fear felt by both boy and man. Short and sweet, I felt every chill wind in the broken down castle. And I kind of want to visit there now too…
If you don’t want to take my word for it about how fabulous a) Bloody Scotland the event is and b) Bloody Scotland the book is, then check out some of the other brilliant blogs taking part in the tour. And if you don’t believe any of us, then why not buy the book, read it, and prove us all wrong. You know you want to 😉