Wednesday 28 December 2011

The Bats Have Left The Bell Tower

Alexander McCall Smith on the etiquette of regifting. Of course, there is another alternative. I volunteer for a UK telephone helpline charity and if you got any unwanted gifts, or you have any books - signed or otherwise - that are looking for a good home, I'm helping to organise the annual conference in February, and those would make smashing raffle prizes, so please feel free to re-gift them my way and I will love you forever :o)

And now, we need to talk about Kevin... I haven't read any fiction since I started my Masters Degree in September but, coming back from my Mum and Dad's in the wilds of Mordor after Christmas, I fired up my Kindle and got stuck into K J Wignall (aka Lord Kevin of Wignall)'s BLOOD. It's not crime fiction (although there are crimes in it). It's Young Adult vampire fiction. No - definitely not my usual fare, but Kevin Wignall is one of my favourite writers (who deserves to be far better known than he is) so, since it's been far too long since he had some crime fiction out in English (come on publishers, am I really going to have to learn Finnish to read DARK FLAG? Sinun täytyy olla pilaa (that might be Finnish for 'you've got to be kidding'. Since I got it from an internet translation thingy, it is equally likely to mean 'I've just eaten your grandma's bullfrog')).

Anyway, back to vampires. My last (and probably only) enjoyable encounter with a vampire was with the brilliant Bela Lugosi's Dead by the equally brilliant Bauhaus. My least enjoyable encounter was with that self same Bela Lugosi's 1931 Dracula. I was 13 and babysitting for the Bysouths, who lived down the road. It was nearing midnight and I foolishly turned the TV over, only to discover Bela Lugosi saying "I bid you welcome." I was petrified. I had to phone my mum to get her to come and finish babysitting with me. She was not happy. When she arrived, I didn't
know whether to be more scared of her, or the creak of Dracula's coffin opening.

So...BLOOD. It's bloody brilliant. I'll do a proper review in January, but just in case you're looking for something a bit different, I thought I'd mention it as I absolutely loved it. It was totally captivating. Not your stereotypical vampire story - far from it, in fact. Great characters (I felt very sad for Will - the main character, who's been 16 for the last 750 years. There are also some wonderful wee snippets about how he got to where he is today, and the plot was deliciously twisty and turny. And it was as creepy as hell.

And now, on to Scottish crime fiction.

Our Michael Malone picks his top crime reads of 2011, including Tony Black's excellent TRUTH LIES BLEEDING. And the lovely Julie Morrigan interviews Tony (and look at that lovely snippet of news about a Blasted Heath publication).

Oooooh, doesn't the cover for Russel McLean's next book, FATHER CONFESSOR, look good?

Sherlock Holmes under investigation.

McDroll at I Meant To Read That loved Ray Banks' DEAD MONEY.

The Spectator reviews the Alexander McCall Smith writing machine.

James McAvoy talks about Irvine Welsh's FILTH.

Here's my latest Blasted Blog column at Blasted Heath.

This will probably be my last blog post until 2nd or 3rd of January as I will be partying Hogmanay away in the Lake District, so thanks everyone for being so supportive, and I hope that next year will be a brilliant year for all of you. And here's hoping that I get to hug at least some of you in 2012.

Saturday 24 December 2011

Happy Happy, Merry Merry

No Cramps today, instead, some of my favourite alternative Christmas songs.
Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight) - The Ramones
Stuff The Turkey - Alien Sex Fiend
Shot My Baby For Christmas - The Vaudevilles
The Christmas Song - The Raveonettes
Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis - Tom Waits
I Do, Dear, I Do - Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds
Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant - Siouxsie and The Banshees
I Don't Believe In Christmas - The Tabaltix
There's Trouble Brewin' - Jack Scott
Fairytale of New York - The Pogues
There Ain't No Sanity Claus - The Damned
Run, Run, Rudolph - Humpers
I Want An Alien For Christmas - Fountains of Wayne
Merry Christmas You Suckers - Paddy Roberts
Black Christmas - Poly Styrene
Santa Doesn't Cop Out On Dope - Sonic Youth
All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit - Half Man Half Biscuit

Over at Tony Black's Pulp Pusher a series of recommendations of, and by, Scottish authors and bloggers amongst others: Post 1, post 2 and post 3. And Tony has a lovely, heartwarming, wee Christmas story up too. Manky Christmas, ya bawjaws...

Groovy Daz reviews GUN by Ray Banks. And Paul Brazill on DEAD MONEY.

Sarah at Crimepieces reviews Val McDermid's A PLACE OF EXECUTION,

Lin Anderson recommends her favourite reads. And The Express recommends Anthony Horowitz' THE HOUSE OF SILK and Ian Rankin's THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD.

Here's Russel McLean with his top 10 books of the year.

Denise Mina with Pepys Christmas.

Stuart MacBride has a wee pressie for Evening Express readers.

A story from Alexander McCall Smith in the Express, and one in The Scotsman (does the man have a team of elves writing for him, I wonder?).

A Christmas Day radio play penned by David Ashton. And Ian Rankin's also on the radio on The Jazz House on New Year's Day.

A muscular Conan Doyle? And is Sherlock Holmes more brawn than brains too? And a treasure trove from the doctor who was the inspiration for Holmes.

Peter May's THE BLACKHOUSE is Richard and Judy's top Autumn Book Club read. And a video trailer for the follow-up - THE LEWIS MAN.

I leave you with the genius that is Douglas Lindsay, talking about the 10 worst Christmas songs.

Have a lovely festive season, Dear Reader. xxx

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Badass Bug

Today's Cramps title.

Win free ebooks for a year from those lovely people at Blasted Heath. And congratulations to Blasted Heath co-genius Allan Guthrie who will have a story in the Sunday Mail on 1st January, called (probably) HILDA'S BIG DAY OUT. Well done, Al. Brilliant news. mum reads the Mail. I'm not sure she's ready for one of your stories...

A review of Kate Atkinson's CASE HISTORIES. And one for STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG. Denise Mina's A SICKNESS IN THE FAMILY is reviewed here, and a couple of reviews of Ian Rankin's THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD.

Three books loved by Ian Rankin.

Mysteries in Paradise reviews Peter May's THE BLACK HOUSE. And Peter May's very first short story about Ian The Elf, written when he was 4 years old. Awwww, bless.

The Irish Independent with what's likely to be hot next year.

Maxine at Petrona on Karen Campbell (also mentioning Denise Mina and Aline Templeton).

NPR on the enduring popularity of Sherlock Holmes. And a review of A GAME OF SHADOWS.

The latest Scottish delicacy - deep fried butter. I feel quite ill.

And, finally, I thought we'd seen the last of those lovely paper sculptures but here's a video of a final (?) one.

Monday 19 December 2011

Can't Find My Mind

Soon, I will run out of Cramps titles. But not yet.

Writers talk about their bookshelves.

Lots of reviews today. Maxine at Petrona reviews Aline Templeton's LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER, The World According To Who? reviews Stuart MacBride's BROKEN SKIN, Clover Hill Book Reviews talks about Craig Robertson's RANDOM, Emily Mah on THE DOUBLE COMFORT SAFARI CLUB by Alexander McCall Smith, whose THE FORGOTTEN AFFAIRS OF YOUTH is reviewed in The Boston Globe. Sarah's Book Reviews enjoyed M C Beaton's AS THE PIG TURNS and the lovely Declan Burke reviews the equally lovely Aly Monroe's ICELIGHT in The Irish Times, and the Book Nook on Denise Mina's THE END OF THE WASP SEASON. Finally, a couple of reviews for Anthony Horowitz' THE HOUSE OF SILK.

A review...nay, poetry (and very clever)...of Allan Guthrie's BYE, BYE BABY from Conniephoebe.

An article on Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. And a review. Or there's the TV version with Benedict Cumberbatch which returns in the new year.

Denise Mina in A Year In Reading. And more on the graphic novelisation of The Girl Blah Blah Blah books (possibly the only Denise Mina penned stuff I will never read, since I didn't care for the first of the Larsson books and didn't read any more of them).

Seven Questions with Ian Rankin in which he reveals he would be a maverick cop. And here he talks about how he kills people off. And he's requesting a Robert Louis Stevenson Day. And if you're in Chichester on 20th January you can hear Ian reading from his unpublished first novel.

Win a copy of Peter May's THE BLACKHOUSE. I'd be entering with Amphetamine Westerly if I didn't already have a copy.

And you can win a copy of Helen Fitzgerald's THE DONOR over at Stephen Moyer's page. Ooooooooh, nice!

TRICK OF THE DARK by Val McDermid is one of Oline Cogdill's top reads of 2011. And Kate Atkinson's STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG is in the Washington Post's best of list.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Queen of Pain

The Cramps again, of course.

I am now down at my parents to be spoiled over Christmas and it reminded me of a trip a few years ago. It's not just buses, you see. Public Transport and I have one of those love/hate relationships. I hate it, and it loves making my life a misery. Whenever I step on a train, or a plane, or a bus, or into a taxi, I take a deep breath and pray to everyone I can think of that I'm going to be sane at the end of the journey.

A couple of years ago I spent Christmas, as usual, in the soft and comfortable bosom of my family near Peterborough. After a wonderful time, we set off home. Now, I should state here that on Christmas Day I got the flu and I was feeling pretty ill. So I wasn't really looking forward to travelling anyway, but it was made all the worse by the fact that British Rail, in their infinite wisdom, had ripped up the railway tracks between York and Darlington, at the busiest time of year, so part of our train journey was done by bus.

Our seats were booked for the first part of the journey in Coach F. When the train arrived at Peterborough, we walked along past all the carriages - A, B, C, D, E, G, H. No F. So we walked back, just in case a tipsy carriage assembler had put coach F somewhere else. Still no Effing F. I spied a guard, a way up the platform, so, battling through the thronging hordes, and slamming myself into a pillar in the process (I didn't get transported to Platform 9 3/4 so I guess I won't be off to Hogwarts this term), I ascertained that Coach F was now Coach C through the miracles of Alphabet Soup so we managed to get a seat just before the train left.

At York, we all trooped out of the train, through a muddy bog that the station staff euphemistically referred to as 'car park' and onto buses. By this point we were already running 15 minutes late. Not to worry, said the guard on the train, the train would be waiting for us at Darlington. Absolutely. It definitely wouldn't be going anywhere until we arrived, we had his assurances on that.

So we all piled onto the bus. The bus was one of those posh ones, where you go down a little flight of stairs to the loo. Good, since by this time I was desperate to go to the loo. I walked up the bus and descended the stairs, only to hear the booming voice of the driver over the bus's tannoy "Could someone tell that woman that the toilet isn't working". About 17 people called down the stairs "Oy, you, the woman with the red face, the toilet isn't working."

We arrived at Darlington 40 minutes late to catch our connecting train (you remember, the one that on no account, absolutely definitely posilutely would not have left without us?), only to find that it had left without us, and the next one wasn't for another hour or so. Since we'd missed the train we had seats booked for, we didn't have seats booked for this one but there would be a whole load of people who would have had seats reserved. You could tell who they were - amongst the hordes of people on the platform they were the ones with really smug looks, the 4 bus loads of people who'd all arrived too late for our train just looked increasingly desperate, and were eyeing up those less fit than themselves, to determine their best chances of elbowing people out of the way to get a seat. By this time, I felt really, really awful, and promised the train guard (a different one from the lying sadist at York station) that I would vomit all over his shoes if he couldn't promise me a seat. He leaned over and whispered "I'll give you a tip since you're not well - Coach C has all the unbooked seats on it."

"My saviour. Thank you, thank you." I kissed his hands, sobbed into his British Rail jacket and promised him my uneaten British Rail sandwich (uneaten for very good reason I might add).

The train arrived. We sped down the platform past coaches H, G, F, E, D, B, A... D, B, A???? Had anyone reported this wholesale theft of railway carriages? Was someone, somewhere, setting up home in two cozy GNER carriages called F and C on a disused stretch of line somewhere between York and Darlington?

So, we grabbed seats in Coach D. I'm afraid I may have made rather a fool of myself as I clung to it sobbing "You'll never get me off this seat, never. Just leave me to die here. I've never harmed anyone." Anyway, it seemed to do the trick, no-one asked me to move for the whole journey. Not even the nice man in the white coat carrying the large butterfly net who hovered by my seat for the rest of the journey.

Now, enough of the nonsense. Scottish crime fiction news coming up.

Luca Veste over at Guilty Conscience talks about his top 5 books of 2011. Not only does he include Ray Banks' DEAD MONEY and Helen Fitzgerald's THE DONOR, but his number 1 is also one of my own favourite books of the year - the amazing BLACK FLOWERS by Steve Mosby. Luca obviously has excellent taste, I shall have to read the other two in his top 5 - Nick Quantrill's BROKEN DREAMS, and Neil White's COLD KILL.

More Ray, as The All Purpose Monkey muses over DEAD MONEY. And Ed Kurtz - another man with exceedingly good taste - picks it as one of his top books of 2011.

Doug Johnstone's busy year.

Conan Doyle's Moriarty on the big screen. And a review of A GAME OF SHADOWS.

Metaliterature reviews Philip Kerr's THE ONE FROM THE OTHER, Savidge Reads reviews M C Beaton's AGATHA RAISIN AND THE LOVE FROM HELL, and Crime Fiction Lover reviews Alex Gray's SLEEP LIKE THE DEAD.

Ian Rankin talks about which literary character he'd like to sleep with and other topics.

More on the Denise Mina comic book adaptation of the Stieg Larsson books. And more on the Unbound 26 Treasures project which Alexander McCall Smith is part of.

Irvine Welsh to write Britpop musical.

The Scotsman talks about their books of the year and note that Denise Mina and Ian Rankin show the "range of what the crime genre can do".

Monday 12 December 2011

Confessions of a Psycho Cat

I thought this Cramps song was apt.

Since I have told a few Glasgow bus stories recently, and I'm feeling lazy, I thought I would dig out an old bus story to accompany today's post, so here it is.

It was a lovely sunny Saturday afternoon, so I decided to go into the city centre to buy a new pair of sandals. Yes, I know - the World Shoe Mountain currently resides in my spare bedroom, but, well, you never can tell when that rumoured Slingback Shortage is going to occur, so, abiding by that old Girl Guide motto 'Be Prepared', off I trotted. (For the purposes of this tale, it's actually irrelevant that I was thrown out of the Girl Guides due to my reliance on my own personal motto 'Be a Pain in The Arse'.)

So there I was, sitting on the bus, gazing out of the window and listening to my ipod (The Clash if anyone cares). About half way into town, I noticed someone sitting down next to me. When I say 'I noticed' what I actually mean was 'I couldn't help noticing because he sat on my knee and breathed stale beer fumes all over me'. Oh good, that most annoying of Bus Pests, the Glasgow drunk. He apologised profusely. I mostly couldn't hear what he was saying due to the music so I I just smiled and turned away. Then he spoke to me again and I just nodded and smiled and looked out the window. So he tapped me on the shoulder and spoke again. I pointedly took out the earpiece from the ear on the Bus Pest side and said "Sorry?"

"Oh! Are ye listening tae music hen?"


"Whit are ye listening tae?"

"Just a mixture." (My patented method of getting rid of The Bus Pest is be brief, be polite, don't give them too much information, they'll only ask more questions).

"Is it some of that meatrocker music?" (OK, so my patented method needs a little work). "Ah'm an Elvis man maself. Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra... Ah'm no much o' a singer mind." I breathed a sigh of relief - thankful for small mercies - at least I wasn't going to be treated to a rendition of My Way. "Although, I dae a pretty guid Ma Way, if I dae say so maself." I cast about feverishly for a hole of swallow-me-up size, but luckily he decided not to sing.

In one way, I would have loved to have seen him sing. He had apparently recently been to the false Teeth Shop but was obviously in a hurry on teeth shopping day. I knew this because a) he had the most perfect set of top teeth (apart from the fact that they moved independently from his gums) and b) he had 2 yellow bottom teeth (and I don't mean he had two yellow bottom teeth in an otherwise perfect set. I mean he had only 2 bottom teeth, and they were bright yellow). Watching him speak was like watching a badly dubbed Hungarian film. When he finished speaking, his top teeth were still in motion - moving away from his gums, out over his bottom lip and, on a couple of really scary occasions they were sucked back into his mouth and disappeared towards his throat. I was mentally practising the Heimlich manoeuvre.

Instead he held out his hand "Ah'm Big Chick. Pleased tae meet ya hen. And you are?...."

"Donna", I said quietly.

"Did yez hear that?" he announced to the rest of the bus "The lassie's called Donna. Whit time is it Donna?"

"Ten past one."

"Ten past wan? Ten past wan in the MORNIN'?"

", afternoon" What, did he think Glasgow had sneakily moved locations while he was down the pub and was now situated in the land of the midnight sun? At that point, a woman got on the bus and he said to her "Dae ye want ma seat pal?" She shook her head and moved on, despite the pleading look I gave her. Big Chick leaned over to me and whispered (and, when I say 'whispered' what I actually mean is 'boomed loudly') "She's just jealous 'cos ah'm sittin' with you instead o' her." Yes, I should imagine the whole bus was positively emerald green with jealousy at my good fortune by now. At least, those who weren't sniggering with glee at my predicament and increasingly red face.

"Where are ye fae' Donna?"

"Here. I live here."

Again, the announcement of this titillating piece of information to the rest of the bus "Did yez all hear? Donna lives in Glesgae."

Someone up the back of the bus laughed. My Bus Pest turned round, taking his jacket off "Hey youse up the back - haud yer wheesht. Dae yis want tae fight me?" Luckily no one took him up on this. I say luckily because he then turned back to me and said "Ah'm a bouncer." Oh. Really. Since 'Big' Chick was less than 4 feet 6 inches tall and more than 104 years old, I found this a tad difficult to believe.

"Ah'm gettin' aff at the Sandyford." I breathed a sigh of relief. The Sandyford was a pub a couple of stops further up. "Are ye coming in? Ah'll see you right." I didn't know whether he meant for a drink, a fight or a lumber*, but frankly, I didn't want to ask.

"Errr, no, thanks all the same but I have to go into town."

"Okay hen, well you come in and see me on Monday. I'll be in the Sandyford fae' aboot 10 in the morning. It's a great wee boozer. It opens at 8am, so if ye get up and ye feel like a wee drink, ye can just stoat along."

Great. Hold me back.

Big Chick heaved himself out of the seat and walked to the front of the bus, turning round at the front to give me a last beery wave "Bye Donna hen. Ah'll have a wee pie and a pint waitin' fer ye on Monday mornin'."

Mmmmmm, can't wait.

* Lumber - Glasgow slang for a hot date.

And now, your Scottish crime fiction news.

The Picky Girl reviews Catriona McPherson's DANDY GILVER AND THE PROPER TREATMENT OF BLOODSTAINS, Marion Public Library on Alexander McCall Smith's THE FORGOTTEN AFFAIRS OF YOUTH, which is also covered by A reviw of Stuart MacBride's A PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE. Actually, I'm not sure if it's a review or an academic dissertation...

Holmes and Watson to star in Some Like It Hot remake? And the Ottowa Citizen talks about the Sherlock Holmes film.

Kate Atkinson's STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG is one of the top crime fiction books for 2011 for the Seattle Times. And the Irish Independent includes Ian Rankin and Val McDermid on its list of stocking thrillers. Doug Johnstone has a rather excellent top 10 list which includes Ray Banks and Helen Fitzgerald, as well as my lovely friend Christa Faust. Nice list, Doug.

Ian Rankin will be at the Oxford Literary Festival in March 2012.

Denise Mina to adapt the Stieg Larsson series into graphic novel format.

And now, back to an essay on social justice and empowerment. Ta-ta, dear Reader.

Thursday 8 December 2011

The Crusher

Today's Cramps title is courtesy of Scotland's weather. Do the hammer lock you turkey necks...

I am supposed to be going through to Edinburgh tomorrow for the CWA Christmas Lunch but, since we are in the midst of Hurricane Bawbag, (which even has its own Wikipedia entry), I may not make it. I'm waiting for Scotland's next hurricane - which will presumably be called Hurricane Fannybaws. It was my day for being at the wonderful Glasgow Women's Library today but, as we watched a streetlamp swaying outside the window, debating whether Glasgow was going to close down, a Swedish bloke came in. "Can I sit in here and read for a while?" he said.

"Well, normally, the answer would be yes, but we might be shutting in a minute," I said.

He looked very puzzled. "Yes, the main library is shutting, too. Is it because of the weather?"

"Yes. We're not very good at weather. You may have gathered that." He went away still puzzled. Poor bloke.

My bus trip home was quite eventful. A guy nearly blew away at the bus stop. Only by hanging on for grim death to the side of the bus shelter did he manage to keep his feet on the ground. Me and the other woman standing in the bus stop looked on with interest and, obviously, complete unconcern. When we were getting on the bus the woman made me sit next to her. Then she leaned over and said "Can I ask your advice?" Oh dear. I said yes, quite nervously. "Can you tell me what's the best way of cleaning my kitchen counter tops?"I assumed that she had mistaken me for some sort of domestic goddess. Then a few minutes later she reached into one of her plastic shopping bags and pulled out a can of Tennents Special Brew. "Ah'm alright when the storm comes. Ah've got maself an aw day breakfast for two quid - black puddin' white puddin' an' some square sausage, and a wee bevvy for later, hen."


Kate Atkinson's STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG makes Time Magazine's Top 10 of Everything lists. And Books and Reviews recommends WHEN WILL THERE BE GOOD NEWS? as a gift idea.

Novelists China Miéville and Denise Mina, and illustrators Mark Stafford and Alice Duke talk about Poe and Lovecraft.

A review of a book about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's letters, There Is No Easter Bunny reviews Craig Russell's LENNOX, and the Las Vegas Review Journal reviews Alexander McCall Smith's THE FORGOTTEN AFFAIRS OF YOUTH.

Helen Fitzgerald guest blogs at Weegie Wednesday.

Shona MacLean does some push-ups at Tony Black's Pulp Pusher.

Ian Rankin talks to Crime Time.

I love these Hilariously Badass Magazine Covers (courtesy of the lovely Bill Crider who always finds such brilliant stuff).

Tuesday 6 December 2011

More Psychogeographic Psychos

Another little outtake from my psychogeographic tour across Glasgow. This is all the stuff which, sadly, can't make it into my essay but which were the best bits for me.

I should say at the outset that Glasgow's East End has a bit of a reputation. It has the lowest life expectancy in Europe, some of the worst gang violence, and it has the horrific Bellgrove Hotel (I once read a brilliant review of the place that said "First class place, close to all local amenities - Barlinnie (jail), Haddows (off licence) and Glasgow Royal Infirmary (nearest A&E department). There is also a lot that is good about the East End. It has a lot of character, some great people, and some excellent community projects. However, the fact remains that it is not a place that someone would normally send a tourist. Hence my surprise when coming back into the city centre on my psychogeographic journey, I had the following encounter.

The bus was fairly empty - a few people at the front and myself and one other person towards the back. Just opposite the aforementioned Bellgrove Hotel a guy got on. He was wearing a San Francisco 49ers shirt and shorts. My interest was piqued. You don't see that very often in Glasgow.

My interest was further piqued when he said to the driver in an American accent "How much is it to get my black ass out of here?" Incidentally, he was not black. He then had a conversation with the driver about not having slept for 48 hours. I pulled out my notebook. I had a feeling this was going to be gold dust for a postmodernist flâneur such as myself. He came swaggering towards the back of the bus, saying "How you doin'?" to various people as he passed them. They all ignored him. He didn't seem bothered.

As he passed me he stopped and said "Girl, green is your colour. Damn." (I was wearing a turquoise coat, he wasn't referring to the colour of my face." I smiled politely. When accosted by the Bus Nutter I try not to speak. It only eggs them on.

He sat down behind me and engaged the guy opposite in conversation with a classic opening gambit. "Women are crazy, huh?" The guy gave the perfect comeback (albeit one possibly fraught with danger) "Ah dinnae ken, pal. Ah'm gay."

It did not stop the American bloke. "How long until we're into the city?"

"Two minutes, pal."

"Two minutes? I bet you £2 it won't be two'll be four."

The gay guy catches my eye. He taps his head in the ubiquitous sign for 'we've got a right bugs case here'. I grin and turn back to making my notes.

"So, is it right that Glasgow is the murder capital of the world?" This, in a very loud voice.

"Naw, pal, just Europe," says the gay guy.

The American bloke is silent for a few seconds, apparently taking this in. Then, right behind my left ear I hear "Oh-oh, she's taking notes." I have apparently been rumbled, but continue taking notes, just to pretend I'm not. "I knew this guy once - good looking guy, not as good looking as me though, ya know? So, we're out and I tell him to watch my style, take notes. I hope you're not taking notes?"

I turn round. "No, no, I'm just writing myself a reminder," I say, trying not to sound guilty.

"Heyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, I love your accent." This is one of the reasons I do not like to speak to the Bus Nutter. "You wanna go for a drink?"

"Um, no thank you."

Of course, it is too late. Me and the gay guy are now in the loop. "You sure? I'm just in from the US and I'm jetlagged, can't sleep, totally wired."

"No, you're OK, but thanks."

"I mean, I know you're a little older than me...what are you? 34? 35?"

"I'm 49."

"49? Man. You're looking hot, babe."

"Errrrr...thanks. I think. But I think that's the jetlag."

He nods philosophically and turns to the gay guy. "I suppose you're waiting for me to ask you out now?"

I ask him why, if he's just landed, he's ended up in the East End of Glasgow. Apparently, someone has told him that the best fish and chips are in the East End and so he had to have some. The gay guy and I tell him he needs to be careful about who he listens to. Eventually, having tried to get me to go for a drink one more time he gets off the bus with a cheery high five for us and a cheery wave for everyone else on the bus.

The gay guy and I watch him swagger off. "Do you think he'll be OK?" I say, worriedly. "Aye. I think it's Glasgow you need to worry about, rather than him."

Anyway, Scottish crime fiction news:

Ooooooh! Paul Johnston has a new book out, and you can read the first chapter of THE SILVER STAIN here.

Val McDermid and a host of other luminaries part of The Library Book.

Alexander McCall Smith's Yuletide festivities.

Guitars and Life reviews Charles Cumming's THE TRINITY SIX.

Sometimes, the brilliant Douglas Lindsay is a miserable ****. And sometimes, he gives us treats.

How do you fancy a nasty story for the 12 days of Winter? Then check out this from Stuart MacBride, with a new story every day.

Ian Rankin at the University of Sussex in January.

A wonderful post from Aly Monroe about Spain's Robbed Children.

Those lovely paper sculptures again.

And, finally, what Glasgow swapped for the new pandas at Edinburgh Zoo.

Sunday 4 December 2011

Eyeball In My Martini

Hello, Dear Reader. I hope you had a lovely weekend.

No live version of today's Cramps blog title, I'm afraid.

Russel McLean is looking for some love and, in return, he'll give you some too.

Kate Atkinson's STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG makes the Kansas City Star's top books of 2011. The book also gets a mention in the NYT's Sunday paperback reviews. And both Denise Mina and Philip Kerr get a mention in the New York Times' notable crime fiction books of 2011. Philip Kerr also features in the St Louis Post Dispatch's 2011 list. Audiobooks of the year in the Independent include Ian Rankin's THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD and Anthony Horowitz' THE HOUSE OF SILK.

On the other side of the equation Philip Kerr, Alexander McCall Smith and Val McDermid recommend their favourites in The Scotsman. Philip Kerr recommends Ian Rankin's THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD and Val recommends the truly brilliant BLACK FLOWERS by Steve Mosby.

UK Chica reviews THE FALLS by Ian Rankin, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reviews THE COMPLAINTS and Mystery File reviews DEAD SOULS.

A hunt for Alexander McCall Smith's Mma Ramotswe in Sleuthing Botswana.

Aberdeen MP Anne Begg is a big fan of crime fiction, and Scottish authors feature heavily on her list.

Over at the Blasted Heath Blog, I get to talk about sex (Dad, that link is not for you. Have some Antiques Roadshow instead.)

Last Monday, I went to the Christopher Brookmyre event put on by Doug Johnstone. Here, finally (blame two essays), is my brief summary of the event. Luckily, most of it is not printable, but if you do get a chance to see Chris Brookmyre, do ask him about the roast chicken story, about the mad woman from Dundee Book Events and the crucifix story.

Brookmyre also told a story about doing an event in Clydebank Library. He noted that a library open after hours, with the lights on, is a bampot magnet. "It's the flame, and all the moths are wearing Burbery". A bloke in a Burbery cap came in and hovered for a while before telling Brookmyre that his dad "loves the Glasgow crime books." He told Brookmyre that he had never actually heard of him, but that he would get his dad a book. "Now, what was it you done?" It became clear that the guy thought that Brookmyre was a criminal. Brookmyre was tempted to say "Ah murdered hunnerds of guys" but, in the end, settled for telling him it was fiction. "What, you're making it up?" said the guy.

Brookmyre said that he started writing at the age of 6, and most of his early stuff was a straight rip-off of what he was reading (he spent two months writing nothing but stories about sharks eating people after seeing Jaws). He had a great teacher at school and, when he wrote two versions of the same story in class (one cleaned up and one with swearing and necrophilia) she told him it was the best thing he had ever written. She supported him in writing it and gave it to the headmaster. Unfortunately, she did not choose her words carefully enough when she said to the headmaster "I think you really ought to see this."

Brookmyre wrote three books before his fourth was accepted. He said that for some reason publishers are not very tolerant of "books that are shite."

He worked for a newspaper in Edinburgh, doing football reports at a time when the results were brought to the paper by carrier pigeon (Hibs and Hearts both had pigeon coops on their roof. Oh, yes, there's another story I can't tell about one of the misprints...

He talked about crime writers he admired - including Val McDermid and Mark Billingham (and, incidentally, said that he thought Mark had done well to get out of the playground titles (Scaredy Cat and Sleepy Head) before he was reduced to Specky Four Eyes and Smelly Bum). This then led to him to worrying about Sue Grafton who must have thought that A Is For Alibi was a good idea until she got to K is For Kicking The Arse Out Of It. He wondered how she feels as she gets close to having to write a mystery where an important plot point has to revolve around a xylophone).

The follow up to WHERE THE BODIES ARE BURIED will be called WHEN THE DEVIL DRIVES and will be out next summer. Winning the Wodehouse prize was the least comfortable Brookmyre has ever felt professionally as he had to do a photo shoot with a very rare breed of pig that had its own escort. The pig wouldn't come out of its trailer (Hollywood style huff) and sent its piglets instead. Carrying a large jeroboam of champagne and surrounded by tiny pigs, Brookmyre said he looked like a hobbit. He's also writing a sci-fi/computer gaming novel called BEDLAM which allows him to make up a complete universe.

At the end, he read out a brilliant 'Irvine Welsh does Jane Austen story'. I wish you could have heard it, Dear Reader.

Friday 2 December 2011

Psychotic Reaction

Your Cramps goodness for today.

This week, I have been busy at Uni doing an interesting task: a dérive otherwise known as a psychogeographic stroll. I would describe myself as a flâneuse. However, while the masculine version - flâneur - means one who loafs and strolls, the feminine version means a prostitute, so maybe I'd better not. Our brief was to visit an area of Glasgow, or a specific location (shopping centre, train station etc) and just wander for a couple of hours taking notice of who uses the space (and, more importantly, who doesn't), what it says (or doesn't) about identity, hegemony, post-modernism, transgression, ideologies,signs and semiology. I decided to do mine all along the number 40 bus route in Glasgow. Not only did this mean that I could sit down the whole way, but it also meant that I was travelling from West to East across Glasgow taking in loads of different areas. The comedian Kevin Bridges has things to say about this bus route.

It was a fascinating experiment. Funniest moment was when I got off the bus at the terminus in Easterhouse (I use the term 'terminus' very loosely - it's a patch of waste ground). I tried to upload a wee video but my technical skills failed me, so here are a couple of photos instead. I had been the last person on the bus for quite a few stops and, when I came down the stairs the driver looked really shocked.

"When do you go back?" I said.

He looked puzzled. "Where do you want to go, hen?"

"Back the same way I came."

"But where are you going?"

"Back to where I started."

"Are you wanting to go into town?"


He looked relieved. At last, something he could work with. "There's a number 41 leaving in a couple of minutes."

"Nope, it has to be a 40."

Silence for a moment. Then the cautious question: "What are you doing, hen?"

I thought about this.I didn't want to sound all intellectual and shit (sorry, Dad) so I decided not to go for the French. "It's for my university course. We have to do some psychogeography."

His face cleared. "Ah, well, there's plenty of psychos out this way, hen." I do believe he considered me to be one of them.

Anyway, on to Scottish crime fiction.

Two new books out from the wonderful Blasted Heath this week. Both of them I've read, both are wonderful. First of all, Douglas Lindsay's THE BARBER SURGEON'S HAIRSHIRT is a piece of genius madness. Here's my review of it. Next is Damien Seaman's THE KILLING OF EMMA GROSS. It's a dark and dirty police procedural set in Dusseldorf (sorry, can't find an umlaut) during 1929. The book takes as its background the crimes of notorious serial killer Peter Kurten (sorry, still can't find an umlaut) and the unsolved murder of a prostitute, and then spins out from there. It's full of heart and soul and a deep underlying sadness. Detective Thomas Klein is an excellent protagonist and Damien makes you really care about all the characters.

Talking of Douglas Lindsay, conniephoebe reviews THE END OF DAYS, Eurocrime reviews Karen Campbell's SHADOWPLAY, and a review of Philip Kerr's PRAGUE FATALE in The Independent.

The Star Telegram reviews Ian Rankin's THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD, and NPR reviews THE COMPLAINTS. You can hear Ian talking about THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD on Australia's ABC radio's Book Show. And he answers questions posed by The Open University.

More on Alexander McCall Smith and broken society.

Have a lovely weekend, Dear Reader.