Saturday 20 August 2016

Policing a Nation - Getting It Right

Earlier this year I was invited to have dinner with the new Police Scotland Chief Phil Gormley and his wife Laura, a former senior police officer in her own right. It was a small affair, hosted by a friend of Phil Gormley to introduce him to Scotland’s crime writing community, and to allow us to chat informally to the new Police Constable about our work and our future access to Police Scotland, which has historically been very good.

Last year I visited the Gartcosh Campus, the new and future design of policing and forensic work in Scotland, with fellow crime writers Chris Brookmyre, Alex Gray, Craig Robertson and Ian Rankin, where we had had access to senior police officers across all disciplines.
Lin Anderson, Ian Rankin, Alex Gray, Chris Brookmyre at Gartcosh Campus

We Scottish crime writers value the support and openness we have with our police service and its associated professionals, and at Gartcosh the police officers assured us that they valued the benefit to them of us writers, within the limits of our fiction, ‘getting it right’ so that the public might better understand the way the police work.

I recently visited Stavanger in Norway. My next book, for publication in 2017, involves a joint police investigation between Norway and Scotland. I approached the Norwegian Consulate in Edinburgh in the first instance and they were delighted to put me in touch with Stavanger police.

Stavanger Police Station

When I arrived at the Stavanger police station, I found myself shown into a room with the heads of every force area I had intimated might feature in the book I am writing. I was also treated to Norwegian delicacies along with the coffee and tea, although I was so in awe of who I now had access to, I could hardly eat a bite.

The detailed material they gave me during the meeting was extraordinary. I learned for example that Norway, although not being a member of the EU has, in the Stravanger region, 100 different languages spoken as a result of the requirement to have open borders to access the European free trade area. Since then I have been in constant contact with them and they’ve answered every question I’ve posed. I look forward to launching Book 12 in my Rhona MacLeod series there as well as in Scotland.

During my visitor to Stavanger I also met Mohammad Habeeb, who was brought to Stavanger via ICORN, the International Cities of Refuge Network. Mohammad, a literary translator from Syria, whose translations include James Kelman’s  How Late it Was How Late into Arabic, had been imprisoned for nine years for writing about human rights.

He’d lived in a cell with five other prisoners. Despite this, he had managed to have manuscripts smuggled in, and translated them to support his wife and their newly born son, who he didn’t see for nine years.

ICORN Cities

A wall plaque in the Stavanger Cultural Centre, which is the global admistration centre for ICORN,  lists the ICORN cities which have provided homes to persecuted writers. Norwich in England is listed, and there are multiple locations in Norway, but no network locations in Scotland as yet, something which we should seek to remedy.

After hearing Mohammad’s story, I then told him that my next visit was to the Norwegian police. He smiled and told me that he could see that, unlike his experience in Syria, in Norway public institutions like the police worked for, and in support of, the citizens.

In Scotland, we are fortunately in a similar situation with our public services.  We are able to question approaches that are being taken, demand high standards, and expect transparency. When Ian Rankin chatted to his audience at the Edinburgh Book Festival and indicated that crime writers had been given police time, he was giving voice to the positive experience that most of us have when seeking help with our work from the police and other public servants in Scotland.  We couldn’t write our books without it.

Related links:-

Ian Rankin reveals Police Scotland chief had dinner with crime writers

Crime Writers at the Crime Campus

ICORN Cities of Refuge

Tuesday 9 August 2016

Sanday - A Very Special Island

Two books ago, I was invited to take part in Orkney and Shetland’s libraries’ 24 islands in 24 hours event. Anne Cleeves, fellow crime writer and author of the Shetland series, together with Stewart Bain (Librarian of the year 2016) were to the fore in the organisation of this ambitious project.

I visited three islands with Paths of the Dead, one of which was Sanday. Paul Harrison, true crime writer, hosted the event at his writer’s retreat. I was delighted to visit Sanday at last. When I used to live on mainland Orkney, my husband John had waxed lyrical about Sanday, where he’d played football on a midsummer’s day at midnight, having been asked by the man-short Stenness team to be in goal, even though we were then living in Orphir!

I arrived on the tiny island hopper aircraft. Climbing into a plane that seemed little bigger than a bumble bee, and seeing the itinerant music teacher complete with her fiddle, put in her earplugs, suggested it would be a noisy crossing. It was. And, because of a typical change in the weather, I had to take the ferry back to Kirkwall later in the day.

Picked up by Paul at the tiny airstrip, we headed for his home, a converted primary school from where he runs excellent courses in writing about crime.

My fabulous audience included Karen Binnie Douglas who became a great fan of the Rhona books and a friend. After the event, having a cup of tea with Paul and his partner, he handed me a clear evidence bag, suggesting I might be interested in its contents.

I must admit I felt a little strange looking in on what looked like an ancient muslin flower which might have fallen from Miss Haversham’s veil. When he told me its story I immediately knew that it could be the core of a Rhona book. Thus None but the Dead was born.

Two years later, I launched the book on Sanday with the enthusiastic help of Myra Stockton who was at that initial '24 islands' event. And what a fabulous launch it was. We set off for Sanday with the Orkney Library Saturday Slaughters book club and Stewart Bain, despite the dire warnings that we might not return because of gales.

The island turned out in force for the launch. Books were sold out in double time, and we then sat down with 140 islanders to enjoy a Sanday Soulka feast, with all of the food sourced in Orkney.

After getting back to Kirkwall through high seas, I signed the rest of the copies of None But The Dead that the fabulous Orcadian bookshop had in stock, and signed more later in the week, before I left Orkney.

What can I say? If you have never visited Orkney, and Sanday, you should - magical islands which house Neolithic remains older than Stonehenge. But best of all are the wonderful people who make you so welcome there.

None But The Dead was longlisted for the McIllvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year. Please buy a copy at a bookstore, or buy online. Reviews welcome!

'The bleak landscape is beautifully described, giving this popular series a new lease of life' - The Sunday Times

Tuesday 2 August 2016

Authors Gunning for the McIlvanney Prize

My book The Special Dead is included in a lovely piece in the Daily Record today by Jane Hamilton on 'authors gunning for the McIlvanney Prize', featuring three of the longlist contenders: The Special Dead, A Fine House in Trinity, and The Damage Done. (all ten longlist books shown below)

To read the Daily Record website piece on Lin Anderson click here.


See also:-

Godfather of Tartan Noir Led the Way for Others

Longlist Announced for the McIlvanney Prize Scottish Crime Book of the Year 2016

Monday 1 August 2016

Godfather of Tartan Noir Led the Way for Others

There is a great piece in today's Daily Record by Jane Hamilton about Willie McIlvanney and his legacy, confirming that in recognition of his contribution to crime fiction, the annual Scottish Crime Book of the Year has been renamed The McIlvanney Prize.

The Longlist of 10 books is a genuine testament to the current strength of Scottish crime writing

The winner will be announced on Friday 9th September at the Bloody Scotland festival, with a prize of £1,000.