As the literary world celebrates Agatha Christie’s 125th anniversary, this year’s Bloody Scotland festival pays homage to crime writing past, present and future. Martina Cole, Linwood Barclay, Ian Rankin, Arne Dahl, Val McDermid, Lindsey Davis and Ann Cleeves are amongst the major names confirmed to attend the most star-studded edition of the Stirling-based crime writing festival to date.
The festival, which showcases the best of Scottish and international crime writing in the historic and ancient town centre of Stirling, will run from 11 – 13 September this year. Some of the most famous crime authors in the world are coming to Stirling to talk about their books, events celebrate Scotland as the perfect location for crime writing and the scientific aspects of crime fiction, and the festival joins in the Agatha Christie celebrations with an extra special event.
In a huge coup for the festival, Martina Cole, one of the biggest names in international crime fiction, whose books have sold over ten million copies in the UK alone, will offer Bloody Scotland audiences an exclusive sneak preview of her soon-to-be-published novel Get Even, in conversation with Guardian columnist Erwin James. Speaking about the festival, Ms Cole said: “I’m a big fan of Scotland: I’ve always had a great reception there and I love the rugged beauty of the country as the views are so different from the flat rolling countryside of England. I’m very excited about coming to Bloody Scotland with a sneak peak of my new book and looking forward to discussing it with Erwin James: he’s a good friend.”
Linwood Barclay, author of thirteen novels including the international best-sellers Trust Your Eyes, A Tap on the Window and No Time for Goodbye, comes over from Canada for a UK exclusive event, to close the festival in style. Lindsey Davis, the phenomenally popular creator of Roman detective Falco, is guaranteed to fill Stirling’s Albert Halls as she introduces her new novel Deadly Election. Arne Dahl, possibly Sweden’s most famous crime fiction export, returns to Bloody Scotland following the huge success of his series about the Intercrime Unit on BBC4. Ian Rankin teams up with Philip Kerr, author of the Bernie Gunther novels, to discuss what happens when your lead detective becomes even more popular than you are. Ann Cleeves will not only be appearing at the festival, but will be taking a group of readers on a trip to Shetland immediately after the festival proper finishes for a tour of the landscapes that inspired her Jimmy Perez novels and the hugely-acclaimed BBC TV series. Denise Mina teams up with award-winning South African-based novelist Belinda Bauer to discuss the creations of intelligent, character-driven fiction.
The science of crime comes under the microscope this year. The festival celebrates Agatha Christie’s anniversary with an exciting event looking at the grande dame of crime fiction’s obsession with poisons. Dr Kathryn Harkup, author of the book A is for Arsenic, and Christie expert Ragnar Jonasson, who has been Christie’s Icelandic translator since he was seventeen, will discuss the art of chemistry Christie used to kill the vast majority of her ‘victims’. Leading authors Val McDermid and Lin Anderson discuss the science of forensic evidence: Anderson’s Rhona MacLeod novels show her years of research into forensic and scientific detection, while McDermid has recently published a fascinating non-fiction work, Forensics: An Anatomy of Crime.
As ever, Bloody Scotland includes lots of events that don’t quite conform to the standard book festival template. After its huge popularity in 2014, the festival restages its Scotland vs. England all-crime-writers football match, with team captain Ian Rankin and star strikers Chris Brookmyre and Doug Johnstone already confirmed for the Scotland squad. Whose Crime Is It Anyway? sees comedian Hardeep Singh Kohli and a live audience force authors Caro Ramsay, Kevin Wignall and Brookmyre to improvise the plot of a novel live onstage. The festival will also be taking over Stirling’s famous Curly Coo pub for a night of song and comedy hosted by a number of authors.
Scottish crime writers including William McIlvanney, Doug Johnstone, Craig Robertson and Neil Broadfoot look at what make Glasgow and Edinburgh such distinctive settings for noir fiction, while a special true crime event looks sees Tom Wood, one of the leading officers in Edinburgh’s notorious World’s End Murders case, in conversation with journalist Bob Smyth, who covered the case extensively.
There are also a number of events celebrating crime fiction’s next generation. Bestselling author Alex Gray presents her choice of the best new crime books around (and their authors); highly acclaimed debut novelists Lucy Ribchester (The Hourglass Factory) and Not The Booker Prize-winner Simon Sylvester (The Visitors) make first-time appearances with their alternative takes on the genre, and the Pitch Perfect event offers new writers the chance to pitch their novels and get advice from a panel of publishing experts. The festival also teams up with other established crime writing organisations, including Nordic Noir, Brighton’s Dark & Stormy Festival and the authors’ collective Killer Women.
Finally, the festival will also include the fourth annual Bloody Scotland Crime Book of the Year Award – a gala dinner in the company of major crime writers. Last year’s winner, Peter May, will be opening the festival in conversation with Val McDermid.