Scotland has provided a dramatic backdrop to many a murderous deed throughout history, a rich tapestry of intrigue, betrayal and death. Whether the beautiful Madeleine Smith did, indeed, poison her clingy Victorian lover Emile L’Angelier – despite a Not Proven verdict -continues to generate debate. The murder of Lord Darnley divides opinion and one can still opt to view Burke’s skeleton and death mask at Surgeon’s Hall, Edinburgh.
Hell, we love a good murder with a bit of mystery thrown in for good measure. It’s like the weather; we can talk about it endlessly. Perhaps it is this love that makes it the most popular genre read in Scotland’s libraries and bookshops, and that passion has spawned generations of quality Scots writers, able to bring crime fiction to life.
It is certainly true that the genre of crime writing is particularly well served in Scotland, with high-calibre authors such as Alex Gray, William McIlvanney, Val McDermid, Christopher Brookmyre and Ian Rankin appearing regularly in the ‘Best Seller’ lists.
Thankfully, to service our appetite, the first dedicated crime writing festival north of the border is arriving cloak and dagger, infiltrating the centre of Stirling this weekend. Running from 14th – 16th September, Bloody Scotland will have 40 crime authors, 20 events and a diverse program to appeal to fans of historical, true, contemporary or teen crime fiction. Readings, discussions and debates should pique the interest of fans, while a Crime Writing Masterclass (in partnership with the University of Stirling) will help aspiring writers hone their technique.
Ian Rankin has been a great proponent of the festival, and at the launch last year offered his thoughts:
“Scottish crime writing continues to fire on all cylinders, and talented new voices keep appearing. Bloody Scotland is a long overdue celebration of Scotland’s favourite genre, one of its most successful cultural exports – and a chance to hear some of the most interesting international writers too.”
And there is plenty to celebrate, see and do, with a full program of events coming to fruition over the three days.
Author Alex Gray is joined by Professor Jim Fraser, director of Forensic Science at Strathclyde University, to discuss her personal forays into the gruesome world of post mortem examination, and to explain how she has used this to authenticate the female pathologist character in her novels. Elsewhere, Peter James and Professor Sheila McLean discuss the role of evil within the crime novel, the moral ground and whether it illuminates the darker side of our curiosity.
Being Stirling, the town has embraced the spirit of the festival. Crime and Punishment is based at the Old Town Jail and is the result of collaboration between Creative Stirling and the Bloody Scotland Festival. The plan is to host special events to celebrate the nation’s first Crime Writing Festival.
The first event will take place in the unique outdoor surroundings of Stirling Old Town Jail Yard to welcome visitors to the Festival. An evening of acoustic music and fine local beers from the Bridge Of Allan Brewery are lined up to keep guest oiled and mellow. There will be some blood-soaked ‘crime’ graffiti art being created live on site, as well as literature, locally produced artwork and fine prison stovies for sale to keep you hale and hearty, and to soak up all the beer.
Tickets for Bloody Scotland are available from the Albert Halls and Tolbooth, Stirling, theatre box offices. Call 01786 473544 or online from ticketSOUP.com