Monday, 19 September 2011

"Experience in the sausage area"

Dear Reader, I didn't manage to post from Berlin but I'm sure you'll forgive me as it meant I was having too good a time. I've included some gratuitous holiday snaps in this post. My favourite is this one, which is part of an advert we saw in a butcher's shop window. Roughly translated, it says "We are urgently looking for a female salesperson with experience in the meat and sausage area"... (I cut the rest of the advert off because it had a phone number on it and I want that job!)

I won't bore you with holiday talk. Suffice to say that Berlin feels like my home from home. I love the graffiti, the slightly schizophrenic nature that exists, the grey concrete of parts of the former east and the many pretty tree-lined streets everywhere, the fact that there is so much to see and do and yet it feels totally laid-back.

I will mention two things - if you're there before 3rd October, do go and see the exhibition Aus Anderer Sicht. It's panoramas of the Berlin Wall from the Eastern Side, taken by the border troops in the mid 1960s (normal people weren't allowed to take photos from that side), with the intention of using the photos to see where there were weaknesses in the Wall. The photos were never used and a box of negatives was found in the early 1990s.

But it's not only photos - most of them had little notes appended to them, reporting on things that were called over the Wall from the West ("Come over, we’ll have a smoke together, get drunk, and we’ve got plenty of women too", and one report mentioned that a girl in an apartment in the West took off her top and bared her chest to the guards "She put her top back on forty minutes later"). And, best of all, were the reports on the border guards themselves, and the snippets of praise and censure that were shown. It wasn't easy, being an East German border guard, you could get in trouble for just about anything:
"He only lackadaisically performed morning exercises. When touching his toes he just bent at the waist with his arms out in front of him."
"He told his supervisor he would like to go over to the West for just a day, to visit a brothel."
"When bored, he used his feet to make shapes in the snow."

Secondly, we chanced upon the Youth Resistance Museum in Friedrichshain, which talked about what it was like to be a punk in East Berlin (apparently, the Rubettes' Sugar Baby Love was a popular underground tune...) It's all in German, an there's a lot there, so it was a bit tough going for my fractured German, but a lovely man who worked there came and showed us some behind-the-scenes stuff. Really interesting if you're an old punk like me.

Anyway, enough of Berlin and on to the Scottish crime fiction news which is, after all, what you come here for.

Bloody Scotland was launched last week. Sadly, I couldn't go, but here's the Press Release:

Announcement of Scotland’s first crime Writing Festival

A stellar cast of leading crime writers gathered in Stirling today to announce Scotland’s newest literary festival, devoted to Scotland’s most popular fiction ~ crime writing. The inaugural Bloody Scotland will take place next year from 14 ~ 16 September 2012.

The festival is the inspiration of crime writers Lin Anderson and Alex Gray who believed, given the global reputation of Scottish crime writing, that there should be a showcase to celebrate its quality and diversity while placing it in an international context. The festival has the support of Stirling Council, Creative Scotland, University of Stirling and will be working closely with Stirling’s well-established literary festival, Off the Page.

Ian Rankin said “Scottish crime writing continues to fire on all cylinders, and talented new voices keep appearing. Bloody Scotland is a long overdue celebration of Scotland’s favourite genre, one of its most successful cultural exports ~ and a chance to hear some of the most interesting international writers too.”

Robert Ruthven, Information, Libraries & Archives Service manager commented, “It is a great compliment to the continuing success of Off the Page Stirling Book Festival that the organisers of Bloody Scotland have chosen Stirling as the venue for their Crime Weekend. Visiting crime authors are always warmly received by the Stirling public and the inaugural Bloody Scotland Festival can only add to Stirling’s reputation as the city which loves its crime. Our library staff who organise Off the Page are looking forward to this new working partnership.”

On 14 September 2012 the University of Stirling will host masterclasses, workshops and a publishers and agents forum. “Stirling has a thriving centre for publishing studies and we’ve just launched a postgraduate creative writing programme,” says Douglas Brodie, head of the School of Arts and Humanities. “We’re delighted to help aspiring writers at the festival develop their talent, technique and professional savvy.”

Emma Turnbull at Creative Scotland says “Bloody Scotland will be a welcome addition to the host of vibrant and diverse literature festivals we support across Scotland.”

Full programme details of the debut festival will be launched in late spring 2012.

For more information contact 0797 1099402

Doesn't that sound rather splendid? And here are some photos and reports over at Lin Anderson's site.

Sophie Hannah really loves Val McDermid's RETRIBUTION. And more on Val from the Irish Times.

A nice piece on Helen Fitzgerald's husband Sergio Casci.

A report from the Society of Authors in Scotland conference, where both Allan Guthrie and Lin Anderson were talking about eBooks.

A preview of Ian Rankin's THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD.

Christopher Brookmyre gets serious.

Ian Rankin in Montreal on October 29th.

And, finally, a conversation with my lovely Mum. We arrived home from Berlin on Friday afternoon and I started my Masters Degree at Glasgow University today - ie two and a half days later. As we left Glasgow airport I rang my parents to tell them of my safe arrival home (I have to do that, even if I just go to Asda).

Me: Hello Dad, it's me.

Dad: I'll get your mother (offscreen) Joyce, it's your daughter.

Mum: (offscreen) Who? (the sound of my Mum's special chair going into orbit as it rises to let her get off without bending her knees) Hello, our Donna, is that you back?

Me: Yes Mum.

Mum: Did you have a nice time?

Me: Yes Mum.

Mum: When do you start university?

Me: Monday.

Silence on the other end of the phone.

Mum: (accusingly) Isn't that cutting it a bit fine?

Me: It's two and a half days away.

Mum: Don't you have things to do to prepare for it?

Me: You mean - iron my school uniform? Pack my pencil case?

Mum: Don't be facetious, young lady.


  1. And did you have enough time to iron your uniform/pack your pencil case/ shine your shoes?

    How have the first few days been?

  2. Some fine translators of crime fiction have taught at the University of Stirling, if my memory is no playing tricks: Mike Mitchell, who translated Friedrich Glauser from German into English, and Sian Reynolds, who translated Ferd Vargas.

    Thanks for that festival news. And say hello from me to your mum.
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"