Tuesday 31 January 2017

Bloody Scotland goes to India

Thriller writer Doug Johnstone and I are heading to the 4th Kolkata Literature Festival 2–4th February 2017 to promote Scottish Crime Writing,  and in particular the annual Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival which takes place this year in Stirling 9th-11th September 2017.

Kolkata Literature Festival is a relatively young literature festival that takes places within the folds of the International Kolkata Book Fair (world's largest book fair), to celebrate the written word, and the different facets of it – publishing, story telling, theatre, documentaries to name a few.

Doug and I will be accompanied by Jenny Brown, Chair of the Bloody Scotland committee, and the trip has been made possible by a partnership between the British Council and Creative Scotland


Former Bloody Scotland Festival Manager Dom Hastings, who now works for the British Council,  will meet us there. We look forward to seeing a reciprocal visit by Indian writers to our Bloody Scotland festival in a future year.

I have never visited India before, although both Jenny and Dom have, for various festivals and book trade fairs. I have however lived in the tropics, having worked for five years in Northern Nigeria, alongside other expats from the Indian subcontinent. In fact when I began my writing career it was with short stories set in this setting in Nigeria. So I’ll be looking for inspiration during my Kolkata visit.

I am at present thoroughly enjoying the detective novel, A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee which is set in Kolkata (Calcutta) in 1919. Abir, a London based Scot has already appeared at Bloody Scotland to great acclaim and I would highly recommend his novel which won the 2014 Telegraph Harvill Secker crime writing competition.

We have individual author events and a Bloody Scotland event at the festival, and will be reporting our experiences on social media (main festival hashtag is #KLF17).


Related links:-

Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival

Kolkata Literature FestivalKolkata Book Fair

Monday 30 January 2017

'The Bridge' without a bridge: FOLLOW THE DEAD

Although my home village of Carrbridge is in the Spey Valley, I’ve never set a Rhona MacLeod novel there until now.

When my children were young they spent a great deal of time on Cairngorm with the Cairngorm Ski Club, in all weathers I might add. Me, not so often, and usually only when there was little wind and the sun came out.

The idea for the book came to me on Hogmanay 2015 when the whole family was back at home in Carrbridge, and since we don’t have a TV, we were playing daft games while waiting for ‘the bells’ at midnight.

I suddenly imagined what it might be like to spend Hogmanay on Cairngorm in a blizzard and what might happen there and thus the story was born.

I was helped in my research by Willie Anderson, Leader of Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team, and many of their amazing stories of survival and death in what is Scotland’s Arctic. The truth is far stranger and more wonderful than anything we can create in fiction.

The forensic side of the investigation led by Rhona is always for me the most fascinating aspect of the story. Holidaying in Aviemore where Sean is playing a Hogmanay gig, Rhona joins Professor Charlie  Robertson, former colleague and pathologist who’s part of CMRT, to investigate a downed plane on frozen Loch A’an.  CMRT being the first onto any scene of death on the mountain, are resposible for the initial forensic examination. What Rhona and Charlie find is not what they expected.

I knew shortly after I began Follow the Dead that the case would be a joint investigation with Norway. Five years ago I was asked to give a talk at the Edinburgh Film Festival about Nordic and Tartan Noir.

I had always known of the close connections between Norway and Scotland, mainly because I lived and worked in Orkney for a time and the idea of a joint investigation fascinated me. Think of  The Bridge but without the bridge ... just miles of North Sea.

I contacted the Norwegian Consulate in Edinburgh and they put me in touch with the Cultural Centre in Stavanger who in turn set up meetings with Stavanger Police Force. I flew to Stavanger from Aberdeen, a short hop of 50 minutes and spent four days there.


Police Inspector Egil Erikson and his team couldn’t have been more helpful and as a result, the character of Police Inspector Alvis Olsen in Follow the Dead was created.


Update 4th September, 2018: Follow the Dead is shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of 2018.

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