Thursday 29 September 2011


First of all, thanks for the birthday wishes. I had a lovely day and my birthday is continuing into this weekend, with a night out, the cinema, and a gig (Bombay Bicycle Club).

Outtakes from Charles Cummings' conversation with Dominic West (The Wire) about The Trinity Six.

Alexander McCall Smith talks about manners in the 21st century. And gives an address on why society is broken. The Travel Game looks at Botswana. And is AMS really, really tall, or is that just a really tiny car?

More on the 'lost' first novel of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Culture Northern Ireland reports on the Colin Bateman/Ian Rankin event. And a not so short review of a Rebus short story. And Ian curates a music festival (I want that man's job). He'll be in Manchester on October 13th talking about THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD.

Catch Val McDermid at the upcoming Ilkley Literature Festival.

The Guardian looks at the best writing courses, which includes one run by Louise Welsh and Andrew Taylor.

Crime Central loves Kate Atkinson.

And, finally, burglary gives you an appetite.

And now, I am off to finish my essay on the Big Society and nip next door to cook some of my neighbour's food.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Birthday Crime Fiction

Apologies for the delay in updating the blog. I was at a conference this weekend for the helpline organisation I volunteer for (inspiring, interesting and bloody good fun), I also have an essay to write on The Big Society. I'm taking the evening off and eating ice cream, since it's my birthday. So, here we go with the latest from the world of Scottish crime fiction.

Talking of the Big Society, here's Alexander McCall Smith on mending broken societies. But first of all, he needs to fix his house. And then he can head off to Indonesia. Finally, a review of THE FORGOTTEN AFFAIRS OF YOUTH. Does the man ever sleep?

Novel Insights discovers Val McDermid, and Mostly Fiction reviews TRICK OF THE DARK. The Irish Independent asks Val some great questions, and Val gives some great answers.

The lost novel of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Ray Yanek discovers Chris Ewan at Bouchercon.

Irvine Welsh is adapting a documentary about bare-knuckle bxing into a drama series for HBO. loves Denise Mina's THE END OF THE WASP SEASON.

Ian Rankin has recorded an audio guide for a mining museum. And he's reviewing restaurants. But it seems as though he hasn't finished writing books yet.

Finally, Glasgow gang crime has reduced due to an interesting idea. Or maybe the gangs are all raiding sheds.

Thursday 22 September 2011

Back to your regularly scheduled Scottish crime fiction

First week of my Masters Degree this week. It's been really good, although I may not be reading for fun any time soon. Everyone on the course is really friendly. It was also my first week of tutoring a new creative writing class. I was nervous, but it turned out to be loads of fun (for me, at least...)

The mystery of Edinburgh's wonderful paper sculptures has been solved...but no-one's telling us who it is yet.

The Crime Time Cafe review's Russel McLean's THE LOST SISTER and sympathises with Russel about his missing L. And Oline Cogdill at the Sun Sentinel reviews Val McDermid's TRICK OF THE DARK.

And Val talks about the influence of Elinor M Brent Dyer's Chalet School books. And here's the link to the actual programme, which is excellent. I loved those books. I also loved Enid Blyton's Mallory Towers boarding school books. My Mum was very upset when I told her I wanted to go to boarding school and change my name to Wilhelmina. However, she finally worked out it was because I rather liked the idea of midnight feasts. Looking back, I am very glad my family were too poor to send me to boarding school. I still like midnight feasts though.

The Belfast Telegraph interviews Ian Rankin.

Dan Heap talks to Tony Black, Lin Anderson and Caro Ramsay about why Glasgow and Edinburgh are such great settings for crime fiction.

Get the benefit of Iain Banks' experience at a creative writing course. Or you could catch him at this event in Edinburgh next Wednesday.

The Dinner Detectives Book Club features M C Beaton.

Helen Fitzgerald - joint Queen of Scotland - with a heap of good news.

The always brilliant Douglas Lindsay on to tweet or not to tweet.

And, finally, happy birthday to the wonderful Glasgow Women's Library - 20 years old this week, and the place where I'm lucky enough to be doing my placement. It's the friendliest place imaginable, full of joy and excitement and I love being there.

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.

Thursday 8 September 2011

Leaving on A Jet Plane

A very short post today, as I am off to Berlin this morning. I'm hoping to post from the balcony of the apartment we are staying in in leafy Prenzlauerberg over my breakfast Schwarzbrot. While I'm away, I will, unfortunately, miss the launch of Bloody Scots, but hope to report on it on my return.

In the meantime, a couple of links...

First of all, an article on Tartan Noir by Tony Black over at the wonderful Mulholland Books.

An article on Bouchercon (have fun, those of you who are going - I wish I could be there, but I start my Masters Degree that week. I am both nervous and excited.)

Helen Fitzgerald on the post book publication blues.

Paul Brazill on the marvellous SLAMMER by Allan Guthrie.

And, finally, did I mention that I am so happy that Douglas Lindsay is back from his holidays?

Apologies for the brevity of post and paucity of information. Tschuss, mein Liebchens.

Wednesday 7 September 2011

"Books of scientific iInterest are filed in the bottom, sir"

Val McDermid says grown-up books need a dead body in them, there's a great interview with her over a Declan Burke's Crime Always Pays., another one at We Love This Book,

The City Life reviews STRIP JACK by Ian Rankin, the Fleetwood Weekly News reviews Quintin Jardine's THE LONER, His Futile Preoccupations enjoyed Ray Banks' BEAST OF BURDEN, and a review of the TV version of Denise Mina's FIELD OF BLOOD.

More on Tony Black's film news.

A stage adaptation of Andrew O'Hagan's THE MISSING.

Scotiana has a piece on Alexander McCall Smith's books.

Crimeculture has extracts from Len Wanner's DEAD SHARP: SCOTTISH CRIME WRITERS ON COUNTRY AND CRAFT.

Finally, I think I'd rather be mugged in Edinburgh than go to a library in New Zealand.

Thursday 1 September 2011

"Its fists are faster than its thoughts"

Greetings from chuffed and excited of Glasgow. I recently entered a competition run jointly by two fabulous sites - Pulp Press and For Books' Sake - who were looking for some pulp fiction short stories written by women. And I'm thrilled to say that my story DEPRAVITY LANE will be in their joint anthology coming out in November! I got carried away and entered a handful of stories, but this one is my homage to William Lindsay Gresham's NIGHTMARE ALLEY and is named after a song by Alien Sex Fiend. Now I need to think what to do with the other stories.

The lovely Bookwitch reports on an event with Karen Campbell.

Several reviews - first of all one of Denise Mina's THE DEAD HOUR, Crime Fiction Lover reviews Val McDermid's THE RETRIBUTION, A Penman's Manifesto looks at Gordon Ferris' THE HANGING SHED, a short review of Louise Welsh's Edinburgh Book Festival event, and one of the Ian Rankin event and a review of the TV version of Denise Mina's FIELD OF BLOOD, which is being repeated on BBC Scotland.

A German review of Tony Black's GEOPFERT (which translates as SACRIFICED, but is actually PAYING FOR IT). I actually did better struggling to read it in German, rather than relying on the always entertaining Babelfish, which gave me the title of this post, as well as the incomprehensible "There an evenly discovered, pleasing-blowing feature would be lost to us in the crime film world also equivalent again. Thus, fingers away of too much whisky."

Alexander McCall Smith (possibly the world's most travelled crime fiction author) will be appearing at a festival in Bali in October.

Peter May's THE BLACK HOUSE is one of Richard and Judy's Book Club Autumn Reads (I'm really happy to see Megan Abbott's THE END OF EVERYTHING on the list).

The Edinburgh Book Festival ELSEWHERE short stories will be published in a four-volume collection. See here for the list of authors - which includes Karen Campbell, Denise Mina, Doug Johnstone and Louise Welsh.

Renaissance Man is on a roll with Ian Rankin. And John Hannah is set to play Rebus again, but this time in a spoof. Talking of Ian Rankin, he performed in a play to close the Edinburgh Book Festival, but says it will be a one-off.