Monday, 5 October 2015

Bloody Scotland 2015

Belatedly posting about this year's Bloody Scotland festival, which was my third time at BS, and possibly the best yet.

The weekend got off to a good start with the reception at the old town hospital, where I chatted to some familiar faces like Steve Mosby, Craig Robertson and Neil Broadfoot. After a quick dinner, I caught up with Jon Wood, Orion's fiction publisher  and fellow thriller scribe Steve Cavanagh, and we adjourned to shoot some pool.

I quickly realised why Jon had suggested this particular activity, and was backed up by one of his more noted authors.

Steve held up creditably, I remembered why I don't play pool.

Saturday was busy. After checking out the display in the bookshop...

...I realised I had left it too late to get a ticket for either Denise Mina or the New  Blood event, but managed to get to see Chris Brookmyre, who was brilliant value as usual. I spent most of the day in the bar (it was work, remember?) catching up with the rapidly-growing list of cool writer and bookish types I know, including Eva Dolan, Helen Giltrow, Susi Holiday, Steph Broadribb, Liz Barnsley, Sarah Pinborough, Simon Kernick, Ian Rankin, Tom Wood, Douglas Skelton, Craig Robertson, Alexandra Sokoloff, GJ Brown and James Oswald.

I caught Steve's Breaking the Law event late in the day, which was good fun as expected. With a Yorkshireman, a Belfaster and a New Yorker moderated by a Kiwi, it had the distinction of being, as Angela McMahon pointed out, the most strongly-accented panel of the festival.

After an excellent dinner in the Maharajah with Jon and Angela from Orion, we headed along to Stirling's cutely-named Curly Coo pub for one of the newest fixtures in the Bloody Scotland calendar: Crime at the Coo. This was a fringe event to the main awards dinner, but as it became clear whenever I asked anyone, it was the place to be on Saturday.

A stellar lineup of crime writers took a spot to do - as the incredibly-detailed brief had it - "something different". So among many, many other things we had Doug Johnstone accompanying Val McDermid on guitar, Chris Brookmyre reading a story, Steve Cavanagh doing poetry, and one of the high points of the weekend, the Slice Girls performing 'Cell Block Tango': an appropriately murderous number from Chicago.

I pitched in with my own "something different" - reading the classic one-star review The Killing Season got a few weeks ago, which also doubles as a handy summary of the book. Once again, I felt an awesome sense of pride that something I wrote could inspire such a fantastic hatchet job.

Sunday morning, and I suddenly remembered I still had a panel to do. Before that, I dropped in on Pitch Perfect - an annual event where half a dozen hopefuls each have three minutes to pitch their novels to a panel of publishers. All of the books sounded intriguing, and in the end there was a three-way tie for the winning entries. It all made me feel very glad that I didn't have to go through that terrifying experience.

I caught up with my co-panelists in the bar ahead of our thriller panel, and then it was time for Tom Wood, Gordon Brown, Simon Kernick and yours truly to take the stage. Once again, I was the newbie on the panel: Tom had four books under his belt, Gordon five and Simon an impressive fourteen.

It was a lively discussion, ranging from how we carry out our research to how we got published. Between us, we seemed to have been rejected by just about everyone in the business before finally landing a deal, and I was left awestruck at Simon's determination in particular: he spoke about shrugging off literally hundreds of rejections before finally getting a yes. It's certainly paid off for him. All of us were rejected a lot but refused to give up, so the message seemed to be it's important to be a stubborn bastard. There were some great questions on research and the benefits of a cover quote from Lee Child.

After that, we signed some books, posed for a Usual Suspects-esque lineup with the concurrent Edinburgh crime panel of Neil Broadfoot, James Oswald and Doug Johnstone.

A ticking clock on the babysitter meant I missed the big football match (I'm told it was a hard-fought draw this year), and just like that, Bloody Scotland was over for another year...


  1. The Sunday morning panel was brilliant - loved hearing all your different experiences of writing and getting published. Too many questions about Lee Child though! Thanks for signing my book (think it was your first that morning!).
    Suze x (@CraftySuze70, @clarke_wilbur)

    1. Thank you! Yeah there were rather a lot of Lee Child questions... Hope you enjoy the book!