Sunday 31 January 2010

A Teeny Tiny Sunday Summary

Denise Mina's STILL MIDNIGHT reviewed in the Globe And Mail, the Daily Telegraph reviews Aly Monroe's WASHINGTON SHADOW, Publisher's Weekly reviews Philip Kerr's IF THE DEAD RISE NOT and Eurocrime reviews Russel McLean's THE LOST SISTER.

More on the Isle of Man event (gulp) organised by the lovely Chris Ewan.

For those who enjoy reading (and writing) short stories, Tania Hershman has an excellent list (incomplete - so e-mail her if you spot a missing one!) of UK and Irish literary mags. Good on that woman - it must have taken her ages.

More from Ian Pattison on Rab C Nesbitt in a very entertaining article.

More on the Jaipur Literature Festival - although this time it's the Daily Express wondering if money should be spent on it when Scotland has its own literacy problems.

Val McDermid is part of a Booktrust project to enourage the over 60s to engage more in reading and creative writing. My Mum and Dad read loads already (they're in their 70s), but I'm not sure I want to encourage my Dad to do creative writing - he already makes up plenty of rubbish about me in the comments.

Friday 29 January 2010

Gi'e's A Job

Carry a poem in Edinburgh from 1st February. Carry one in Glasgow, too, if you like. Just don't let anyone know.

Single? How about a bit of literary speed-dating? I once went speed-dating of the non-literary kind. It experiene.

Noir Journal pronounces Allan Guthrie's SLAMMER his best yet. And asks "What kind of mind thinks this up?" I've been asking that for years.

Paul Blackburn reviews Tony Black's LOSS for Eurocrime. And Crimetime speaks to Tony. And for those who won the copies of LOSS - I haven't forgotten. I'm going to go and get copies as soon as possible.

Val McDermid talks about A DARKER DOMAIN.

A book trailer for Peter May's VIRTUALLY DEAD.

Some details of the Reading Crime Writing Festival announced. And more on the Jaipur Literature Festival where Alexander McCall Smith is appearing.

Ian Rankin's six best books. And India's Organiser reviews Ian's THE COMPLAINTS, strangely calling it his second book. And, if you're a fan of beer and Ian Rankin, here's just the event for you.

And, finally, should anyone specify a lazy good-for-nothing, I'm superbly qualified.

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Bawbags, Gobbledygook and a Better Class of Thief

Ian Pattison's Rab C Nesbitt gets plenty of ink. And for those in Glasgow, or thinking of visiting, you can catch an Ian Pattison play in May at Oran Mor's 'A Play, A Pie, and a Pint' series. But make sure you don't mix up your local hostelries and end up at the Bucket of Blood in Possilpark for their 'A Buckie, A Bawbag, and a Boak' series.

For those with plenty of time on their hands, the Scottish Parliament debates literacy. Or you can watch it on TV here, if you have a spare two and a half hours, and there's a summary underneath if you don't.

Here's the start of the Lit Sutra blog on Ian Rankin's appearance in India. And an interview with Edinburgh Spotlight here.

Best Selling Books reviews Charles Cumming's TYPHOON, Margaret Cannon has nice things to say about Russel McLean's THE GOOD SON, Starting Fresh blog likes M C Beaton's DEATH OF A VALENTINE and Dutch site 8 Weekly says...errrr...Dutch things about Philip Kerr. I have absolutely no idea whether they liked it or not, especially since plugging the first paragraph into Babelfish results in the following translation:
"The genre is literary think thriller no longer and knows a large schare volgers. The question what moves an editor when he a thriller stamp ' literair' gives, it has been already frequently put. Generally it is determined that in vain zoeken is to the so-called literary aspect. If the deads do not rise again on this no exception forms. " Sadly, there is no option to turn gobbeldygook into English.

An event called Murder, Mystery and Microscopes has made the shortlist for Best Live Communication event in the Communicators in Business awards.

And, finally, about 200 of Edinburgh's most distinguished citizens are suspects in an art theft. "A picture hook was left at the scene of the crime." Presumably vol-au-vent crumbs too.

Monday 25 January 2010

Heading North By North West

Well, it's official, I am definitely going back to Alaska in May - yippee! I have a guarantee that I am going to get to spend time with my lovely friend Mary, plus I am going to get to visit Stony River (population 65), a village that I haven't yet been to, where they want me to attend a Fine Arts Festival they are putting on, flying in the students from all the Upriver Schools. The students will take part in a number of activities and one of them this year will be writing something, with a view to publishing or performing it. I can't wait. As long as they don't expect me to paint or dance, we should be OK...

Talking of festivals, Ian Rankin is currently in India. You can follow him at the Lit Sutra Blog. Or you could follow Ian himself on Twitter. In which case you will be treated to such wonderful comments as "Postcard 2. Now in Kolkata. 26 degrees but not humid and no midges. Curries eaten: 11. Kingfishers drunk: 28. Meeting readers: priceless." Marvellous stuff. And BooksPlease has an excellent write-up of Ian's recent award from West Lothian Libraries.

Marcel Berlins in the Times rather likes Scottish crime writers Catriona MacPherson and Tony Black, and calls Tony Black "a compelling and convincing portrayer of raw emotions in a vicious milieu." Excellent. And a good review of Russel McLean's THE GOOD SON at

Charles Cumming talks about spying and books on YouTube.

Poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy on Glasgow's Aye Write festival.

And, finally, Douglas Lindsay is good to his readers. This isn't the first time he's posted short stories online and, apparently, it won't be the last.

Friday 22 January 2010

How To Get A Bed In Glasgow Without Really Trying

I'm hoping I'll be able to get back to my normal posting schedule next week.

Edinburgh's One City Trust charity - set up to fund initiatives in some of the most deprived parts of Edinburgh (a city where one in five children are being brought up in poverty) is in danger of closure. A shame - their collection of short stories - CRIMESPOTTING - was excellent. I hope the charity manages to stay open. This in a week where it's revealed that more than one million people in Scotland struggle with literacy.

A blog has started up recently about Alexander McCall Smith, who, meanwhile, is in Jaipur for the Jaipur Literature Festival. And later on in the spring he's in Toronto. His Edinburgh neighbour, Ian Rankin, is in Sri Lanka. Hopefully, he'll be able to get some milk there. Helen Fitzgerald, on the other hand, gets to go as far as Newcastle.

And Rankin and McCall Smith, amongst others, talk to the Courier Mail in Australia about their approaches to the televised versions of their books.

A preview of Louise Welsh's NAMING THE BONES.

An interesting interview with poet John Burnside. Unlike some other writers of the Scottish literary establishment (I'm looking at you, Mr Kelman), he does not sneer at genre writers.

An interview with my Dad's favourite, Caro Ramsay.

Top agent Stacia Decker says how wonderful Ray Banks is. And she's right.

Ian Pattison's creation Rab C Nesbitt is back.

And finally, a wee Glasgow story. My friend Eleanor was telling me that she was walking along a quiet street yesterday, thinking how she needed to get her bed fixed, when a white van screeched to a halt beside her.

"Haw, hen, do you know anyone who wants a double bed?"

She hesitated. Was the double bed fairy smiling down on her?

White van man jumped out of the van, beer gut swaying in the breeze. "Here, have a wee swatch at it." He flung open the back of the van and there was this double bed, orthopedic mattress, cream satin headboard, just sat there in the back of the van. Although, it was a bed, so I guess that should be 'just lying there'. "That mattress alone is worth four hunnerd quid. It's yours for a hunnerd and fifty."

"Well, I do need a new bed, but I don't live in this bit of Glasgow."

"Hop in, hen. I'll take you to yours."

So she did (my mum would have killed me - getting into a van with a strange man and one who had a double bed in the back of his van, no less). He then proceeded to drive to Eleanor's with his elbows on the steering wheel, as he was using his hands talking too much.

Half an hour later, deal done and new bed nicely ensconced in her bedroom, white van man took off. "Here's my number, hen, if you want another bed any time, gi'e me a call."

That's Glasgow for you. It doesn't fall off the back of a lorry - it comes to a stop beside you, invites you in, and takes you home.

If you work in a bed shop and read this, light dawning as to why you're a bed short, don't sack him - he's an entrepreneur.

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Quick and Dirty Posting

In the midst of editing, so a quick and dirty link summary.

It seems that everybody in the world likes Russel McLean - and quite rightly so. As an extra added bonus, one of those links also has a review of C David Ingram's THE STONE GALLOWS.

Christopher Brookmyre at the Winter Words Festival in Pitlochry on January 31st, while Alexander McCall Smith will be visiting Epping Forest in March.

Listen to the start of M C Beaton's DEATH OF A VALENTINE.

Author Craig Robertson revealed. I have a copy of his debut novel, RANDOM which looks good. I've decided that February is Scottish Crime Fiction Month chez moi and I shall be reading that one, Tony Black's LOSS (as soon as I buy a copy), Russel McLean's THE LOST SISTER and Gordon Brown's FALLING.

And talking of Tony Black, sadly, I shall miss the launch of LOSS at Blackwell's Bookshop in Edinburgh this Thursday. If, like me, you have been jonesing for a new Gus Dury, The Rap Sheet has an original short story featuring Gus. Great stuff.

The Big Thrill talks to Peter May.

Sunday 17 January 2010

Aye, Right, it's Aye Write.

Glasgow's Aye Write festival programme is now up. Crime fiction (and vaguely crime fiction related) events are as follows:

Friday 5th March - William Boyd - 19.30-20.30
Sunday 7th March - Christopher Brookmyre - 15.30-16.30
Sunday 7th March - an event about the life and trial of supposed Victorian poisoner Madeleine Smith - 18.30-1930
Sunday 7th March - Karen Campbell - 19.45-21.oo (as part of the Tesco Bank Summer Reads programme)
Tuesday 9th March - Ruth Dudley Edwards and Stuart Neville - 19.30-20.30
Wednesday 10th March - Louise Welsh - 19.30-21.00
Friday 12th March - Denise Mina and Bryan Talbot - 19.30-21.00 (on graphic novels)
Friday 12th March - Dan Rhodes and Alan Bissett - 19.30-20.30
Saturday 13th 12.30-1.30 - Allan Guthrie and Denise Mina

For those who fancy a trip to the Isle of Man an evening of Mannslaughter and Mayhem on Saturday April 24th - Allan Guthrie, Stuart MacBride and some fraud who is feeling sick at the very thought.

The New York Times on Sherlock Holmes. We went to see the wonderful Ray Winstone in gangster-movie-with-a-difference 44 INCH CHEST this weekend and there was a huge queue for Sherlock Holmes.

Aly Monroe with a very thoughtful post on the value of translators.

Charles Cumming on espionage. And a mini-review of his TYPHOON in USA Today.

Philip Kerr's THE ONE FROM THE OTHER and A QUIET FLAME reviewed in Open Letters Monthly.

Thursday 14 January 2010

"A collection of thugs and harlots"

...not the lovely Scottish crime fiction community, of course. No, the quote in the title refers to Glasgow, according to this article. I wonder which one I am. That was purely rhetorical, by the way. I particularly like this quote: "We have great anecdotes of people stopping fights to give tourists directions".

Yes, people in Glasgow are very friendly, and also very willing to share intimate details of their lives with complete strangers. I was once on the bus and a very loud woman behind me was telling her two friends that her man had got out of jail unexpectedly (she did not specify if he was released, or simply escaped).

When he turned up at the flat, he realised he didn't have a key, and when there was no answer to his knock, he started kicking the door in. As she put it "He decided to gi'e me a surprise, so he kicked the door aff its hinges." Now, I don't know about you, but if someone wants to surprise me I would prefer they bought me a bunch of flowers. Call me old-fashioned.

So, they went to the pub to celebrate his new-found freedom. Leaving the door...well, not so much 'ajar' as just 'propped up against the wall'. What really annoyed this woman was not that she now had no door but that, while they were out at the pub, the man from Scottish Power turned up to 'unrig' the electricity meter. They'd been getting free electricity for about a year, thanks to some illegal means, and had not bothered answering the door on the numerous occasions that the 'leccy man called.

Finding the door...well, just finding the door, the electricity man had stepped into the hall and fixed the meter.

The passengers on the bus were agog. Papers were put down, ipods were turned off, and you could see shoulders shaking.

Anyway, back to the news.

Alexander McCall Smith is appearing at the Jaipur Literature Festival later this month, before jetting off to Australia in February.

Wherever Orilla is (I'm assuming somewhere in Canada) they really like Scottish crime fiction authors, with Ian Rankin, Stuart MacBride, Kate Atkinson and Christopher Brookmyre all in their 'best of the decade' list.

An interesting article about Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle.

And finally, and totally irrelevantly, today I bought some stuff for my trip to Alaska - chocolates and pens for the children, and these beauties for me. I wore them all afternoon at work. They look rather un-fetching with a business suit, but I did not care one jot.

Tuesday 12 January 2010

Turds and Treasures

First of all, I want to say a big, huge, ginormous apology to everyone I've sent ARCs of OLD DOGS to (they've all been sent out, by the way). I said that it was, as yet, unedited. Today, I got the edits back from the wonderful Peter Lavery (John Blake/MaXcrime). The man is an eagle-eyed genius - an artisan of the apostrophe, a craftsman of the comma, and a guru of grammar. He has taken his talented pencil to my manuscript and it is now strewn with obvious improvements. He has, shall we say, polished the turd until it shines. It may well still be a turd, but, lo, 'tis verily a very shiny one. So, I am very sorry to all those who received the unpolished, still-steaming, foul-smelling turd.

And now, the news.

A huge congratulations to Val McDermid who wins the Cartier Diamond Dagger, and pronounces herself gobsmacked.

Peter May sets up a private detective agency in the name of research.

Alexander McCall Smith talks about 44 Scotland Street on the iPlayer.

Minnesota Reads top 10 of 2009 - includes Allan Guthrie's SAVAGE NIGHT. The rest of his list looks excellent too. I shall be searching out the ones I haven't read.

CBC Radio talks to William McIlvanney.

The executors of Conan Doyle's estate threaten to withdraw permission for a sequel.

A blog about David Ashton's McLevy.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reviews Charles Cummings' TYPHOON. And an interesting idea (but one which sadly won't load for me) THE 21 STEPS is a Charles Cumming story which unfolds as you follow it across a map of the world.

Sunday 10 January 2010

Snowy Sunday Summary

Well, I'm sure everyone's completely fed up of snow pictures by now, but this is the first time I've really been able to get out in it and I get as excited as a five year old, so to accompany this post are some pictures of a snowy Glasgow, including one which is recognisably Glasgow - a park bench with a bottle of the aptly named Frosty Jack cider, a fag packet, a 'carry-oot' bag, an Irn Bru bottle and, touchingly, a couple of flower bouquets.

All the snow has reminded me how much I miss the children and teachers in the small villages of the Kuspuk School District in Alaska. So I have decided to go back in May - if they'll have me. At that time, the snow will be melting, the river will be unfreezing and the runways (ie small strips of potholed gravel) will be flooding. Last time I got to fly a plane and drive a snowmobile, on my first trip I drove an ATV to a glacier, this time maybe I'll get to row a boat. And now, on to the links:

The FT reviews Catriona McPherson's DANDY GILVER AND THE PROPER TREATMENT OF BLOODSTAINS, Sons of Spade with a small, but perfectly formed, review of Russel McLean's THE LOST SISTER, the wonderfully named Thoughts From An Evil Overlord reviews Ian Rankin's DOORS OPEN, and the Washington Times reviews Alexander McCall Smith's THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF SCONES.

Ian Rankin vows to hunt downEdinburgh wheelie bin arsonists. And, for those of you on Twitter who don't already follow Ian Rankin (@Beathhigh), you should do - this was his Tweet when the police came to see him about the fires "Filth at door this afternoon; flushed the drugs ‘n’ buried the gun in compost heap, then remembered: they were here re wheelie-bin fires." Brilliant.

My Writing Life with an excellent summary of Iain Banks at an Edinburgh City Reads event.

The Wall Street Journal with an interesting article about Conan Doyle and the burden of Sherlock Holmes.

Alexander McCall Smith at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair in March. And you can hear McCall Smith talking about 44 Scotland Street.

You can also hear a McLevy story from David Ashton here, although only for the next 17 hours. Whoops. And, talking of David Ashton, here's a New Year story in The Scotsman.

Friday 8 January 2010

Good News, Bad News, Old News

The postman brought me a lovely haul of books today, including some additional copies of OLD DOGS so I am afraid that Rob, Dorte and Norm will have to suffer as a consequence. If you would like to e-mail me your addresses I will get a copy sent out to you. If you don't e-mail me your addresses, I shall send you two copies.

And now, back to some old news (since I have not yet caught up).

Ian Rankin duped by indie rock musician. And also ranked number one by library goers.

A most excellent review in the New York Journal of Books for Allan Guthrie's HARD MAN. The Toronto Star reviews Denise Mina's STILL MIDNIGHT. While The Scotsman reviews Aly Monroe's WASHINGTON SHADOW.

Part 2 of the Alexander McCall Smith Christmas story. And part 3. (Did I say I haven't caught up yet?)

If you're in Edinburgh on 21st January, why not go to the launch of LOSS - the third in the wonderful Gus Dury series, by Tony Black.

And finally, from the Guardian, an article on reading and relationships. Ewan and I have different tastes in books. I like crime fiction, he likes books where not a lot happens. However there are books where our tastes cross. He's introduced me to some of his favourites - such as Magnus Mills' RESTRAINT OF BEASTS - and I've introduced him to some of mine - most notably Daniel Woodrell's WINTER'S BONE and Donald Ray Pollock's KNOCKEMSTIFF - and they are all now favourites of both of us. I'm glad that, like me, he's a big reader, but we don't need to share each others' tastes (although it's lovely when we can find a book that we both enthuse over. Having said that, it's also great to read a book that we have completely differing opinions on.) I am more likely to enjoy something he likes, than he is something I like. Not sure what that says :o)

Ewan also shares something with my mum - he's not keen on my stuff. I offered him a copy of OLD DOGS and he just looked at me in horror. "Why don't you give it to someone who would really appreciate it" he said, kindly.

So what about you, dear readers? How do your reading relationships fare?

Wednesday 6 January 2010

We Return You To Your Regularly Scheduled Blogging

Remember me? I am back - after a longer delay than anticipated. hadn't noticed I'd gone?

A brief summary of some very, very, very old news (I still have another 700 Google Alerts to read, so you can expect old news for the foreseeable future as I catch up. Meanwhile, hot off the press in Scottish cultural news, John Logie Baird invents television.

A seasonal story from Alexander McCall Smith. Happy Christmas. I'm either late or early - you choose.

A very interesting blog post about Gordon M Williams, author of THE SIEGE OF TRENCHER'S FARM, which was made into the film STRAW DOGS.

G J Moffat on YouTube, talking about his books.

Scotland to get its own Walk Of Fame. I wonder what they will use instead of stars.

The Edinburgh Evening News looks back at the best of Scottish writing in 2009. They missed some, but it's a good start.

And, finally, it's neither Scottish nor crime fiction related, but, from The Boston Globe a warning - should one be needed - never to complain about a review. I love the phrase "a litany of unjolly spankings" and am going to find cause to use that one on a regular basis.

Sunday 3 January 2010

Favourite Reads of 2009

First of all, Happy New Year to all of you, and thank you again for the e-mails, comments, and friendship over 2009.

Secondly, I was overwhelmed by the number of people who commented or e-mailed me to win a copy of the ARC of OLD DOGS. I managed to wrestle the copy my Mum and Dad had off my Mum (actually, it was pretty easy - she read 2 pages and thrust the book at me, saying "Next time, can you write a nice book, dear?") So I'm going to give away three copies. The lucky (?) winners - pulled out of a hat, since I loved all the suggestions and couldn't choose between them - are:

Keith Rawson
Paul Brazill
Ms Bookwitch

Please send me an e-mail with your addresses (or a note that you have come to your senses).

And finally, due to unforeseen circumstances, I'm a bit late posting both a summary of my December reads and also my best of the year list. My December Reads post will follow in the next few days but in the meantime, I read 48 books this year (and here are my favourite...errrr...18 (in the order I read them):

GUTTED - Tony Black - Second Gus Dury - brilliant. Wonderful characterisation, hard-boiled and moving.

SLAMMER - Allan Guthrie - A dark and delicious tale of a prison officer whose life (and mind) are unravelling.

STILL BLEEDING - Steve Mosby - A chilling and compelling look at the nature of evil, horror beyond comprehension, and the desire to possess.

THE GOOD THIEF'S GUIDE TO PARIS - Chris Ewan - A superbly entertaining caper full of twists and turns, very well drawn characters and memorable scenes. Breezy and quirky, with a protagonist who's part Raymond Chandler, part The Saint.

BEAST OF BURDEN - Ray Banks - Stark, inexorable and compelling. Noir at its best.

KNOCKEMSTIFF - Donald Ray Pollock - Great writing, wonderful imagery and descriptions, lots of dark humour and full of damaged characters with brutal and depressing lives.

DEAD LOVELY - Helen Fitzgerald - Gory, gruesome, touching, thrilling, heart-stopping ...and often very, very funny.

KILLING MUM - Allan Guthrie
- Novella - Dark, warped and funny, and with a surprising number of twists and turns.

GUN - Ray Banks - Novella - Brutal and heartbreaking. Petty criminals and their grim, futile lives - bloody brilliant stuff. Ray Banks is one hell of a writer.

ONCE WERE COPS - Ken Bruen - Brrrrrrrr. Chillingly psychopathic characters and lyrical, brutal and ferocious writing.

VANILLA RIDE - Joe Lansdale
- A great mix of viloence, thrills, and humourThis is one of my very favourite series, and Joe Lansdale is a truly brilliant writer, and a wonderful storyteller.

THE TWILIGHT TIME - Karen Campbell
- Police procedural set in Glasgow but not a bog standard police procedural. It's an insight into real peoples' lives - police, victims and criminals - who all come across in shades of grey.

DON'T CALL ME A CROOK - Bob Moore - This is the autobiography of Glaswegian Bob Moore - sailor, adventurer, engineer, world traveller. He's also racist, sexist, violent and, more often than not, pickled in alcohol. Bob Moore wouldn't know a scruple if it jumped up and bit him, but he knows how to spin a great yarn.

BURY ME DEEP - Megan Abbott - This is a wonderful tale filled with darkness, lust, sin and beautifully atmospheric and evocative writing.

TOWER - Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman
- Heart-breaking and stomach-churning, this is an amazing book - a beautifully written book full of brutal lyricism and hardboiled poetry, an unforgettable look at friendship, loyalty, fate, honesty and belief. I loved it, and the ending made me burst into tears on public transport.

EMPTY EVER AFTER - Reed Farrel Coleman - All about the ghosts of the past and how some of those ghosts never go away - especially the ones that are the keepers of secrets. Winner of the Shamus Award, and no bloody wonder. Brilliant stuff.

BLOODY WOMEN - Helen FitzGerald
- Delicious, ingenious, inventive and mordantly funny and Helen FitzGerald has a real skill for making the totally absurd and goofy, thoroughly logical and reasonable.

THE DEATH OF SWEET MISTER - Daniel Woodrell - an uncomfortable, painful, brutal tale which is also poetic and beautiful and just...breathtakingly wonderful. Daniel Woodrell is the master of making you care about people who live "lives of rancid nothingness".

Not all of these were published in 2009 - I just happened to read them (or re-read them in a couple of instances) in 2009.