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I’m heading back across the border to Newcastle again, this time to take part in the hugely popular Newcastle Noir festival. Clearly, I got away with it last time.

I’m appearing with fellow Crime Factor alumni Neil Broadfoot as well as Russel D. McLean and Michael J. Malone (I’m now also wondering if I should sport a middle initial).

Douglas, left, sharing a panel at Bloody Scotland with Russel D. McLean, right.

Douglas, left, sharing a panel at Bloody Scotland with Russel D. McLean, right.

Neil Broadfoot

Neil Broadfoot

Michael J. Malone

Michael J. Malone

So come along and see us talk about Scottish crime, writing, writing crime, Scottish writing and anything else that takes our fancy.

More details here:

Tartan Noir at Newcastle Noir

 

 

crime-panel-event

For those who missed the theatrical experience of a lifetime in Waterstones Argyle Street on Friday April 8, I’ll be back in the company of Caro Ramsay and Theresa Talbot for a special panel of crime chat later this month.

There’ll be no histrionics this time – although you never know with Theresa (she’s BBC, after all). However, a stern look from Caro will keep her in check. A stern look from Caro keeps us all in check. She can kill you with her pinkie.

Anyway, we’ll be in the Avenue Shopping Centre in Newton Mearns for an event organised by Waterstones at Primavera’s on Wednesday April 27.

If you didn’t manage to buy a copy of OPEN WOUNDS at the sell-out play/launch (did I mention we sold out? No? We sold out!) then you’ll get one, or more, here. And I’ll sign it at no extra charge.

Caro will be launching her new book RAT RUN, which promises to be an absolute belter, while Theresa will have brand new, hot off the presses copies of her terrific crime book PENANCE.

Caro and Theresa are great at this sort of thing and you won’t be disappointed by their chat. I’ll try my best to keep up.

Please come and joins us. Call the store on 0141 616 3933 to reserve a space.

More details here:

Newton Mearns event

Douglas Skelton, Neil Broadfoot, Mark Leggatt and GJ Brown will be hitting the road this year as Four Crime Writers in Search of a Plot. Picture: Daniel Morrison

Neil Broadfoot, GJ Brown, Mark Leggatt and myself will be in Dundee on Wednesday April 14 for the first date of our world tour of Scotland.

Well, parts of Scotland, at least.

The venue is the Steps Theatre in the city’s Central Library.

Sounds posh!

We’ll be talking crime, writing and writing crime. We may even play a game of impromptu plotting.

That’ll be a laugh….

 

Come along and join in.

 

More details here:

Dundee event

Picture above by Daniel Morrison.

 

Caro Ramsay, Neil Broadfoot and I seem to be taking a question very seriously during last year's Death in Grantown festival. Matt Bendoris, far right, has a twinkly in his eye though. Something cheeky was coming I think.

Caro Ramsay, Neil Broadfoot and I seem to be taking a question very seriously during last year’s Death in Grantown festival. Matt Bendoris, far right, has a twinkly in his eye though. Something cheeky was coming I think.

Three years ago, if you’d asked me to stand in front of an audience and talk, I’d’ve died with my feet in the air.

Now, when I go to the fridge and the light comes on, I do a ten minute bit.

I wanted to be an actor when I was a slip of a lad (the lad in question being my father, the slip being me – thank you ‘Round the Horne’). I was never that outgoing – didn’t much like parties or socialising – but get me in front of an audience and I was off.

As I grew older I lost that ability to perform. It simply vanished. During my true crime years I made a number of TV radio appearances – still do – but that’s not the same as being up there with real people looking at you.

Then I had my first novel, ‘Blood City’, published and – gulp – I was expected to perform.

The first occasion was an event thrown by my publisher during the Edinburgh Festival and I was one of a number of authors asked to give a reading. I was one of the last called and the nervous sweat could’ve refloated the Titanic. The book was as yet unreleased so I was reading from a somewhat soggy typewritten sheet. It didn’t help that I’d forgotten my reading glasses.

I worked a little from memory and I think I may even have rewritten a section as I went along. At one point I found myself in a verbal tangle and paraphrased Harrison Ford to George Lucas when shooting the first Star Wars film – you can type this stuff, but you can’t say it. The audience laughed. They were on my side. I liked it.

Now whenever I do an event, as Donald O’Connor once sang, I like to make ‘em laugh.

Caro, Matt and myself celebrate a second great win the titanic East v West play-offs. The East Coast writers, including Neil Broadfoot, Doug Johnston and Frank TF Muir, lost despite having a home advantage and an greement ahead of time they were going to win. Craig Robertson was the impeccably fair chair.

Caro, Matt and myself celebrate a second great win the titanic East v West play-offs. The East Coast writers, including Neil Broadfoot, Doug Johnston and Frank TF Muir, lost despite having a home advantage and an greement ahead of time they were going to win. Craig Robertson was the impeccably fair chair.

Yes, my books can be dark but that doesn’t mean I have to be, at least in public. I do try to follow the sage advice of a seasoned bookseller to be windswept and interesting but my motto is take the work seriously but not myself.

I’m still no good at socialising, though, and in festival bars I’m usually the one trying to merge with the background.

 

Next up, though, is Carry on Sleuthing. What’s that? It’s a comedy-mystery radio play to be performed by four crime writers in a bookshop. Don’t say we don’t push the envelope.

You may have noticed it being mentioned on Facebook, Twitter and even this very site you are currently perusing. But in case you’ve been exploring regions of the Amazonian rain forest where the hand of man has never set foot, let me fill you in.

It’ll feature Caro Ramsay as amateur detective Letitia Luvibod who is asked to solve a perplexing mystery on board the SS Naughty Nigel.

Odious lawyer Hiram Grabbitt has been foully done to death and the suspects include bestselling author Dame Petunia Uppercrust, press baron Piggy Grunter, flapper Loxie McLovely and millionairess Colleen O’Blarney. Add in salty sea dog Captain Obadiah Trusspot, manservant Tremble and Inspector Bumble of the Yard and you have the recipe for a night of mystery and mirth.

Theresa Talbot, Michael J Malone and some eejit called Skelton will take out acting talents out for a spin as the entire supporting cast.

It’ll be fun but it is daunting.

I’m a bit of a limelighter now but I think I may have a drink beforehand. Or a Valium. Or both.

(Carry on Sleuthing can be seen for one night only in Waterstones Argyle Street on Friday April 8 at 7pm. Details in the Events section of this website)

 

Caro Ramsay

It’s fast becoming a tradition in any book festival worth its salt that there is an East Coast v West Coast event – or a North v South.

caro

Next week is Book Week Scotland and on Thursday November 26 the formidable Caro Ramsay will be debating with the plucky Neil Broadfoot on which setting is tops – is it West (which rhymes with Best) or the East (which rhymes with East).

They’re both pictured here – and if you can’t work out which is which, then you have my pity.

neil

I’ll be moderating the event and if you think you detect any bias you couldn’t be more wrong. I will be fair and even-minded, even though Glasgow is best.

You’ll find details here:

 

Caro and Neil

noir-1

Ragnar Jonasson, Craig Robertson and Quentin Bates during a recent event in Waterstones Argyle Street for the release of 'Snoblind'. During the chat, talk of noir labelling came up.

Ragnar Jonasson, Craig Robertson and Quentin Bates during a recent event in Waterstones Argyle Street for the release of ‘Snoblind’. During the chat, talk of noir labelling came up.

 

READER: So you’re a Scottish writer?

ME: That’s correct.

READER: And you write crime, right?

ME: That’s also correct.

READER: So, it’ll be Tartan Noir you write, then?

I may smile on the outside but inside I’m wincing, just a little.

Tartan Noir.

It’s a handy label to be sure but I think it’s unfair to lump everything together written in the crime and mystery genre in Scotland, or by Scots.

Yes, I’m Scottish. Yes, what I’m writing at the moment could be termed noir. But there’s not a trace of tartan. There’s no shortbread, haggis or bagpipes, either. Although someone did eat some flat sausage in ‘Blood City’.

The crime genre is vast and Scottish writers run the gamut of police procedurals, domestic noir, thrillers, mysteries, cosy crime and black comedy – themselves handy labels which can cover an array of sub-genres.

We write stories that are set in Scotland with a distinct Caledonian background and often with a dark Celtic sensibility.

But here’s the thing –

The majority of them could be set anywhere.

Yes, it’s the strong background that can give them their edge, although not all Scottish crime is edgy, but you could take the plotlines, plonk them down beyond Hadrian’s Wall, create a similarly strong background and they would still have an edge.

My stories, for instance, would work just as well in Manchester, Newcastle, Liverpool or London, had I the local knowledge to make them breathe.

I recently attended an event in Waterstones Argyle Street to coincide with the release of Ragnar Jonasson’s ‘Snow Blind’ (Orenda Press). The subject of the ‘noir’ labelling came up in conversation with Craig Robertson and Quentin Bates, in this case ‘Nordic Noir’.

Sure it’s just a label but Quentin made the point that such labelling shouldn’t be necessary. It’s all crime, whether the accent Icelandic (as in Ragnar’s work), Scottish or English.

A vast amount of superb crime comes from England but I’m not aware of any all-encompassing label for their work.

Nor Irish, nor Welsh.

Certainly we don’t call any crime novel from the USA ‘Yankee Noir’.

So my message is this – view ‘Tartan Noir’ as nothing more than a handy label but don’t let it put you off. Crime writing in Scotland is varied and wonderful and funny and dangerous and dark and exciting and infuriating.

Just like the country itself.

I’ll end with another conversation I had with a crime reader.

READER: I like crime fiction.

ME: Glad to hear it.

READER: No, I really like crime fiction.

ME: I’m really glad to hear it.

READER: I don’t like Scottish crime fiction, though.

ME: Why not?

READER: Well, it’s just so…Scottish.

I was, frankly, gobsmacked.

You see, this reader was Scottish.

Cannae win, neither ye can.

 

Caron Macpherson of Waterstones Argyle Street introduces Michael J. Malone and Douglas Skelton at the launch of 'Crow Bait' in 2014.

So I’ve got a new book coming out. I may have mentioned it once or twice.

Authors can be an anxious bunch at the best of times but more so when they’ve a new title about to hit the shelves.

They’ve sweated over every word, they’ve laboured over every sentence, they’ve strained over every chapter. It’s taken months of blood and tears, of writing and rewriting and chopping and changing and slicing and dicing until, finally, the printed book is in their hands and about to be unleashed on the world.

The launch comes first. That’s when you sit in front of an audience, generally made up of people who know you but ‘proper’ readers are always welcome, and you talk about yourself and your book. They’re fun affairs, very relaxed, and the publishers generally provide free wine, which proves an attraction to friends and relatives who are fed up hearing you talk.

After that, the book’s out there on its own. Your baby, fending for itself with bloggers and reviewers, fighting for breathing room on bookshop shelves, desperate to be face out but often finding itself spine out, until the author or some gallant friends come along and fix things.

Worry lines

I’m sure there are authors who don’t give a tup’penny damn whether people like their books. They may be so certain that people will buy them that they can breeze through this process with a song in their heart and a confident smile on their lips.

I’m not one of them and I don’t know any authors who think that.

I worry. I mean, real worry. I even seek solace in whisky. Okay, I do that even when I’ve not got a book out.

Here’s what goes through my head …

Is it good enough?

Will they like it?

Will it sell?

Does it make sense?

Will it get good reviews?

Will it get ANY reviews?

Will it sell?

Is it too sweary?

Is it too violent?

Should I have taken that sex scene out?

Should I have kept the aliens/dinosaurs/vampires/zombies/superheroes/animated characters in?

And finally…

WILL IT SELL?

My sleepless nights began on Monday night. It’s now Wednesday. The launch is tomorrow.

Now, where’s that whisky..?

Devil’s Knock will be launched in Waterstones, Argyle Street, Glasgow at 7pm. Entry is free but we may charge a fee to get back out again! If you’d like to go, and you are most welcome, please phone the store on 0141 248 4814.

Caron Macpherson of Waterstones Argyle Street introduces Michael J. Malone and Douglas Skelton at the launch of 'Crow Bait' in 2014.

Caron Macpherson of Waterstones Argyle Street introduces Michael J. Malone and Douglas Skelton at the launch of ‘Crow Bait’ in 2014.