Sunday 13 May 2012

Gratuitous Holiday Post

Here are a few snaps from our Berlin trip this past week. One thing - I do not like new blogger. I cannot get the hang of how to format photos and words where I want them, so apologies if this is disjointed.

We arrived just in time for the May Day celebrations in Kreuzberg, where our apartment was this trip. 

I love Kreuzberg, but I think that my favourite part of Berlin from this trip was edgy, gritty, colourful, buzzing Neukölln.


You can buy really, really weird things in Neukölln. 

Like this. 


And this.

     And, yes, there is a market for those dolls.

One of the best things about Berlin is all the green space, and several of the parks are absolutely nuts. Two of my favourites - Görlitzer Park in Kreuzberg and and Volkspark Hasenheide at the edge of Kreuzberg and Neukölln.

Volkspark Hasenheide had a funfair and this sign was up. It basically translates as "Rules for having Fun at the Carnival".

Just before we got to this sign, however, there was a very well organised and blatant drug dealing business going on. Apparently, Ewan and I do not look remotely like police as this was all conducted right in front of us.

Just around the corner from this sign was some sunbathing. Naked male sunbathing. I did not know whether to use my hands  to applaud the sunbather who was liberally slathering sun tan lotion on bits that should definitely never get sunburned (although I do think that he was having altogether too much fun doing it) or  gouge my eyes out

We also went to see Killing Joke while we were there. If you ever get a chance to see a band at the Fritz Club at the Postbahnhof, do. It's rather excellent. Killing Joke were great, and I think I caught Jaz Coleman in all his mad-eyed glory.

This car was just around the corner from our apartment. I think it had been there since before the wall came down. I don't know whether you can see, but it even has moss growing under the windscreen wipers.

What else did we do? Well, let's see. We enjoyed graffitti and street art...

Went sightseeing...

Had fun with some specimens at the natural history museum. You can't see this one in all its magnificence, but it was a huge room full of jars and jars of dead things...

...and one of these is the missing link. The other is some sort of neanderthal.

We went to see Hertha Berlin play a very exciting match at the enormous and atmospheric Olympic Stadium...

...we went on a tour of an underground bunker (no photos allowed) and we sampled life in a former East German apartment c.1970, which was fascinating. We were allowed to open all the cupboards, so I did. I found the most disgusting smelling bottle of kiwi liqueur and decided that I am not cut out for the life of Stasi era housewife, mainly due to the nylon aprons.

I am, however, absolutely cut out for this. I believe the translation of this particular menu item was "huge chunks of meat on a dangly stick". It also came with Bratkartoffel. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Finally, we are still puzzled by this sign for a shop called Real Time Honeymoon: "for the bride who dares".  Here, you can buy:

Flower girl costumes

and...errrrr...Lady Business

Tschuss! Bis bald.

Monday 30 April 2012

I'm Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack! Well, sort of

Hello, dear reader, if you are still with me. It has been yonks since I last posted. I think I've responded to all the individual e-mails asking where I was  (thank you so much for those), but just in case, I thought I'd do a wee post here. My brother was hit by a car nearly a month ago and things were not looking good for a while, so I have been spending a lot of time down in England. Things are much improved now and he is out of hospital and recuperating, but it was very scary at first.

I now know the answer to what I would do if contacted by the police. I was on my way to a meeting in Glasgow when my phone rang. "This is PC Thing from Cambridgeshire Traffic Police" (obviusly, Thing was not his actual name).

Now, there can be no good reason for Cambridgeshire Traffic Police to be calling me, so what was my reaction?  I have no idea why but I said, very brightly "Oh, hello!" as though I had entered a competition to win a million pounds and this was the organisers calling to tell me I had won. Anyway, I flew straight down (luckily I was in time to get a flight that evening (and huge thanks go to the very kind man in the boarding queue who overheard my half a very tearful phone conversation and offered to drive me from Stanstead Airport to Cambridge)) and got in to Cambridge just before midnight. It was a horrible night. However...things are so much better now.

In other news:
1. I am off to Berlin tomorrow for a few days rest and relaxation.
2. I applied for a part time job (2 hours a week) as a creative writing tutor to blind and partially sighted people and I got it! I'm so excited and can't wait to get started.
3. I am way behind with my dissertation.

Anyway, this is just a quick hello. I may post from Berlin, otherwise I will be back in a couple of weeks with your regularly scheduled Scottish crime fiction news.


Wednesday 14 March 2012

Rumours of...

Since I've received a couple of e-mails asking if I'm OK, I thought I'd better post. This has been a really busy week (but wonderfully so) and this will continue into next week, so I haven't had a chance to blog.

So here's a wee story, in the absence of a proper blog post:

What Do I Get?

"Chocolate finger marks on the books? I don’t think so, young man." The wee boy gazes at Agnes in horror before scampering off, turning his head once to stick his tongue out. He catches up with his mum in the Romance section. She absent-mindedly ruffles his hair as she runs a finger along the shelf of books, only half-listening to his story of a wicked witch. Agnes hears the words with a pang, and touches the two dark hairs sprouting from the mole on her chin. The woman and her child pass her as they leave the library. She’s invisible as far as the mother is concerned, but the child sticks his nasty little tongue out at her again as he passes.

Agnes sighs, carefully wipes the offending chocolate from the shiny cover of the book and puts it back on the shelf. She plucks a miniscule piece of lint from the skirt of her good green-wool suit before making her way back behind the desk marked ‘Chief Librarian’. Her fortress. Twenty steps from Children’s Literature. Twenty long, torturous steps when the little devils are constantly smearing their dirty little fingers and snotty little noses over the precious books and Agnes has to rescue them.

Agnes lets out another sigh. She prefers the library when it’s shut. She always makes an excuse to stay late, wandering through the warren of dimly lit corridors and cavernous rooms, some of them filled with books that no-one has opened for a century. Except Agnes. On her rounds she makes a point of picking a dusty tome off a shelf, carefully cracking open the yellowed pages, and reading a sentence here, a paragraph there. These books need love, they need to know that someone still cares about the words inside. Besides, she’s got little to go home to these days. Jimmy speaks to her less and less and, when he does, it’s to berate or demand or argue. Agnes runs a finger across her tidy desk, feeling the grain of the old wood like a familiar comfort blanket under her touch.

As she sits herself down, smoothing her skirt carefully underneath her, she glances over at her assistant. Meadow’s desk is a pig sty – papers and books shoved to one side, the rest of the desk home to enough make-up to stock a counter at Boots. Meadow is adding an extra layer of midnight blue to eyelashes that are already ludicrously long, and caked in so much mascara that it looks as though sad black centipedes are drooping down onto her cheeks. The girl looks up, under Agnes’ accusing gaze.

“Off out with Diesel tonight. know?” Meadow looks at Agnes, with that simpering, vacant smile she always has when talking about her latest beau. Meadow. Diesel. Whatever happened to normal names? There’s never a child in the library called Mary. Or Fred. Or even Jane or John. Agnes had got excited last week because a mother was registering her sweet-looking daughter – all long blonde curls and big blue eyes - for a library card. “No,” said the mother. “It’s not Jane, it’s J-H-A-I-N-N...and he’s a boy.”

Meadow pouts her shiny lips and adds another layer of lip-gloss. “Me and Diesel are off to that new club.” Agnes shudders at the bad grammar, but says nothing, even though she’s itching to. “You know the one I mean? Cocktails for a fiver before 10pm?” Agnes shakes her head. She’s never had a cocktail. She pictures herself perched on a stool in a crowded, noisy cocktail bar - a tad warm and sticky in her good, green-wool suit – enjoying a long drink in hues of orange and red, topped with a cherry and an umbrella. Jimmy’s never taken anywhere like that.

Meadow takes a final look at herself in the sparkly mirror she’s holding, before zipping up her designer handbag with a flourish. “Right, that’s me. I’m away. Don’t suppose you’re doing anything exciting this weekend, Aggie?”

Agnes bristles – she was christened Agnes, and there’s absolutely no reason to shorten it – but just shakes her head.

“No,” says Meadow, “I didn’t think so.” She plucks a turquoise raincoat off the back of her chair. “Right, I’m away. See ya Monday.” And, with that, she’s gone, leaving Agnes alone with a cloud of heavy perfume as the only reminder of another human presence.

Agnes potters around for a few minutes more, trying to put off the moment when she has to leave. Eventually, however, she takes a large set of keys from her drawer, fastens the buttons on her suit jacket, picks up her handbag – no designer one for her, just the same black bag she’s had for the last twenty years. Its old-fashioned clasp gives a comforting clunk as she snaps it shut. She locks the library door behind her and sets off for the bus stop. A six and a half minute walk to the bus stop, twenty minutes or so to get home.

As she reaches the stop, the number 62 draws up. Two young men in shell suits shove her out of the way as they pile onto the bus, laughing and swearing at each other. Agnes steps onto the bus and puts her money in the receptacle. As she does, she looks at the elderly driver and smiles. “Young people today,” she says, just wanting a connection, wanting a few words from a co-conspirator. But he simply shrugs and presses the buttons on the ticket machine. She takes the ticket from the slot and moves down the bus as the driver pulls roughly away from the stop.

There are no free seats, and no-one wants to catch Agnes’ eye to offer her theirs. She’ll have to stand as usual. Her feet are aching, but it’s not that far. She’s been on them all day, so another twenty minutes is neither here nor there. Two days before she can get back to the library again. Two whole days with just Jimmy. If she’s lucky. If she’s not lucky, it will be two whole days with Jimmy and one of his pals – Mr Grant, Mr Bell or Mr Johnnie Walker.

As the bus pulls up at her stop she steps off. “Thanks driver.” The driver doesn’t even turn his head, just pulls away from the kerb. Agnes walks the rest of the way to the house. As she reaches the gate, her mobile phone beeps. She stops and takes it out of her bag. A text from Jimmy. ‘Get me cigs.’ Agnes looks at the phone in her hand and sighs. She’d better do it. She turns away from the gate and trudges back up the road in the direction she came from, towards the Tesco Express on the corner.

She picks up a loaf of bread before standing in the queue for cigarettes. A woman pushes in front of her, hitting Agnes in the arm with her basket, snagging the good, green-wool suit. The woman tuts and glares at Agnes, as though it’s Agnes’ fault. “Excuse me, I was here first,” says Agnes, mildly. The woman sneers at her, then turns away, pointedly.

Agnes lets herself in the front door. “Jimmy? I’m home.”

“About bloody time, too. You get my cigarettes?” Jimmy is in the living room – unshaven, in the same stinking clothes he’s been wearing for the past four days, a full ash tray and an almost empty bottle of whisky in front of him. She was wrong. It’s Famous Grouse today.

“Aye. Here you go.” She hands him the cigarettes, which he snatches from her, without looking at her. He’s watching an episode of Jeremy Kyle on TV, gleefully immersing himself in other people’s misery, but unable to see hers.

“How was your day?” She doesn’t really want to know, but it’s automatic, after all these years.

“Shite.” His response is automatic, too. “When’s dinner?”

“About half an hour, that OK?” It will have to be. He could have got it himself but, of course, he hasn’t. He grunts, without taking his eyes off the TV.

Agnes goes into the kitchen, gets mince out of the fridge, potatoes and onions out of the cupboard. She takes the chopping board from behind the taps, and opens the drawer for a sharp knife. She starts to chop the onion. It would be nice to go out and eat – a curry, maybe. She’s never had one - Jimmy doesn’t like ‘that foreign shite’ as he calls it. It’s always mince and potatoes on a Friday.

“Bring me another bottle of whisky.”

“Just a sec,” she calls out.

“Hurry up.” He’s quite talkative tonight.

Agnes puts the knife down on the chopping board, opens the door of the cupboard under the sink and takes out a bottle of Johnnie Walker. As she stands up, Jimmy shuffles into the kitchen. “Might as well do it myself.” He snatches the bottle out of her hand and concentrates on unscrewing the lid.

Agnes turns back to chopping the onion. She places the knife carefully on the purple skin and cuts.

“And bloody hurry up with the dinner. My belly thinks my throat’s cut.”

“Really, Jimmy?” Agnes turns, the knife in her hand and slashes it across his throat. She watches as he drops to the floor, clutching at his throat. The bottle of whisky crashes to the ground and the liquid inside mixes with his blood. She steps back, as it winds its way towards her shoes. The smell of whisky is overpowering.

Agnes looks down at the knife in her hand. The cuffs of her good, green-wool suit are dark with blood and there are splotches of it on her skirt. She puts the knife back down – carefully - on the chopping board, steps over Jimmy’s body and out of the kitchen. As she walks up the stairs she takes off her jacket and starts to undo her skirt. She walks into the bathroom and puts the soiled items in the bath, before washing her hands in the sink, using her elbow to press the plunger of the soap dispenser, so as not to get blood everywhere. She’ll need to take the suit to the dry cleaner’s before she goes back to work on Monday.

She walks into the bedroom she used to share with Jimmy and opens the door of the wardrobe. She takes her good, blue-wool suit off the hanger and puts it on. She’s hungry. Perhaps she’ll go out for dinner. A curry. And then a cocktail, maybe. Yes, that would be nice.

Thursday 8 March 2012

"Wig hat jack knife, Out on bail for life"

Happy International Women's Day with The Cramps' DAMES, BOOZE, CHAINS AND BOOTS.

Nice prizes for the Bloody Scotland short story competition, and Scottish crime fiction authors provide some short story advice.

Crime Fiction Lover reviews Doug Johnstone's HIT AND RUN, Tricky Nag reviews several Alexander McCall Smiths, while Cozy Library reviews just the one. And a review of Josephine Tey's THE FRANCHISE AFFAIR.

Is the Edinburgh Guide calling Ian Rankin a twit? See Ian in Lochgelly on May 30th. And Mysteries in Paradise reviews the audio version of WITCH HUNT.

Val McDermid on the intellectual property issue, and the value of publishers. And a review of Val's stage play.

And, talking of stage plays, Ian Pattison has written a play about my least favourite politician (and there are plenty of candidates to choose from).

See youse after the weekend. Busy weekend (did I mention I'm in a play, gawd help us?) and then it's off to see the brilliant Killing Joke on Monday.

Monday 5 March 2012

"Got the shim sham shimmy rushin' up my spine"

I cannot find Super Goo on youtube, but that's where today's Cramps lyrics come from.

I had a lovely,but very busy, weekend. I was on a training course for facilitators of workshops for creative writing for health and wellbeing. It was such good fun, I met some lovely people and it's really going to be helpful for my university placement. As a result, however, I'm even more behind than normal. Oh dear.

Some of the UK's literary festivals are featured here. But it's not a full round-up, by any means.

The World According To Who? reviews Val McDermid's FEVER OF THE BONE, Martin Stanley thoroughly recommends Ray Banks' GUN, Grecian Urn looks at Kate Atkinson's CASE HISTORIES, The Star Online enjoys Ian Rankin's THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD and Eva Hudson reviews Denise Mina's THE END OF THE WASP SEASON.

Are women writers taken seriously?

The Daily Record talks to William McIlvanney.

Quintin Jardine on Scottish independence. He's...errrrrrr...not particularly keen on politicians.

Alexander McCall Smith will be at the Wivenhoe Bookshop this Thursday. And he's interviewed by the New Zealand Herald.

Thursday 1 March 2012

"Well I don't know about art, but I know what I like"

My all time favourite Cramps song. I taught my Mum to do the Chicken Strut to this one. Ah, my lost youth as part of the psychobilly wrecking crew... Talking of my mother, I am a tad worried she has discovered the internet (which she calls That Microwave). I received an e-mail today which said, in part: "Dear Ms Moore, I have just finished Old Dogs. It really made me laugh, apart from the bad language." Whoops, sorry 'C'.

Look at this smashing line-up for Bloody Scotland. Sign up for the newsletter for all the latest news.

Some Blasted Heath news, with signing of new author Anonymous 9 (aka Elaine Ash), a guest post from the recently signed H J Hampson. Oh, and Len Wanner's most excellent THE CRIME INTERVIEWS: VOLUME 1 is available for £1.99 in the UK and $3.16 in the US.

An audio review of Denise Mina's THE END OF THE WASP SEASON, a review of Catriona McPherson's AFTER THE ARMISTICE BALL. Publisher's Weekly reviews Philip Kerr's PRAGUE FATALE. And a few reviews for Doug Johnstone's new one, HIT AND RUN. I'm looking forward to it myself. As soon as I stop writing essays.

Ian Rankin chooses his New Elizabethan on BBC Radio 4's Front Row.

A wee rant about Ryanair from Quintin Jardine.

Helen Fitzgerald is looking for your thoughts on adaptations (and do check out the wee video promo for The Donor below the adaptations post - very funny).

Alexander McCall Smith on bringing people back to reading.

The Week talks about the various incarnations of Sherlock Holmes.

Irvine Welsh's ECSTASY premieres at the Glasgow Film Festival.

Savidge Reads blog gives Val McDermid a grilling.

Tuesday 28 February 2012

"You gotta beat it with a stick"

Your weekly Cramps with Garbageman.

Rob Kitchin reviews Philip Kerr's PRAGUE FATALE over at The View From The Blue House, Karen at Eurocrime says that Alexander McCall Smith's PRECIOUS AND THE MONKEYS is a delightful book and Maxine at Petrona calls Peter May's THE LEWIS MAN "a readable mystery with a tragic core".

Val McDermid celebrates her 25th book. Congratulations Val.

Lucy Liu to play Sherlock Holmes' sidekick John...errrrrr...Joan Watson.

Iain Banks at the Hexham Book Festival.

Lots of upcoming events for Alex Gray as she launches her new book A POUND OF FLESH. And both Alex and Caro Ramsay will be at the Lit Up Festival in Renfrewshire at the end of March.

Ian Rankin and Doug Johnstone's Twitter chat is quoted in the Independent.

Why I Really Like This Book features Josephine Tey's MISS PYM DISPOSES.

An excellent and funny article by Anthony Horowitz on whether authors still need publishers.

And, finally, 9 foreign words the English language really needs (hat tip to the lovely Steve Mosby). I must admit, I rather like Pilkkunnussja. I would add a 10th word - one that I was told when I was in Alaska - Slaqtaaq.

Friday 24 February 2012

"Baby baby baby, you've got good taste"

Pre-weekend Cramps.

Books4Spain talks to Quintin Jardine.

BCF reviews Stuart MacBride's BIRTHDAYS FOR THE DEAD, Random Writings reviews Philip Kerr's FIELD GRAY, Fresh Meat looks at M C Beaton's DEATH OF A KINGFISHER, Crime Pieces reviews Peter May's THE BLACK HOUSE, and Page Turners reviews Alexander McCall Smith's THE SUNDAY PHILOSOPHY CLUB.

Talking of Alexander McCall Smith, his 44 SCOTLAND STREET will be on BBC4 Radio 4 from Monday 30th April.

More on the Margins Book and Music Festival.

Len Wanner at The Crime of It All interviews Paul Johnston. And an interview with Bill Kirton.

Win a copy of Val McDermid's THE RETRIBUTION courtesy of the lovely people at Crimespree Magazine.

Finally, the museum on which I based the one in OLD DOGS had a bronze head stolen. How do you sneak out of a museum with a bronze head that's approximately a foot square and weighing 13kilos? I know the price of scrap metal is on the increase, but I work that out to be roughly £40.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

"I'm the maddest road rattler that you ever done met"

Title courtesy of The Cramps, as usual.

This weekend's cinematic viewing was Martha Marcy May Marlene which was a very creepy and unsettling film about a girl who escapes from a cult. Her experience is shown in an understated way through flashbacks. John Hawkes is fantastic as the charismatic and chilling Manson-like cult-leader Patrick (he also played the scary Uncle Teardrop in Winter's Bone) who renames all his female acolytes in a very simple but effective way of showing who's in control.

Paul Johnston is interviewed over at The Crime of It All.

Russel McLean teams up with ShortbreadStories to help the Million For a Morgue campaign.

Crime Pieces reviews Peter May's THE BLACK HOUSE, The World According To Who reviews Ian Rankin's DOORS OPEN, Eurocrime reviews Val McDermid's THE RETRIBUTION and Music And More reviews Ray Banks' WOLF TICKETS.

Ian Rankin says that authors need publishers.

A Val McDermid short story takes to the stage. And Val herself will be appearing at the Scarborough Literature Festival in April.

Another Festival - this one in July in King's Lynn and featuring Philip Kerr. And Stuart MacBride will be talking about BIRTHDAYS FOR THE DEAD in Perth on March 13th.

Declan Burke talks to Allan Guthrie, amongst others, on ebook pricing.

Thursday 16 February 2012

"Wiggle your ears to get into the groove"

Have a wee Zombie Dance with The Cramps.

Panels for Crimefest are now up.

Alexander McCall Smith at the Oundle Literary Festival at the beginning of March, and in Buffalo, NY in April. Closer to home, Iain Banks is appearing in Edinburgh at the beginning of April. And Helen Fitzgerald is all over the place, the lucky minx. Sadly, I shall miss her Glasgow event by two days, and her Berlin event by two months. Luckily, I get to quiz her at Crimefest, along with Douglas Lindsay, Michael Malone and Damien Seaman. And Christopher Brookmyre, Stuart MacBride and Craig Robertson will be revealing their secrets in Aberdeen at the end of May. And Irvine Welsh will be appearing at Apple's Glasgow Buchanan Street store on Sunday to talk about ECSTACY. And here's the man himself as an extra in FILTH, which is currently filming in Edinburgh.

Lots of reviews today. Eurocrime reviews Craig Russell's THE DEEP DARK SLEEP, The Big Issue reviews Peter May's THE LEWIS MAN, Bestsellersworld on DEATH OF A KINGFISHER by M C Beaton, Norm at Crimescraps on Charles Cumming's THE TRINITY SIX, WildmooBooks reviews Val McDermid's REPORT FOR MURDER, Rikki's Teleidoscope reviews Alexander McCall Smith's THE COMFORTS OF A MUDDY SATURDAY.

The Indie Pedant looks forward to Irvine Welsh's SKAGBOYS.

Lovely Scottish publisher Blasted Heath buys a black comedy called THE VANITY GAME by H J Hampson. Excellent! I love black comedy and I love football. Result.

Popmatters reports that US crime overtakes British romance in British libraries. Luckily, Ian Rankin is holding up the side for the Brits.

Edinburgh's New Town to celebrate its literary history. And The Scotsman reports that Scottish arts would benefit from Scottish independence.

Jonny Lee Miller is to play Sherlock Holmes in a US TV version set in contemporary New York.

Denise Mina talks to Forbidden Planet about comics.

Finally, the Herald are looking for your help to come up with the rest of the list of the Top 100 Scottish novels. They already have 30 and there are plenty of familiar names in there.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Her Love Rubbed Off

An apt Cramps title for the blog post today. And, to celebrate Valentine's Day, those lovely people at Pulp Press and For Books' Sake have reduced the price of the Short Stack anthology in the UK, or US for the day. What could be more romantic for Valentine's Day than giving your lover ten tales of brutal, ferocious crime fiction written by ten brutal, ferocious women? And if that's not cheap enough for you, you can win a copy here.

This weekend's cinematic viewing was the directorial debut of Paddy Considine, starring the brilliant Peter Mullan as Joseph - a man who is violent and brutal and shown as totally unlikeable right from the start (really, you have been warned), and the equally brilliant Olivia Colman as Christian charity shop volunteer Hannah - a woman with a secret. Harrowing, bleak and really, really sad. I was crying from the opening scene and was never far from a hanky for the rest of the film.

A review of Val McDermid's THE RETRIBUTION, two for M C Beaton with DEATH OF A PERFECT WIFE and AGATHA RAISIN AND THE QUICHE OF DEATH, and Groovy Daz with a groovy review of Ray Banks' DEAD MONEY.

Aly Monroe with one of her usual thoughtful and interesting posts - this one on character behaviour and reader reactions.

Huge congratulations to Helen Fitzgerald whose excellent THE DEVIL'S STAIRCASE goes into film production later this year.

Alex Gray on why crime fiction is the most borrowed genre in Britain's libraries. And The Scotsman considers the same topic and the legacy of William McIlvanney's Laidlaw.

Tony Black's
THE STORM WITHOUT is to be published by a new independent publisher from Newcastle - McNidder and Grace.

And just in case you're looking for the perfect gift this Valentine's Day...

Friday 10 February 2012

"Tomorrow will be gloomy with a chance of morning frogs"

Your Friday morning Cramps.

Panel assignments for Crimefest have been issued. I'm moderating a panel called Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know, with Helen Fitzgerald, Douglas Lindsay, Michael Malone and Damien Seaman. I'll leave you to decide which of them are mad. I am currently thinking about the fiendish homework I am planning to set...

A review of Ian Rankin's THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD, reviewingtheevidence on Aly Monroe's ICELIGHT and Lin Anderson's PICTURE HER DEAD, The Game's Afoot reviews Val McDermid's A PLACE OF EXECUTION and a review of Stuart MacBride's SHATTER THE BONES.

Several Denise Mina events at the New Zealand International Arts Festival.

Alexander McCall Smith in St Louis, Missouri on April 16th.

Douglas Lindsay on naming THE UNBURIED DEAD.

North East Life talks to Val McDermid.

Tony Black's GUTTED becomes GELYNCHT in German (which, if my German is up to it, translated as LYNCHED). Gratuliere, Tony! There's also a wee video auf deutsch to go with it.

Norfolk is a big fan of crime fiction - some nice events in March and it's the most borrowed genre in local libraries.

Edinburgh Book Festival Director says that the book festival should be about books, not celebrities. Well done, that man.

Kate Atkinson on her MBE.

Finally, a rather sneery article about genre fiction.

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Don't Mess With Me - I'm Savage and Brutal

First of all, I'm very excited to announce that my short story DEPRAVITY LANE appears in SHORT STACK - a new anthology of pulp fiction written by women (the US kindle version is here). The print version will follow. This is the result of a competition held by the wonderful people at For Books' Sake and Pulp Press last year.

I'm very, very glad I have the flu because I've spent the day in bed reading all the other stories and I'm so pleased to be included in such a wonderful line-up. The characters include punk rock journalists, zombies and xenobiologists, and there are stories of freaks and fairytales, sadness and madness, disease and destruction, revenge, weirdness and just good, old-fashioned nastiness. Apparently, we are "a savage and brutal bunch". Excellent. Dad, this one is not for you. Don't even mention it to Mum. My own story is a wee homage to one of my favourite books and films - Nightmare Alley (which gives me the opportunity to steal this brilliantly doctored poster courtesy of the marvellous Smudge MacRae at Blasted Heath).

The other stories are by Shelagh M. Rowan-Legg, Bernadette Russell, Jane Osis, Zoe Lambert, Icy Sedgwick, Evangeline Jennings, Gill Shutt, Claire Rowland and Mihaela Nicolescu. A tasty treat for fans of wicked women.

Ian Rankin calls the BBC a bunch of fannies and numpties (and Val McDermid isn't very happy either). And Ian also complains about his scantily clad Twitter followers.

Alexander McCall Smith talks about medical ethics and teapots (yes, it's the Daily Mail).

Austcrime reviews Gordon Ferris' TRUTH DARE KILL, a review of Val McDermid's THE RETRIBUTION and A DARKER DOMAIN and Eurocrime reviews Lin Anderson's PICTURE HER DEAD.

An interview with Christopher Brookmyre.

Douglas Lindsay is his usual hilarious self.

Ray Banks on the state of crime fiction. Some great points in the comments - especially Steve Mosby's.

Friday 3 February 2012

Frantic Friday

A short post today as I have a conference this weekend. Thanks again to those who donated prizes for our raffle. It's lovely of you and I'm going to hug you all when I see you. The organisation is staffed by volunteers (250 volunteers to each member of staff!) and we rely a lot on donations.

Anyway, Scottish crime fiction news:

Lots of good stuff at the Margins Book Festival, and The List also has an interesting debate between Helen Fitzgerald, Alan Bissett and Allan Wilson, on the current literary landscape.

Crime fiction is the most borrowed genre in Britain's libraries.

Maxine at Petrona with one of her extremely thoughtful reviews of Peter May's THE BLACKHOUSE.

Is there no end to Ian Rankin's talents? Hear him in the panel game The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

Mark Billingham and Paul Johnston in conversation at Crime Culture.

Crimefest panels are done, and moderators are being contacted about their panels. Woohoo! I'm moderating one called Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know and the initials of my panelists are HF, DL, DS and MM ;o)

Sunday 29 January 2012

Kill The Poor

I thought this track from The Dead Kennedys was apt, since I believe it is Her Maj's favourite punk song. I appear to have been invited to a Royal Garden Party. Thinking fast, I said I would only go if my Mum wanted to go. Since, apparently "Scotland's too far to come and visit you now I'm 80, our Donna", I thought I would be safe. How wrong I was. Apparently, Scotland is now a mere sparrow's fart away. Her only worry is that she now has to find a fascinator. And now I, too, am left with the terrible dilemma of finding a fascinator that matches my Docs.

My Mum now has the other residents of the retirement community curtseying to her when they meet in the hallways. And then there's my poor Dad...I said to Mum that she needed photographic ID to get into the Palace, and no, that her pension book wasn't enough. "What about your passport?" I said.

"I think my passport's out of date since my ankles are too big to fly, these days," (don't ask).

I heard my Dad in the background "My passport's in the kitchen drawer."

"We don't care about your passport, Patrick," came the scathing response. "Who is it that's going to the Royal Garden Party?" Silence. "Who, Patrick, who?"

"You, dear."

"That's right. So, what don't we care about?"

"My passport, dear."


I have created a monster. A monster who is now on the hunt for a fascinator.

Irvine Welsh's ECSTASY is screened in London on February 9th.

A review of Val McDermid's THE RETRIBUTION.

Ian Rankin's THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD on ABC Radio National. And Mr Rankin himself on his best story ever.

Gordon Ferris' THE HANGING SHED has, apparently, sold 150,000 e-copies.

Alexander McCall Smith to appear at Scotland's most remote literary festival.

An interview with Michael Malone.

A set of first editions by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is discovered in a charity shop.

Denise Mina wonders if sentiment is the new taboo.

For my latest blog post over at Blasted Heath, the talented Smudge doctors a poster for Nightmare Alley to make me look almost attractive. Well, from the neck down, anyway.

Tomorrow, it's the last proper day of lectures on my course before I start on my placement, and then I'm off to Allan Guthrie's event at Strathclyde University before going out to dinner with lovely pals Tony Black, Michael Malone and Kieran G. I'm planning to get them drunk so they will tell me all their secrets. I will, of course, share those secrets with you, dear Reader.

Friday 27 January 2012

Wilder, Wilder. Faster, Faster.

A lesser known Cramps song today. Incidentally, I teach a creative writing class and this week I did an exercise using songs. I started them off with some Flaming Stars (to lull them into a false sense of security) moved through Killing Joke, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, and The Clash and finished up with this one from The Cramps. I think they were a bit puzzled by The Cramps. It was great fun.

Len Wanner, author of an excellent book of interviews with Scottish crime fiction authors, will be interviewing Tony Black in person on Saturday 4th February in Dalkeith. Also on 4th February, Stuart MacBride will be at the University of Dundee. And you can go to the screening of Irvine Welsh's ECSTASY and the after-party on February 18th, if you are so inclined.

And a reminder of an event on Monday - Allan Guthrie at the University of Strathclyde. See you there if you're going.

Those lovely chaps at Blasted Heath would like to serve you some #broth.

Crime Fiction Lover on comedy and crime, and recommends Chris Ewan.

Helen Fitzgerald's yummy new book cover.

Nigel Bird is featured in the East Lothian Courier.

Val McDermid on method and madness.

Douglas Lindsay does not want to be an astronaut. Which is a relief, really.

A crime writing MA? I'd sign up, if only to be taught by the rather excellent Martyn Waites.

Finally, a man plans a murder, with the intention of pinning it on the cat.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

"People Ain't No Good"

Your Cramps title for today.

Soon, I will get back to blogging more than once a week. Soon...

This weekend, we watched Vietnamese film Three Seasons. It tells the stories of several characters - a girl whose job is to pick lotus flower and her relationship with her hermit employer, a cyclo driver and his infatuation with a prostitute, an American GI who is looking for someone, and a little boy who is a street peddlar. It's quite a slight film in many ways, but it's beautifully filmed and really interesting from the point of view of seeing a strange location.

The programme for the Aye Write! festival is now available and here are the crime fiction related events.

Friday 9th March
11am - 12.30pm or 4.30pm - 6pm - Helen Fitzgerald and Sergio Casci - Making the Pitch and Not Striking Out: From Pitch to Published (Creative Writing).
1pm - 2pm - Helen Fitzgerald and Sergio Casci - Book to Film and Film to Book: Adaptations (Creative Writing).
4.30pm - 5.30pm - Christopher Brookmyre - The Making of a Bestseller (Creative Writing)
6pm - 7pm - William McIlvanney.

Saturday 10th March
3.30pm - 4.30pm - Alex Gray and Ian Rankin: New Scottish Crime
8pm - 9.30pm - Panel Debate: Scotland's books - includes William McIlvanney

Sunday 11th March
3.30pm - 5pm - Panel Debate: What's Wrong With Women's Writing? - includes Karen Campbell.

Monday 12th March
7.30pm - 8.30pm - Alexander McCall Smith

Friday 16th March
9.30pm - 10.30pm - Mark Billingham and Christopher Brookmyre are Indiscreet

Saturday 17th March
2pm - 3pm - Gillain Galbraith and Karen Campbell - Ethics
3.30pm - 4.30pm - Lin Anderson and Caro Ramsay - Forensics

I think that's it - apologies if I've missed any!

And, in other news, K T McCaffery reviews Ian Rankin's THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD, and the Sun Sentinel reviews Val McDermid's THE RETRIBUTION.

Irvine Welsh on his various projects, Jame McAvoy in FILTH, and a not particularly positive review of the ECSTASY film.

An interview with Philip Kerr.

Helen Fitzgerald blesses our libraries. And me too. My PLR is nowhere near as large as Helen's, but it took Ewan and I out for dinner at one of my favourite places, where I have discovered the joys of Hacienda de Chihuahua Crema de Sotol. Best of all though, is the thought that all those people were interested enough to borrow OLD DOGS. Thank you library users. That's the best thrill for me.

Finally, a final plea for any donations of books, or anything else for the helpline charity I volunteer for. All donations gratefully received for the charity raffle coming up. Thanks to everyone who has given stuff so far - I could hug you all. x

Tuesday 17 January 2012

New Kind of Kick

Back to The Cramps again today.

This weekend's cinematic viewing list consisted of two very different films. First of all the Korean film THE MAN FROM NOWHERE - a very dark film about drugs, child slavery and heartless criminal gangs, with lots of violence and gore flying about. But there was also a little girl who gave the film a wee bit of heart and humour. I enjoyed it even though I spent several scenes covering my eyes. The second film was Iranian film A SEPARATION - a film about relationships of all sorts in which what you don't see is just as important as what you do. An emotionally powerful film that I absolutely loved.

Ian Rankin takes Alan Yentob to the Oxford Bar and calls for tax incentives to help new authors. And this weekend Ian will be at the Brighton and Hove Albion First Fiction Book Festival.

A review of Kate Atkinson's STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG, Norm at Crime Scraps loves Aly Monroe's ICELIGHT, The Morning Star recommends Stuart MacBride's SHATTER THE BONES, and Lambda Literary reviews Val McDermid's TRICK OF THE DARK.

Christopher Brookmyre and Louise Welsh at the Margins Book and Music Festival on February 24th. And Allan Guthrie at the University of Strathclyde on January 30th (see you there if you're going along).

Den of Geek (what a great name) with the top 10 portrayals of Sherlock Holmes. I thought the third episode of the new series was totally brilliant. I have no idea how the ending happened (she says vaguely) but I loved it. And the series has boosted sales of the original Holmes books. Excellent.

Margot Kinberg puts the spotlight on Denise Mina's GARNETHILL.

The film of Irvine Welsh's ECSTASY gets its premiere in February.

Finally, a break in my university essay schedule and I am able to read proper books again - lovely, lovely crime fiction books. I've missed you so. I have just started Donald Ray Pollock's THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME, which is shaping up brilliantly so far. This will be followed by THE ADJUSTMENT by the brilliant Scott Phillips and some lesbian pulp from the wonderful Christa Faust with BUTCH FATALE; DYKE DICK — DOUBLE-D DOUBLE CROSS. Life is good.

Thursday 12 January 2012

Has it really been a week?

Hello, world, I'd forgotten what you look like. You're really rather lovely, aren't you?

Essays are done, but were swiftly followed by more whooshing deadlines. This week's involved me sitting on a bus listening to conversations. This almost led to me getting my wee head kicked in. But it was fun. I also spent two and a half hours going through a large bin of shredded paper trying to piece together something which should never have been shredded. Successfully, I may add. I felt like I was in a really long, very boring version of CSI Glasgow.

Anyway, just a wee Scottish crime fiction update.

Some Sherlock stuff first: a review of the film A GAME OF SHADOWS, and another one, and Steven Moffat on the TV Sherlock (which I'm really enjoying).

Alex Gray, Caro Ramsay, G J Moffat and Craig Robertson at the Pitlochry Festival from January 27th.

A review of Ian Rankin's THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD, one of Kate Atkinson's STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG, Josephine Tey's THE MAN IN THE QUEUE and reviews of Alexander McCall Smith's THE FORGOTTEN AFFAIRS OF YOUTH and THE RIGHT ATTITUDE TO RAIN.

Peter May on the Quercus Couch.

Peter Rozovsky at Detectives Beyond Borders gets into Allan Guthrie's shorts.

A really interesting interview with Louise Welsh about Scotland.

Hopefully, I will get back to normal posting some time soon...maybe by July...

Friday 6 January 2012

Happy New Year!

Hello, Dear Reader. This is just a very quick post to wish you a Happy New Year and let you know I haven't fallen off the ends of the earth. I have two essays due in on Monday and have been immersed in them since my last blog post. So this is just a very quick few links for your delectation.

A review of Quintin Jardine's AS EASY AS MURDER, one of Val McDermid's THE RETRIBUTION and one of Ian Rankin's THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD. An interesting slant on Ken McClure's DONOR from someone with an interest in organ donation (I wonder if they've read Helen Fitzgerald's THE DONOR - Helen, maybe you want to get in touch with her!). Publishers Weekly reviews M C Beaton's DEATH OF A KINGFISHER.

A review of the Sherlock Holmes film A GAME OF SHADOWS.

The London Evening Standard on books they're looking forward to in 2012.

A video trailer for Peter May's THE LEWIS MAN.

Catch Stuart MacBride in Aberdeen on Monday.

An interview with the lovely Tony Black.

And that's it for today. Sorry it's so brief! Back next week. Now it's back to ideology, hegemony and social justice.