I’m sitting at my desk feeling as if I’ve just done ten rounds with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and not in a good way.
What can possibly be the cause of this exhaustion, this feeling that my body has been used as a bouncy castle and that someone has taken the rough end of a match box to my throat?
Then I remember.
I’m just back from Bloody Scotland.
I feel as if I was on the go continually from Friday night and not because of a cheeseburger from hell. (For the record, there were no such gastric unpleasantries. I knew, secretly, you were concerned.)
Naturally, there was drink taken. I, of course, being pure and unsullied kept my wits about me at all times. Which really isn’t saying much.
I met lots of great people – writers, bloggers and readers. Far too many to name here but it was great to meet you and also say hello to those who have already encountered me and were no doubt doing their best to repeat the experience. Unfortunately for them, Stirling isn’t that big.
Friday night began with a civic reception where I had my photie took with the other long and shortlisters for this year’s McIlvanney Prize. I may mentioned once or twice that I was longlisted for ‘Open Wounds.’
That Christopher Brookmyre fella won for ‘Black Widow’, deservedly, but that didn’t stop me from wondering if I could somehow distract him and nick his prize.
Then it was off to the opening event – the ever wonderful Caro Ramsay in conversation with Stuart MacBride. They were absolutely brilliant and I made a guest appearance. Well, a photograph of me, which Caro had taped to one side of a badminton racquet. I initially considered contacting my lawyer acquaintance downtown about unauthorised use of my image but then I realised that to make an appearance, albeit fleeting, at an event with two top authors can’t be a bad thing.
It was a prop she’d used at the Glasgow launch of The Dead Don’t Boogie the night before. There was Spoiler Alert on one side and my face on its backside. Thankfully, it wasn’t my backside on its face.
Stuart MacBride was no doubt bemused as to who this guy was (as was most of the audience). Especially as Caro had drawn a moustache on the picture (I was clean-shaven in it). Looked good on me. I may draw one on my actual coupon.
After that it was off to the launch of Craig Robertson’s ‘Murderabilia’. A great title and a great cover. It was, however, the second best book to be published officially on Thursday (the other one was mine). That line is actually Craig’s to me but this is my blog. So there.
Impressive cover for Craig Robertson’s newie
Saturday morning’s mission was to find a truncheon. We thought about asking a policeman if he had some wood in his pocket but that might’ve been misconstrued. Neil Broadfoot and I scoured Stirling. Well, we walked round some shops. We finally found a rounders bat which, when wrapped in black electrical tape, made for a reasonable facsimile of an old-fashioned truncheon for that night’s play, what Alanna Knight wrote. Gordon Brown had it dangling from his trousers.
Moving swiftly on…
My panel – the cleverly-titled Scotland the Grave – was on Saturday. Theresa Talbot chaired with aplomb, which she kept in a bag at her side. The panel was a great success, largely down to the quality panelling of Catriona McPherson, Gillian Galbraith and Russel D. McLean.
I used the newly-fashioned truncheon as a prop. Well, I kept falling over.
Catriona McPherson, Gillian Galbraith, Russel D.McLean and Theresa Talbot listen as I make some truncheon remarks.
Gillian and I realise with disappointment that this water is actually only water while Theresa wonders why she can’t get a tune out of her clarinet. She got the water that wasn’t actually water. Pictures courtesy of Gordon McGhie/Grabthisbook
After the event, during which I had some fun at Ayrshire’s expense, I met Hugh McIlvanney, brother of William McIlvanney, who reminded me that they were from Ayrshire. I regretted that sheep joke.
Glossing over the entire can of whup ass that was opened on the Scottish football squad by the English, I met up with avid readers from The Book Club in a local hostelry. They’re a handful, let me tell you.
That afternoon I attended a pop-up launch for Michael J. Malone’s new book ‘A Suitable Lie’. It is a great book and one that I’d highly recommend. If it’s not on at least the long-list for the McIlvanney Prize next year I’ll be very surprised. And that’ll be twenty quid, Michael. Cash, cheques and luncheon vouchers accepted.
Another great cover, this time for Michael J. Malone’s latest
I then had to do some piper wrangling.
I’d better explain.
For a surprise during Craig Robertson’s crime quiz, a bagpiper was to come in and play a medley of TV theme tunes. He had been unavoidably detained and I was volunteered to usher him from the green room to the hall when the time was right. Only thing was, I had no idea what the hell was going on. No change there, then.
Anyway, he was warming his instrument – stop sniggering at the back – and I waited for some kind of hint from the stage that the musical round was coming up. I then had to sprint, well, walk quickly, well, walk, to the green room and usher him in. He couldn’t wait outside the ballroom because he had to keep his bag inflated. Which is something I thought I’d never say in polite company, let alone a bunch of crime writers.
Anyway, there was a slight delay but in he went and it was a great success. The audience loved it.
Naturally, I recognised all the tunes. Mind you, he had given me a list, so that helped.
Craig Robertson makes for a fabulous quizmaster while the teams of Val McDermid, Caro Ramsay, Susi Holliday, Chris Brookmyre, Luva Veste and Steve Cavanagh all did really well. Even if they didn’t recognise the theme to Hamish Macbeth.
Having now experienced Crime at the Coo I know what a sardine feels like. The pub was so crammed we were standing cheek-to-cheek in all directions. Neil Broadfoot took a sip of his beer and I belched. Yup, crowded.
It’s an event where crime writers sing, recite and generally show off how talented they are. My turn was to stand in the crowd and sweat. I did it so well I may take it professionally.
One of the highlights – and there were many – was the Slice Girls, who performed two numbers. They’re so good they’re playing The House of Blues in New Orleans soon. Seriously.
If you get to Bloody Scotland, make sure you get a ticket for this event. It’s great.
The following day I caught two panels before I had to head home and fight falling asleep at the wheel.
The first was How Tartan is Your Noir. Theresa got her plomb out again to keep Aline Templeton, Bill Daly, Matt Bendoris and Neil Broadfoot in line. She almost managed, too.
Neil Broadfoot, Matt Bendoris, Aline Templeton, Bill Daly and Theresa Talbot practice looking into the middle distance. Pic courtesy of me.
Then I saw Booker Prize longlister Graeme Macrae Burnet, Michael Ridpath and Craig Russell talking about writing in exile. They were all excellent and I couldn’t spot the team of hardened mercenaries who protect Graeme’s person now that he’s such a huge success. Journalist Craig Sisterson was in the chair and he made me sick – he did the entire session impossibly well without a note or a written question! I hate excessive competence in a person.