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Wednesday, 1 November 2017

The Bloody Scotland Weekend

Bloody Scotland 2017
Report by Marsali Taylor  

From the opening in the Grand Hall of Stirling Castle to the triumphant close on Sunday evening, Bloody Scotland was bigger and better than ever, with an extra venue and a programme of fringe events added to an already hectic schedule. Ticket sales had soared, and top crime names mingled with new writers and crime professionals in a weekend that had something for everyone.
After a day of Crime Writing Masterclasses with Sophie Hannah, Doug Johnstone and C.L. Taylor, the Festival kicked off with two very special events in Stirling Castle. Guests were welcomed into the castle by a piper, and ushered into the Grand Hall, whose beamed ceiling and throne dais are just as they were when James VI was christened there. After an introduction by Festival Director Bob McDevitt, and a welcome from Stirling’s Lady Provost, there was the launch of Bloody Scotland’s first anthology, Bloody Scotland, in conjunction wiith Historic Scotland. It features short stories set in atmospheric places by a selection of Scotland’s finest.

Stirling Castle  

After that, there was the presentation of the cIlvanney Prize for the best Scottish crime novel of the year. The winner was Denise Mina, for her novel about serial killer Peter Manuel, The Long Drop.

Denise Mina
This was followed by a wonderful torchlit procession through the old town down to the Albert Halls. We were all handed a long wax taper, with a paper sword hilt. The pipe band struck up, and, led by Val McDermid and Ian Rankin, we wound our fiery way down past the Kirk of the Holy Rude and between houses with crowstepped gables.

Mark Billingham and Ian Rankin
After that, it was straight to Ian Rankin and ‘Thirty years of Rebus’. Mark Billingham took Rankin through his career, from the early expectation of being an accountant (“My uncle was one, and he had his own car!”), through a change at University to English. His first Rebus novel was meant to be literary fiction, an update of Jekyll and Hyde. “I’d always been aware of the old and new town side by side – my PhD was on Muriel Spark, creator of Miss Brodie – Deacon William Brodie was the original deacon by day, burglar by night, and Robert Louis Stevenson had a wardrobe made by him in his bedroom… there were lots of Glasgow writers, but nobody was using this amazing city!” In Hide and Seek a number of characters were named after characters in Jekyll and Hyde, and Rebus was a potential killer, “but nobody got it!” 
Rankin found he’d written a crime novel by mistake, but his tutor consoled him by reminding him of John Buchan. Asked if there was anything he’d have changed about Rebus if he’d known he’d still be writing about him thirty years on, Rankin wished he’d made him younger, and not crammed so much back story into that first novel. He really had meant Exit Music to be the end, but then he got an idea for a cold case, which needed a retired detective, so he brought Rebus back for one book – and then the retirement age changed. Police Scotland, he felt, had great opportunities for a novelist, with a room in each main city station for a crack team to come in and sideline toe locals. Cafferty, who is Hyde to Rebus’s Jekyll, and Rebus himself, share the problem of ageing: the question, ‘Now I’m older, am I really any use in the world?’

Billingham asked him about TV adaptations of Rebus, and Rankin said he deliberately didn’t watch them – ‘I want the Rebus in my head to remain my Rebus.’ Yes, he admitted, he did watch his cameo as a heroic pedestrian in The Falls – a heroic pedestrian who wasn’t in the book; and by the way, real rain doesn’t work on TV. It was milky water, and his jacket stank by the end of the day. However, he enjoys the Radio 4 three-hour versions, which he finds very true to the books.

Ideas – well, he finds them all over the place – the latest came from Denise Mina’s Macilvanney winner, The Long Drop – the phrase ‘Death Watch Journal’ is the title of an up-coming BBC serial.

Rankin couldn’t think of advice Rebus could give to his 30 years ago self, but for Rankin himself it would be, ‘Keep going, it’s going to be okay.’ He recalled his lowest point, when he was living in France with his wife and children on £5000 a year, and very close to giving up – and then, while he was at Bouchercon, he received a six-figure royalty statement and realised (after he’d checked it wasn’t a mistake!) that he’d made it.

Billingham then opened up the questions to the audience. Rankin ruled out a ‘young Rebus’ novel – “It would be a historical novel – that would be a lot of research, hassle, I’m resistant to that.” Asked about his titles, he said he used music titles to set up the theme of the book, but not lyrics – “Only JK Rowling can afford to use lyrics!”  No, he said to his next questioner, he wasn’t a plotter – no plan, no whiteboard, just post-it notes to remind him of names. He researched between the first and second drafts, when he knew what he wanted to know… though he sometimes got it wrong. He gave the Ox Bar a footrail, and people asked about it so often that Harry had one built (‘You owe me £1000, Rankin …’)

Straight after ’30 years of Rebus’ came ‘Never mind the Buzzcocks!’ – two teams of crime writers, expertly quiz-mastered by Craig Robertson. Mark Billingham’s team was Alexandra Benedict and Christopher Brookmyre, and Val McDermid led Catriona Macpherson and Stuart Neville in a game of memory, wits, guesswork and pantomime. There was a theme tune round, a slide-show of ‘the way they were’ photos, a true/faslse round (No, Ann Cleeves and Brenda Blethryn didn’t discover they were second cousins, nor was Hemming Mantell 78th in line to the Swedish throne). Mime the Crime (titles) had Catriona desperately trying to mime ‘rhymes with piss’, and yes, in the Knitting Crimes round, there really are books out there entitled Silence of the Lamas, Knit fast, die young, and Purl up and Die. Then there was the kazoo the theme tune round, which had the whole audience joining in the Van der Valk and Scooby Doo tunes, a selection of one-star reviews, and a quick-fire round in which Mark Billingham took the first six points, and Val McDermid the second six. Mark’s team won by two points.
Val McDermid

After that it was party time, as the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers surged on stage. After a gentler opening by Val McDermid with that sinister ballad, The Twa Corbies, then they launched into rock standards, with Chris Brookmyre joining Val on vocals, Mark Billingham on vocals and guitar, Stuart Neville playing a mean lead guitar, Luca Veste on bass, and Doug Johnston pounding the drums at the back. It was a great night.

My first choice for Saturday morning was ‘The Policing behind Procedurals’, with Alex Gray talking to the Deputy Chief Constable, now Acting Chief Constable, of Police Scotland, Iain Livingstone, and Detective Superintendant Duncan Sloan. Gray began by reading from her newest book, Still Dark, which shows Lorimer dealing with the human cost of being a policeman. Both her guests agreed that it can be very hard; yes, there were always cases you experienced sleepless nights over. However, in front like policing you experience traumatic incidents daily, DI Sloan said, and you normalise them, but some hit home more – for example, because he had children, cases with children affected him. Generally, uniformed officers were the first responders, and they were younger, it was a formative experience for them. He recalled one death from his early career, the accidental death of a boy of thirteen at Hogmanay, the day before his birthday. ACC Livingstone felt the force was better now at supporting officers – in his younger days, counselling was an evening at the pub. Now, they had the wonderful facility of Castlebrae, which did physio etc for police officers injured in the course of duty, but also did counselling. Both officers agreed on the importance of looking after your team – in real life, DI Sloan said, he led a team of specialists, and ACC Livingstone agreed: police work now was about disciplined, structured teamwork – there were no real-life maverick loner detectives who have inspirations.

Asked about how ‘right’ crime writers got it, DI Sloan said that aspects of it were very right, but he understood that there had to be excitement in the story too! ACC Livingstone felt it was important to be realistic. The work of the police has changed because society has – there are fewer ‘old fashioned bobbies on the beat’ but that’s because crime has moved away from the beat, patrolling public spaces, into private space too – it used to be that nobody was interested in a ‘domestic’ – and on to virtual space, with cyber crime – everyone now has a smartphone, and for criminals that’s an opportunity. The police needed to be there for prevention of crime, protecting the public where crime was. Talking of cold cases, he said you have to remember how recently many things have developed, and not be critical of how the case was handled at the time. The lesson for now is to be aware of future developments – it was the forensic scientist’s faith in the future that made him protect the evidence that finally convicted the ‘World’s End killer’.  TV shows got it wrong, they agreed, but they were for a different purpose, entertainment – policing was about verifiable facts.

Gray asked both officers about differences between Scotland and England. ACC Livingstone said that the law is different (it was excepted from the act of Union). Scotland has a jury of fifteen, and all evidence has to be corroborated by two people. The role of the Procurator Fiscal was investigative, unlike the prosecution role of the Crown in England. DI Sloan said the decision-making process was different; he and his team sat around the table saying, ‘Do we have a case to take to the Procurator Fiscal?’

Advice for crime writers? For DI Sloan, ‘It’s not about me solving the crime – what’s behind us is the reason why we joined the force – a dogged determination to get the bad guy in jail.’ ACC Livingstone commented on what a diverse operation the police is, with officers from every single profession – everyone was ex something else – which, Gray commented, could be stimulating and inspirational for a writer.

An audience member asked if they thought of their own family when going into danger. DI Sloan said often you didn’t know it was a dangerous situation till you were in it. Someone screaming had been called in by a neighbour … it could be a mouse or a murder. You had the training, but once you were there instinct had to help you too. There were huge expectations of those first responders, ACC Livingstone said; they might need first aid, languages, people skills … Police spoke about the ‘golden hour’ – the important times were the first ten minutes, the first hour, the first day – often errors made there could compromise your case.

The final question asked the officers how well they felt the press portrayed them. DC Sloan said it depended on how you measured crime – what statistics you used. For example, he said, only 20% of calls to the police involved a crime. The statistics showed most crimes falling, but rape was rising – not because it was more prevalent, but because people now had the confidence to come forward. We needed to get better at measuring, but the first question to be asked was ‘What do people want of the police?’

This was a fascinating, informative discussion which reminded us all of the passion and determination that police officers bring to their work.

After that I headed down to the new venue, Allan Park South Church hall, to listen to three lawyers moonlighting as crime-writers in ‘Can you handle the Truth?’ Steve Cavanagh, Imran Mahmood and G J Moffat were chaired by advocate Laura Thompson, and the panel followed the format of a reading from each author, and then questions. Asked about his characher, Eddie Flynn, Cavanagh admittedthat they had a good deal in common: the same politics and sense of justice / injustice; however, Cavanagh said, Eddie’s best results came from bending the law, he was a bit of a conman … ‘No, I’m a practising lawyer!’

After his reading, Mahmood was asked about where his story had come from, and he said that it was a mixture of three different cases – the shooting the drugs and the gangs were all real, woven into a composite story. For him, writing was about going deeper into that subculture – when he was interviewing a suspect, he learnt about their lives.

Thompson asked Moffat why he didn’t do many courtroom scenes, and he said because to make it exciting it had to be too full of inaccurcies. His inspiration for changing characters from his first series was a holiday in Cape Cod, and a love for American fiction – so he decided to write what he enjoyed reading.

Asked where they found the time to be full time lawyers and write, Cavanagh said he wrote from 10pm on – he didn’t need much sleep. Mahmood said he wrote all over the place – while waiting for juries to come back, in transit, on weekends … Moffat said he loved writing, it was his hobby, so he did it in the evenings and at weekends, the way other people watched TV or gardened – he wrote. For him it was escapism, he didn’t focus on the business of law, but on his characters.

An audience member asked if they never worried about dreaming up a scheme that would interest the criminal classes. Cavanagh said in his short story ‘The New York Punch’ he had dreamed up such a scheme – he thought it was a great idea, ‘but I’m sure there’s a snag!’ Mahmood felt that criminals weren’t bright or creative, so his schemes would never become reality, and Moffat agreed, and recounted the story of a young man on trial. He’d been caught on CCTV stuffing a joint up his jumper. ‘That’s no’ me’ he insisted in court – but he was wearing the identical clothes

That discussion brought it to lunchtime, then I took a brisk walk up Castle Hill to the Bloody Scotland Football Match, played on the ancient bowling green between two historic buildings: Stirling Jail and Cowane’s hospital. This year Scotland welcomed our Nordic cousins, Ragnar McJónas and Thomas McEnger, into the team, and by half-time Ian Rankin, the Scotland captain, was smiling: 3:1. In spite of strong work by England, including a last-minute goal, the result was a satisfying 6:3 to Scotland. 

After the match, I headed down to the Golden Lion’s magnificent ballroom for a trip to ‘The Dark Lands’ with Ragnar Jónasson and Thomas Enger, both freshly-showered, pink with effort, and clutching the cup, and Lin Anderson, flushed with pride in her team. They were chaired by Miriam Owen. The panel began musically, with Enger playing the lullaby his main character, Hemming, composed before the birth of the son who was later killed in a fire. Each panellist then described their new book, before questions from the chair.

Owen’s first question was about the way the different writers used the past. Enger felt that using the past, particularly past secrets, connects with people because it’s normal – everyone has secrets in their past. Jónasson enjoys writing in the past because it’s easier – no mobiles, for a start! ‘There are no mobile signals on the Cairngorms,’ Anderson pointed out. She finds it fascinating when past and present collide – and secrets make you want to turn the page, to find out …

Owen then asked about psychological darkness, and how the authors go about researching it. Enger said you had to imagine – his series centres around a man who has lost his son, and having children himself, and having to imagine losing them, was difficult and draining. Anderson said she’d write the opening scene then let the characters lead her to the next stage – in the case of this book, to the North Sea, a bridge without a bridge … Other research, well, she found out from the Mountain Rescue team that the RAF used to airlift bodies off the mountain, but Bristow’s helicopters don’t, leaving the Mountain Rescue team to carry them down … so now all bodies are declared ‘There might be signs of life’. Enger found the building for his fight club, but no, he didn’t do the research of being beaten up! Jónasson said he was surprised sometimes that Ari was still alive – he was much darker than Jónasson had intended.

Asked if they were affected by the more contrasting seasons of the north, Icelander Jónasson said he didn’t write from May to July – he slept less and enjoyed the daylight. Enger said that he wrote all through the year – Oslo is much less dark than Iceland, with six hours of daylight even in winter - but it was easier during winter, he wasn’t tempted to go out and play. Anderson said she’d found the light in Orkney summers disconcerting, but she’d also stayed in Nigeria where the sun went down instantly, and there she’d missed the long Scottish summer evenings, and the changing seasons. Enger agreed that he really liked the seasons.

Owen asked Enger if he’d found writing from a woman’s point of view challenging, and he said it was difficult, but he just had to try and imagine it. He didn’t want Nora, Hemming’s ex-wife, to be a mirror image of Hemming; she’s more driven, determined to forget, using her work. However, he said, it’s hard to think yourself into any character – you just have to imagine it.

Owne asked Anderson why she’d made Rona McLeod a forensic scientist, and Anderson told us how an ex-pupil had studied this, and got Anderson intrigued – ‘I just fell in love with the forensic scinece thing, I did a diploma. I taught computing science for twenty years, and it was that development in computers that brought about all the developments in forensics.’

A question from the floor had us all having a shot at saying ‘Siglifjordur’ and Jónasson said that one thing he’d learned from his Agatha Christie translations was to start Ari younger – Hercule Poirot started his investigations in late life in the 20s, and was still going strong in the 70s, making him at least 120!

Another question asked about superstitions; would the authors use them? Anderson wasn’t sure; she had a Scottish granny and an Irish one, and she felt that ‘the only thing that we know is that we don’t know’.  Yet another question asked, ‘If you could go back to your first book, would you change anything?’ Enger said he’d planned to write a certain number of books and killed off a character in book 2 that he now realised he needed … Anderson said, ‘Never kill an animal!’ She’d killed a cat, Chance, in one book, and Alex Gray was so incensed that she’d brought it back to life in her next book … named Second Chance.

Two questions brought up fiction versus reality – the difficulty of creating murders in places with a low crime rate. Iceland has 1.5 murders a year, but Jónasson worried more about getting ideas for his next ones; Norway has 30-35, and Enger committed 24 in his series – ‘but it’s entertainment!’ Favourite real places for crimes – for Anderson, it’s the places of the book she’s working on – Carrbridge and the Cairngorms, where she lived as a child, Sanday in Orkney, and Stavanger. Jónasson loves Siglafjordur, where his dad grew up, but he’s also going to use his favourite small island, off the south of Iceland, where time stands still. For Enger, it was the family summerhouse, which he used in Scarred – he writes a lot there, it has an inspiring 180 degree vista over the sea.

An audience member asked Jónasson if he was conscious of ‘selling Iceland’ to outsiders. No, he said, he was proud to be writing in Icelandic, for Icelanders – it’s a small language with only 350,000 speakers, so it was a privilege to be published in it.

Doug Johnson
Marsali Taylor
There were a number of evening events, including Ann Cleeves with Douglas Henshaw, and a live podcast, but I headed for Crime at the Coo, where the bar was already packed with people ready to hear crime writers indulge themselves in performing. Doug Johnstone took the stage first, followed by noir’s finest in a medley that ranged from traditional to country. The Slice Girls returned with outrageously curvy outfits, and followed that with an acted out bondage story. Later on Festival Director Bob McDevitt was reminded that he had only forty minutes left of being forty-nine… and a great time was had by all.

The Slice Girls
Chris Brookmyre and Doug Johnson
James Oswald, Prof Sue Black and Lin Anderson
My first event on Sunday – after a rehearsal for Inspector Faro investigates … - was ‘Getting rid of the Bodies’, with James Oswald and Professor Sue Black, the leading forensic scientist at the University of Dundee. They were interviewed by Lin Anderson. The event kicked off with the opening of Oswald’s new book, Written in Bones, in which the simple image of a body in a winter tree sparked off a whole story. How did it get up there? Professor Black’s problem, however, was how she was going to get it down – the answer included a cherry-picker with firemen and possibly the crime scene manager, and a drone or two to record everything in situ before it was moved. The important thing would be to make absolutely sure the body wasn’t injured on its way down. Anderson commented that for a big incident it’s often the firemen who create a large ‘forensic tent’.  

Asked about his resemblance to his detective, Tony McLean, Oswald said that there was a bit of him in all the characters, but that he did share a lot of traits with McLean, particularly the psychological handg-ups from being sent away to boarding school at an early age. He wanted Tony to be ‘a sort of orphan, very self-reliant.’ McLean finds it hard to trust others, he’s not a team player, which makes policing difficult for him. Oswald admitted to owning three Alfa Romeos ‘but only one working.’ He’d been asked if he’d based an incompetent DI on a real person – ‘No, it was every incompetent manager I’ve ever worked for.’ His work as a farmer is a really good counterpoint to writing; if he gets stuck with a plot, then he goes for a walk up the hill, or takes the tractor and ploughs a field. ‘Writing full-time would do my head in!’

Oswald had always written, he loved telling stories, but he had a lot of rejections, and when his parents’ farm needed someone to take it over, he did that, but also did one last throw of the dice by putting his first two books on Kindle … and suddenly, with that runaway success, his writing dreams came true. Professor Black had not idea what she wanted to be as a youngster; her first job, aged twelve, as in a butcher’s shop, and those skills were there much later, when she was working in Kosovo, and they needed to contribute a cow for a BBQ. She did biology at University for two years and was ‘bored rigid, counting dead fruit flies and slicing up plant stems.’ She went sideways into anatomy, and spent her third year dissecting a dead body – back to the butcher shop! She said that it was difficult for her students; that wasthe third year course, but many of them had never seen a dead body, and needed black humour to cope. However, she said under the black humour was a great deal of respect, and all her students turned up to the memorial service, in May, when the bodies are finally cremated. She felt it was a great gift from those who donated their bodies – the only request was ‘Learn.’

An interesting discussion about mortuary facilities followed. Anderson had been at a dmeonstration by Professor James Grieve about why a new mortuary was needed for Aberdeen. He’d invited everyone who was needed at a modern PM to be present, and the room was packed so solid that the Procurator Fiscal had to be on the other side of the glass window, and burst in, theatrically, to complain she couldn’t hear. He got his new facilities … Professor Black described how crime writers had helped raise half of the £2million needed for what is now the Val McDermid Mortuary in Dundee: Val McDermid had persuaded nine colleagues to create funds, and Caro Ramsay had launched a cookbook (at Bloody Scotland, and the cooking, Anderson recalled, involved a lot of alcohol). Stuart McBride donated all the profits from The Completely Wholesome Adventures of Skeleton Bob … Lee Child felt a Child Mortuary was inappropriate, so instead there’s a Jack Reacher Tank … Asked about a ‘body farm for Scotland’, Professor Black was determinedly against it. She doesn’t like the term ‘farm’ – what actually happens is bodies are left to watch how they decompose, with rodents, flies, etc – ‘it doesn’t show dignity, decency, respect for the dead.’ Over the thirty years the American facility has been open, it hasn’t helped with determination of time of death – everything is just too variable. Oswald commented that it had been pitched as a scientific facility, and it was fascinating to learn that it wasn’t. Professor Black said it was now just a source of bones; the situation was so artificial, and the site so contaminated that any results were meaningless.

Asked about research, Oswald said that he didn’t like pestering people; he reckoned you could get the basics from Ian Rankin’s books, and he didn’t want to write intense PP or forensic books – it could take two weeks to process one room, and DNA takes time. His touchstone is, ‘Is it plausible?’ If he finds he’s getting bogged down in the science while writing a scene, he goes back and rewrites the scene to avoid it; people wanted to be entertained.

Professor Black agreed with the entertainment value, but also felt it was important to get it right. Juries believed they were forensically aware, ‘the CSI effect’. One exercise they’d done in Dundee was a staged murder, with people collectingthe foresnic evidence, and their three ‘juries’ gave three different verdicts. The adversarial system in a courtroom meant the opposing lawyers had to show the forensic scientists as experts or idiots, and blind the jury with statistics. Judges did get forensic training, but juries also needed to understand what was possible … and that was where crime writers came in, Anderson agreed, as a bridge to the public.

My next event was Inspector Faro Investigates …, a play written by Alanna Knight, MBE, Queen of Scottish historical crime, and one of Bloody Scotland’s founders. Douglas Skelton hammed it up as Faro, ably assisted by Gordon Brown (with his father’s uniform and a Yorkshire accent) as Sergeant Brodie; Abir Mukherjee was a drunken Cornish gardener; I had great fun being the bereaved widow threatened by anonymous letters; and poor Harley Jane Kozak, who has the disadvantage of being a real actress (in When Harry met Sally and Parenthood) met her first encounter with Am Dram with horror, perfect diction and a mob cap – but she says she enjoyed it, and wants to return next year.

A lot of the audience flocked to the big finish, Linda La Plante, in the Albert Halls, but I stayed put to support my fellow actors, Doug Skelton and Gordon Brown, along with Neil Broadfoot and Mark Leggatt, in ‘Four Blokes in Search of a Plot’. I was glad I did; Lynda La Plante would have been excellent and interesting, but not rib-achingly funny. The premise was simple: the audience would give the panel a name (‘Stuart MacBride!’ someone called out, but the spelling was quickly changed to Stewart, for legal reasons), an object (‘A tattie-peeler!’), and pick someone to write first (‘Doug!’) Skelton donned the Teacosy of Inspiration and began tapping away into the laptop, while the rest of the panel answered questions from the audience about planning or not-planning – Broadfoot and Brown just launched in, while Leggatt was a meticulous planner – he’d once sent in a fifty-page synopsis. The down side of this, Brown said, was that he’d just finished one book and got it to proof stage when he suddenly realised his main character had no reason to be in on the ending at all, and had to ask for extra time to sort it. ‘A bit like Indiana Jones, that first story – he doesn’t need to be there for the storyline …you’ll never watch it in the same way again.’ [50 neil, gordon, douglas, mark; 51 doug teacosy mark keeps talking; 52 neil teacosy; 53 four blokes; 54 four blokes]

Skelton read out the story so far, which had a murderous Stewart MacBride lurking behind the curtains of the Golden Lion Ballroom, clutching a tatty peeler, the audience chose Broadfoot, and the Teacosy of Inspiration and laptop were passed on. Skelton told the audience about how he’d almost been arrested, after a prison break by Jim Steele. There’d been a rumour that he’d been assisted by a journalist … and the police had picked Skelton as the likely journo. ‘I was genuinely scared. Our home phone was tapped …’ The next episode of the story was read out, and the Teacosy went to Brown, while Broadfoot told us Stephen King’s three maxims: Forget about writing what you know, write what you enjoy; tell people you’re writing a book; and set yourself a target, however low, and stick to it.

The laptop plot was thickening, with Stewart MacBride having attached the tatty peeler to one of the stage lights in the ceiling … Asked for favourite authors, Stephen King was mentioned again, along with Ed McBain, Ian Rankin, Craig Russell, McIlvanney and Steve Cavanagh. Where they found time to write: Leggett said he used travelling time – his last novel had been edited on the 23 bus. The important thing was to write – ‘You can’t edit a blank page.’ Skelton said his word output had slowed now he was a full-time writer; because he had loads of time he wasted it checkout out TV, or having yet another cup of coffee … The Teacosy moved on… Inspiration: Leggatt told us about the London Cage, which was a real illegal prison in Kensington Palace Gardens during WWII (illegal because it wasn’t declared to the Red Cross), where high-ranking Nazis were interrogated – ‘It’s now the Soviet Embassy.’ Brown recalled a Friday night in a quiet pub, just him and his pal, two very drunk blokes who began fighting, and trashed the pub until the police removed them, and  a bloke in the corner who never looked up from the book he was reading throughout. ‘I thought, ‘What if that happens to him all the time, if he caused that …?’

The Teacosy moved on. Did inaccuracies bother the authors? Yes, Leggatt said. He gave a gun a safety catch, and immediately got a letter saying you can’t put one on that gun … and then he’d set a scene in Zurich airport, and had his protagonist coming out of the front door into the sun … it’s underground (‘So how do the planes get out?’ Skelton asked, looking up from the laptop). Brown had had his character going down a stair in Glasgow underground and going a couple of stops … except he’d gone down the wrong stair, and there was a letter from a reader pointing out he was on the train going in the other direction …

Teacosy off, and Skelton read out the triumphant finish of their plot: a brilliant save from Bob McDevitt foiled the dastardly Stewart MacBride, and turned the tattie peeler on him: ‘He’d had his chips.’

Well, that was it – another enjoyable, inspirational festival, filled with awe-inspiring writers and crime professionals who were delighted to share their knowledge and experiences. I only wished there had been three of me, so that I could have got to everything, but I hope this has given you a flavour of the variety of the event. Roll on next year! Bloody Scotland is from 21st to 23rd September, 2018, so put the date in your diary now – and book your hotel soon.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

A review of her recent book Ghosts of the Vikings can be read here.

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