Tuesday 30 November 2010

"Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin"

The bad sex in fiction award has been...errrr...awarded.

A few days left to listen to Ian Rankin's favourite music of 2010. And Rebus' favourite pub is named as one of the Famous 100. While the pub featured in Trainspotting is up for a Pub Oscar.

News from Douglas Lindsay's blog that he's started work on a new non-Barney Thompson crime novel. Excellent news.

Charles Cumming in conversation with Dominic West.

A review of M C Beaton's DEATH OF A CHIMNEY SWEEP, the Washington Times reviews Alexander McCall Smith's THE CHARMING QUIRKS OF OTHERS, and Laura Wilson in The Guardian reviews Aline Templeton's CRADLE TO GRAVE.

And a couple of reviews for Philip Kerr - one for A QUIET FLAME, and one for THE ONE FROM THE OTHER. And the man himself talks about writing, his office and yoga on the Sky Arts Book Show.

Jane Hammons goes to Bouchercon to see Kate Atkinson.

New Zealander Andrew Porteous wins an international publishing competition with his book A POLITICAL AFFAIR, about a half-Maori, half-Scottish detective. Congratulations, Andrew.

The lovely people at Five Leaves on Scotland's apparent shortage of names - citing both Russel McLean and the newly signed up Michael Malone as examples.

Sunday 28 November 2010

I Miss The Dead Dictators' Widows' Society

Bookblog for Bookworms with a piece on Kate Atkinson.

The best of the year lists are starting to appear. First of all, Ian Rankin (amongst others) weighs in with his favourites in The Guardian, and over in The Telegraph, Sadie Jones enjoyed Alice Thompson's THE EXISTENTIAL DETECTIVE.

Heath Lowrance over at the excellent Psycho-Noir has been getting people to list their top 20 noir novels. And here's my list (thanks for asking me, Heath, it was fun (of course, I'm now kicking myself for the ones I didn't include)).

Alexander McCall Smith will be appearing at the Bath Literature Festival at the end of February.

Denise Mina is interviewed in The Scotsman.

Val McDermid's Pick Of The Week on BBC Radio 4.

A Good Old-Fashioned 120 Unit Week reviews John Buchan's GREENMANTLE. Nice to see old stuff getting reviewed.

A report on the Lennoxlove Book Festival, including Ian Rankin thrilling the crowd with the revelation that Rebus may be back.

And another report of Val McDermid and Sophie Hannah at the Manchester Literature Festival. And the lovely Dorte reviews DEAD BEAT.

I've been wondering why I haven't received a request for cash from Mrs Sese-Seko and the rest of The Dead Dictators' Widows' Society for a while and here's my answer - they're all too busy conning Scotland's councils.

And, finally, talk about adding insult to injury...

Thursday 25 November 2010

The Day I Sent My Mother P-O-R-N

I was all set to do a proper Scottish crime fiction related post but time has escaped me, so you'll just have to put up with this, dear reader.

I've mentioned before how my Mum won't read anything I write (too much swearing, and she thinks that every female over 50 is based on her). I've also mentioned how she tries to protect her neighbours from me too.

So, you can imagine the trauma of The Day I Sent My Mother Porn.

I've always had to protect her from my tastes. She's great fun and has a wicked sense of humour, but is easily shocked. I thought she would be really angry with me when I dyed her hair bright pink (by mistake I hasten to add), but she was actually quite proud and told everyone she was now "a punker".

I taught her how to do the Chicken Strut to The Cramps' I Ain't Nuthin' But a Gorehound and she surprised me by joining me on the dance floor at the Pupils and Parents school disco. Unfortunately, the whole 'Cool Mother' effect was then ruined when she stayed up to headbang to Status Quo and I had to spend the rest of the evening in shame hidden in the school toilets with a bottle of Pernod and a box of tissues.

But, as I say, she has a strangely prudish outlook. When I was a teenager, during love scenes on TV I used to sweat a lot and start up a ridiculous conversation about weasels, or tulips, in a very loud voice to distract my mother's attention just so that she wouldn't start tutting like a crazed woodpecker. My Dad was no help. He'd clear his throat and vanish behind his newspaper. Protecting Mother from Indecency fell on my tender shoulders.

And it's still the same. When she used to come up to visit, she would rummage through my bookshelves (when she's not checking that the baked bean tins are properly arranged in my cupboards). "Now, dear, what have you got that I would like?" she says - unerringly pulling out Christopher Brookmyre, or Allan Guthrie, or Ken Bruen, or some other favourite author, whose books are peppered with salaciousness, scatology and...shock, horror...sweary words.

I would have to make sure I had a supply of the cosiest cosies on hand otherwise she would berate me for half an hour in hushed tones:

"Dear, I don't know what type of books you're reading lately, but you have to stop. I was shocked. Shocked I say. Why, on page 40, the heroine said a very bad word. Not just a fairly bad word. Not that word I slapped you on the leg for using when you were 10, but a really, really bad word that I couldn't even read in my head without blushing. And then on page 64 she gets into bed with a man who is not her husband, and there are three pages of description about what they do in bed. I had to read those three pages twice, before I understood what they were talking about. I don't want to read about all of that sort of stuff. Especially not when I've just sat down with a nice cup of tea and a banana. What happened to all those nice books you used to read when you were 12? You know, those ones with that nice young lady who solved crimes with her friends? She never used to go out without a fresh handkerchief in her handbag and wearing a clean pair of knickers just in case she was involved in an accident. What was that series called now?....Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys, that's it....."

So, you can imagine how I felt on that dreadful day which is now known as The Day I Sent My Mother Porn. You see, we'd been discussing presents and she wanted a bed-jacket. She was a bit vague in what she was looking for - I wasn't sure if we were talking elegant chiffon and lace or cosy flannel. So I decided to look some up on the internet and e-mail her some websites. I typed "bed-jacket" into Google and clicked on a few. If I saw one that looked like just the thing, I immediately e-mailed her the link. I should have known that things weren't going well when she rang me up and told me off for sending one from the Help The Aged website. I think she thought I was insinuating something.

However, the second time she rang me up she whispered in a shocked way "Donna. Why have you sent me to a naughty website?"

I was confused - until I went back to the site. It was a seemingly innocuous site selling lingerie and underwear. Near the top of the page was the little bed-jacket I saw. Unfortunately, I'd neglected to scroll down to the crotchless knickers, peephole bras and... errrr...some things even I didn't recognise and which looked VERY uncomfortable. But not as uncomfortable as I felt when some of the pictures even further down the page showed people wearing them.

My Mum was in shock for some time after that. My Dad told me that she sat with a glass of sherry in her hand for 3 hours, shaking her head and mumbling "I wonder if they come in pink."

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Odds and Oddments

The note on our close door, written on the betting slip, now has a small addition. Somebody has decided that the horse named "Please shut the door behind you, thank you" is running at odds of 10/1. Or perhaps that's the odds of someone actually taking notice of the request. Who knows, but I'm in for a tenner.

An interview with Denise Mina in Publishers Weekly.

And another interesting PW article on violence in novels.

Matt Tuckey of Power is a State of Mind attends an event at the Manchester Literature Festival with Val McDermid and Sophie Hannah.

Loads and loads of upcoming literary events in Edinburgh's libraries.

The wonderful Charlie Stella reviews Alice Thompson's THE EXISTENTIAL DETECTIVE and also mentions Len Wanner's interviews with Scottish crime fiction authors, which I've had the pleasure of dipping into.

Constable and Robinson are to publish a new (well, old) series by M C Beaton - not crime fiction but C&R believe it will appeal to fans of Beaton's Agatha Raisin.

A review of Caroline Dunford's Burke and Hare play.

The Vancouver Sun reviews Kate Atkinson's STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG. And the Secluded Charm blog looks at the opening of BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE MUSEUM.

And, finally, I'd already realised this years ago when it seemed as though every drunk bloke in a British crime drama was slurring in a Scottish accent.

Sunday 21 November 2010

"Don't bring me a fat one"

Alexander McCall Smith's Precious Ramotswe would not be happy. I particularly love this quote from Botswana's President (amazingly, he's single):
"He then turned to the corpulent Botlhogile Tshireletso, a female minister, and said: "I don't want one like this one. She may fail to pass through the door, breaking furniture with her heavy weight and even break the vehicles' shock absorbers.""
Damn - it looks like I should give up those girlish dreams of being queen of Botswana, then.

Some videos have been posted by the Edinburgh Book Festival with some of the events - including ones with Louise Welsh, Denise Mina and Karen Campbell. Each one of those has a Part 2.

And, talking of Louise Welsh, here's an excellent review of THE CUTTING ROOM.

Ian Rankin on the best Scottish albums of 2010. I'm looking forward to seeing Mogwai in January. But before that, I have a second Black Rebel Motorcycle Club gig to look forward to. Oh, and while we're on the subject of gigs - Sonic Youth - next time you play a gig in the UK, please could you let me know before all the bloody tickets sell out. Thanks. Grumpy of Glasgow.

But I digress - back to Ian Rankin - he's in conversation with Phil Jupitus at the Edinburgh Bookshop on 16 December.

Supporter of the arts? Fan of Glasgow Celtic? Like William McIlvanney? Unbelievably rich? Then this is the gift for you.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Douglas Lindsay's blog - brilliant stuff.

Christopher Brookmyre talks about what makes a good title on BBC Radio 4.

Over at the excellent Psycho-Noir, Heath Lowrance has invited various crime fiction luminaries and ne'er-do-wells to come up with their Essential 20 Noirs. The lovely Nigel Bird of Sea Minor weighs in with his list, which includes several great Scots (plus several other favourites of mine - KNOCKEMSTIFF by Donald Ray Pollock, a Joe Lansdale, and Camus' L'Etranger). I've been watching this series of posts and noting down with glee the noir suggestions that I haven't read. And, by the way, Mr Lowrance, I am awaiting with some impatience a tap on the shoulder from THE BASTARD HAND.

And, finally, huge congratulations to my friend Michael Malone. Looking forward to reading BLOOD TEARS and putting your name on the roster of Scottish writers, our Michael!

Friday 19 November 2010

Good Books and Bad Sex

A wonderfully touching blog post from Peter May. Well worth a read.

A few reviews - first of all Stuart MacBride's SHATTER THE BONES, one of Denise Mina's graphic novel A SICKNESS IN THE FAMILY, and Inkcrush reviews Helen Fitzgerald's young adult novel AMELIA O'DONOHUE IS SO NOT A VIRGIN. I really need to get my hands on that one. A review of Alexander McCall Smith's CORDUROY MANSIONS, and one of Grant McKenzie's NO CRY FOR HELP.

I've been bemoaning the fact that Marten Claridge hasn't had anything new out for a while and, interestingly, Google alerted me to this. And not only a new one, but a re-release of the earlier books.

Ian Rankin and Richard Havers talk music and writing.

The knowledgeable (CrimeFest Mastermind winner for the last few years) and charming Martin Edwards reviews William McIlvanney's LAIDLAW for Patti Abbott's Forgotten Friday series.

And finally, dear reader, has it really been a year since we had bad sex? Well, it's only another week or so to wait and then we can lie back, think of England, and smoke a cigarette in the aftermath. By the way, does "off the beaten track" strike anyone else as a euphemism? No? Just me? Oh, OK.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

"You must yourself be only worried of a thing"

Rosemary Goring in the Glasgow Herald on writing under a pen-name.

Critics At Large reviews Philip Kerr's FIELD GREY. The Ace and Hoser Blook enjoyed Val McDermid's FEVER OF THE BONE and Fresh Fiction looks at Peter May's BLOWBACK.

And a couple of reviews for Kate Atkinson. First of all, the Globe and Mail on STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG, and one for ONE GOOD TURN.

The imprisoned writers' exhibition at the Writers' Museum in Edinburgh.

Trainspotting in Italy. Or, as we call it, Just Another Excuse For Donna To Use Babelfish. "When you holes you must yourself be only worried of a thing." Lovely.

And now, a wee story from my 'hood. I live in a traditional Glasgow tenement building (like this one only not as posh). The communal area of a tenement is called a close. Ours has a big heavy door at the bottom. If you want to stop drunks peeing up your close, it's best to make sure this shuts behind you. Now and again, polite little notes appear on the inside of the close door. 'Please make sure the door locks behind you', it says. Or 'Please don't let the door slam'. When my neighbours had a baby, things were a bit fraught. They obviously weren't getting much sleep. One morning I went downstairs to find a note written in red felt-tip pen, taped crookedly to the door 'Slam the f*****g door, why don't you. Wake the f******g baby.' (The asterisks, by the way, were not in the original. They're there to spare my Dad's blushes when he reads this post.)

Yesterday, this note appeared. 'Please shut the door behind you. Thanks', it says. Perfectly politely, perfectly nicely. But the lovely touch, typical Glasgow, is that it's written on a betting slip from the local bookie's. Whoever wrote the note apparently struggled to find a notebook. A betting slip, on the other hand...

And, finally, a wonderful article over at Mulholland Books by one of my favourite authors, the brilliant Joe Lansdale, on noir and humour in East Texas.

Monday 15 November 2010

From Nuns To Geezers

Irvine Welsh ran a competition to appear as a character in Skagboys. I love the name of the band, but I'm not writing it as it will bring all sorts of weird traffic here (you have no idea how many people come here after searching for the phrase 'nymphomaniac nuns' or, even worse, enter the site via the picture of me posing with a donkey).

The charming Nigel Bird, over at Sea Minor, is currently running a series of interviews called 'Dancing With Myself' which is writers interviewing themselves (very sneaky, young Nigel. The whole series is well worth a read, but the two most recent are Ian Rankin and Ray Banks.

More interviews - Caroline Dunford in The Scotsman, and Alexander McCall Smith in the Boston Globe. And Alexander McCall Smith tells The Book Show his favourite line from literature.

Stuart MacBride on being on the brink.

Excellent news from Douglas Lindsay HQ - 21 YEARS ON THE BACK OF DIXIE KLONDYKE'S SPANISH GUITAR is now available.

A couple of reviews from Eurocrime - firstly Tony Black's LOSS, secondly Philip Kerr's FIELD GREY - which is also reviewed in The Scotsman. And a few more reviews gleaned from a spider-y crawl of the web - A Work in Progress with a very thoughtful review of Gillian Galbraith's BLOOD IN THE WATER, Kate Atkinson's STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG reviewed by the Vancouver Sun.

And, finally, looks like Letty and Dora in OLD DOGS may not be so far off the mark after all...

Thursday 11 November 2010

Pizza, Mice and Magic Mushrooms

Literary Kicks has an excellent article on the authors bringing "a new level of violence and linguistic excellence to the craft and giving life to some of the darkest visions put to paper since Poe was found floating in a Baltimore gutter." Some of my favourite authors there, plus a couple I've never tried (William Christopher Baer and Roger Smith - I'm now eager to try both- especially Baer). I can also think of a longish list of authors I would include. Does anyone have any other suggestions? (she asks, rubbing her hands in dark, warped anticipation).

And, at completely the other end of the spectrum, a review of M C Beaton's A SPOONFUL OF POISON.

Ian Rankin and Lin Anderson
are to be part of Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations.

A crime fiction event with Louise Welsh and Zoe Beck (whose latest novel is set in Berlin and Edinburgh) at the Mitchell Library on 30th November.

If you're a writer, you could do worse than have a look at these tip sheets from Highlands and Islands Arts, including an excellent one from the actually just almost lovely Allan Guthrie on pleonasms.

And, almost finally, I can just imagine the robber turning up stuffing his face with a slice of pizza.

Absolutely finally, talking of stuffing... (Dad, I wouldn't bother reading that link if I were you). With thanks to Steve Mosby for posting that link on Twitter.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

It's The Tuesday Sunday Round-Up

This weekend's film viewing included Glasgow-set DONKEYS from Sigma Films - the second in a loosely linked trio of films that started with the wonderful RED ROAD. Donkeys is a very black comedy about a man (superbly played by James Cosmo) who sets out to make amends with his family. Quirky, dark, funny, touching, sad. And it had the added pleasure of being shown with a hilariously gross and brilliant short called I Love Luci.

An interesting article over at Lenin's Tomb about the reality TV series Cops and draws a comparison with police in crime fiction.

BooksPlease has a piece on Joyce Holms. I'm very pleased to see this as she deserves to be far better known. For those who enjoy their crime fiction on the lighter side (but definitely not sweet and sugary), give Joyce Holms a try.

And for those who like their crime fiction on the warped side, here's a great interview with the deliciously warped Helen Fitzgerald.

If you are in the Shetlands, you could spend several evenings with Stuart MacBride.

A few reviews - firstly, one of Denise Mina's graphic novel A SICKNESS IN THE FAMILY. Over at The Game's Afoot Jose Ignacio Escribano reviews Ian Rankin's RESURRECTION MEN, the FT reviews Philip Kerr's FIELD GREY, and Kelsey's Book Corner reviews Val McDermid's THE TORMENT OF OTHERS.

And, finally, from the 'no comment' department...

Thursday 4 November 2010

"Strange Ajatteleminenkin Abdominal Symptoms"

It all happens in Ian Rankin's neighbourhood. And here's a review of DOORS OPEN.

Alexander McCall Smith on adjectives. And the BBC goes inside the No. 1 Ladies Opera House.

Louise Welsh talks to The Book Show. And in an interview at The Afterword.

Iain Banks opens Gourock Library.

If you're in Edinburgh between 16th and 20th November, you could go and see Caroline Dunford's play about body-snatchers Burke and Hare. And, while you're there, you could go and see Ian Rankin and Gunnar Staalesen in conversation on November 26th.

I've mentioned Len Wanner's site The Crime Of It All before, but it's so good I'm going to mention it again. Hundreds of interviews, plus reviews and articles, amongst other things.

A review of Stuart MacBride's Flesh House - if you speak Finnish. If not, don't worry, Google Translate is here to help (since Babelfish sadly doesn't do Finnish): "I think I will take to go vegan. This book creates a strange ajatteleminenkin abdominal symptoms."

Maxine Clarke with one of her always thoughtful reviews over at Eurocrime. This time Karen Campbell's SHADOWPLAY.

And, finally, the always funny Douglas Lindsay with the revolutionary 10am, 10 second Barney Thomson novel. Definitely not a 'scrotum's worth of balls'. One thing though, Mr Lindsay, if my maths is correct I'm going to be about 118 by the time it's done.

Monday 1 November 2010

Hey Ho, Let's Go...

The challenge was to write a story under 750 words, with some sort of crime in, taking inspiration from a Ramones song title. And what did you lovely, lovely people give me? Some truly brilliant stuff. The variety is amazing - funny, chilling, dark, light, warped, silly (that one's you, Dad). Some of you are sick people (and I love you for it). Some people even very cleverly referenced the Ramones in the stories (way above and beyond the call of duty, people).

I want to thank you all so much for playing - it's been brilliant fun reading them all, and I have discovered some new writers I'm definitely going to keep an eye on.

I'll update this post as new stories are added (I know there are a few more to come), so please check back.

First of all, the stories over at peoples' blogs:

Douglas Lindsay - PINHEAD
Rob Kitchin - DEATH OF ME
Sean Patrick Reardon - DANNY SAYS
Julie Lewthwaite - TEENAGE LOBOTOMY
Dorte Jakobsen - PSYCHO THERAPY
Helen Caldwell - KNOW BETTER NOW
John Weagly - CRETIN HOP

And, for those without blogs of their own, I said I would post them here. To make it easier to find them, I've set up a separate mini blog for all the stories, and each of them has their own post. So here they are:

Bobbie Rudd - EAT THAT RAT
Ewan McGhee - MAMA'S BOY
Donna Moore - ZERO ZERO UFO
Donna Moore - WEASEL FACE

Apologies if I've left any out - (blame the pneumonia), just send me an e-mail and I'll put the link up.

Thanks again everyone. Next post will be back to normal Scottish crime fiction posts.