Only almost 30 years late…

One of the problems of days only having 24 hours in them is that it doesn’t possibly give you enough time to get everything done. I’m not talking about the mundane day to day stuff, but more like, well… I thought I’d have mastered at least fifteen languages by now, and be a 7th dan black belt in something obscure and dangerous. And it means that oftentimes things slip the net.

Getting stuck into the works of Ian Rankin is one of them, I’m ashamed to say. A name that is essentially a byword for peak British crime writing, and I haven’t managed to get there yet… but thankfully I’ve managed to put it right.

I’m so glad I did. Rankin’s words have been dissected by hundreds of much worthier voices (and much more on-the-ball voices) but I can easily see Rankin’s work nestling in alongside my all time favourites and biggest influences. There is a bravery, a poeticism, an economical forthright darkness that had me enthralled. One of my favourite descriptions of Adrian McKinty’s work is ‘this is hard boiled crime fiction with a poet’s touch‘ (Peter Blauner), and that felt resonant here too – and it was reading Rankin’s praise of McKinty that reminded me I had to get onto Knots and Crosses, the first of Rankin’s iconic Rebus series.

In doing so I have found another mesmerising literary voice whose work I can’t wait to press right through. I have ordered the next ten Rebus books as a start. It’s not often I’ll be so impetuous but on this occasion I’ve no doubt it’s the right move.

Wait, is that the doorbell? Please be the postman with a sizeable book-shaped parcel…

 

Reflections on Bloody Scotland 2014 (*spoiler alert* It was GREAT)

Hey folks! Got back late last night after an enthralling weekend Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival, and am jiggered to the bone. Had such an interesting, fascinating and fun time, and will definitely be going back. In fact, if it was on again next weekend, I’d be checking hotel availability pronto – it was that good.

Why? A number of things, but the standout feature was the warmth of the event. It was downright friendly! First thing I did on arrival was check out the Festival Bookshop (another triumph, albeit one that is more guiltily-enjoyed and wallet-draining), but before going in, I popped my head around the corner of the room next door. I didn’t know it was the green room, but kind of worked it out pretty quickly when I saw actual authors in there. My legs jellied just like when I bumped into John Barnes in Toys’R’Us in Warrington, 1990. But every author I had the privilege of meeting was extremely friendly, down-to-earth, chatty, warm and seemed delighted to be there. This led to some fascinating conversations, and has sent me home as a new resident of cloud 9.

And as for the events themselves? Superb. I was lucky enough to attend the Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award dinner, and it was a special evening, with excellent food, great company and – yes, you guessed it – a very friendly atmosphere. Not to mention some cracking whiskey. A love for crime fiction was apparent in everyone I spoke to, and it provided a basis for good conversation. At the dinner I was extremely lucky to be seated near the lovely Alexandra Sokoloff, whose book The Harrowing is one that I had enjoyed very much a few years previously. She was so generous with her time, and spoke at length with myself (over a glass of Deanston, naturally). I’ll always be grateful for the kindness she showed me, and the advice she imparted.

I enjoyed immensely hearing the authors speak at the events about their own works and the stories behind their own journeys as novelists, and especially enjoyed hearing from Nele Neuhaus, Danielle Ramsay, Ragnar Jonasson, Quentin Bates and Yrsa Sigurdardottir. It felt a bit like a masterclass at times, with nuggets of information raining readily. After each session I was dizzy with adrenaline and left invigorated, and now have so much to think about and look back upon with interest.

A special mention must go to the city of Stirling and Scotland as a whole. It was a pleasure and an honour to be enshrined in one of Scotland’s iconic cities with some of the most dazzling domestic and international writers. I couldn’t recommend the festival highly enough, and thank everyone involved, from the authors, who were so generous with their time, to the organisers, whose evident commitment behind the scenes led to a throughly enjoyable time.

I will definitely be back – in fact, how are you fixed for next week?