Bloody Scotland – My Top Five Moments

11/4/2017

I’m sitting at the back of St Osmand’s High School in Stirling listening to Helen Grant as she describes a visit to the catacombs of Paris. She draws an ‘Ooooh’ from the S2 pupils with a picture of skulls and bones. This is my start to Bloody Scotland 2017.

What lies ahead is nearly three days of crime writers entertaining Bloody Scotland audiences.

This has been a record festival. We launched six years ago and we’ve grown every year – our audience for 2017 was close to 8,500.

I’ve been part of the festival organising committee since day one and, sitting in the afterglow of this year’s festival, I’d have to say it has topped them all.

In truth I’m a bit tired, my iPhone says I walked some twenty odd miles over the weekend, between festival venues, but it was all worth it as there were some magical high spots. So, with this in mind, I thought I might list my personal top 5 moments from Bloody Scotland 2017:

5) The Scotland v England Authors Football Game (for the record Scotland won 6:3.)

Did I kick a ball? No. Was I an unused substitute? No. Did I take on the job of refereeing? No. I was behind the scenes, marking out the football pitch, covering my new shoes in paint, sweating profusely into my favourite  shirt, moving Craig Robertson’s (fellow board member) car because he had blocked the hotel car park and after all that I had to leave at half time, missing the winning goals. But I still loved it.

The Scotland Team and the Bloody Cup (note that Craig’s head has been replaced by Ian Rankins)

4) Crime in the Spotlight.

A few years back, I had a simple idea, shamelessly lifted from the music world, to allow debut authors a chance to be the support act to more established authors. This became known as Crime in the Spotlight. For a few minutes, just before the Bloody Scotland main events get underway, the new authors have the opportunity to tell the audience a little about themselves and read from their work. This year there were eleven of them – and they were fantastic – every one of them shone like a mini supernova.

Charlie McGarry speaking just before Chris Brookmyre lets rip

3) The Bloody Scotland Anthology Launch.

Eleven of Scotland’s best crime writers, and myself, were asked to pen a short story that featured a famous Scottish monument for the Historic Environment Scotland anthology, Bloody Scotland. I chose the little known but fascinating Crookston Castle, located on the south side of Glasgow, and set my story around the idea of a siege for the 21st century. The book launch was held on the Friday night in Stirling Castle’s Great Room.

Jamie Crawford (HES), Chris Brookmyre, E.J. Thomson, Craig Robertson, Val McDermid, me, Sara Sheridan, Denise Mina, Doug Johnstone and Lin Anderson (10 of the 12 authors from the Bloody Scotland anthology)

My box of anthologies.

2) The Torch Lit Procession.

Picture this – 300 people marching down from Stirling Castle, sun sinking in the west, led by two of the greatest crime writers ever, Val McDermid and Ian Rankin. Every one of the participants holding a burning torch aloft. Hair-raising is an oft used term – and, in this case, it isn’t apt – because it isn’t enough – the scene as we wove into the town, the line of glowing lights waving and flickering above the smiling crowd was brain-raising.

Yours truly mid parade.

1) Four Blokes in Search of a Plot.

A few years ago, fellow authors Neil Broadfoot, Mark Leggat and Douglas Skelton did me the honour of letting me share a stage with them for a book event. Four Blokes in Search of a Plot was born. With a dozen or more events behind us we upped the ante for our panel at Bloody Scotland. Following a session for ScotLitFest where the four of us had to make up a story live on Facebook we took this idea to the stage. While three of us chatted with the audience one of us had to put on the Tea Cosy of Inspiration and type. After writing fifty words the typist stopped and read their creation. The audience then chose who should be the next to wear the Tea Cosy and to write the next fifty words. So we wrote a very short story, (to be circulated soon), demonstrating that the first words from many writers’ minds are raw and in need of a good, hard edit. But boy we had fun – and now we’ve agreed to take the format on the road. If you want to know more see our Facebook site @4blokes.

Four Blokes mid flow at the festival. (From the left Neil Broadfoot, me, Douglas Skelton (with the Tea Cosy of Inspiration on his head) and Mark Leggatt.

Of course, this list doesn’t recognise how superb all the authors were over the weekend. It doesn’t pay homage to the enthusiasm of our audience, or highlight the hard work of the board. It doesn’t praise the unbelievable energy of the volunteers and fails to thank our sponsors for their support. For all of this I am amazed and grateful because these things all make Bloody Scotland very, very special indeed.

Me bagging a photo with Ann Cleeves and Dougie Henshall.