Hell has already frozen over

If a book title contains the word snow, it’s sure to be real literature and will eventually win the Man Booker. Whether winning is a good thing or not was on debate on Saturday afternoon in Bloody Stirling. Nick Barley from the EdBookFest tried to keep order as Ian Rankin and Peter James told us why crime novels should be allowed to win the Man Booker, while Stuart Kelly and Willy Maley was of the opposite opinion.

Stuart Kelly, Willy Maley, Nick Barley, Ian Rankin and Peter James

Crime has already won the award by stealth, pretending to be ‘real’ literature, and as someone pointed out, perhaps these rich crime writers should let others enjoy the fame and money that comes with winning. It’s a well known fact you can write a crime novel in three days and spend the rest of the year in the pub.

The fascinating thing is that during the debate, people changed their minds. Both the debaters and the audience shifted in what they think is right and what should happen. Nick Barley pronounced Stuart and Willy the winners, because they argued successfully against.

But there is that ‘phoney halo of respectability’ which goes with reading Man Booker shortlisted novels to consider…

Before lunch we had dragged ourselves up the hill from the Albert Halls to the Highland Hotel for some forensics with Lin Anderson and Andy Rolph. Andy runs a company called R2S, return to scene, which has revolutionised crime scene forensics.

Andy Rolph and Lin Anderson with volunteer

It could have been boring. But I didn’t expect it to be, and Lin didn’t let me down. She chirpily predicted what fun we were going to have, and then she read from her new book Picture Her Dead, stopping just as we wanted to know what was hiding behind the…

Then it was volunteer time, when they dressed a member of the audience up as a forensics expert in one of those white overall things. There is a lot to it, you know. It’s hot. Uncomfortable. And the many layers of stuff, including the double gloves are easily missed on television. Our plucky volunteer even did a forensics catwalk strut.

The forensic outfit

It was a quick, but serendipitous, decision for Lin to let her main character work in forensics, and she is excited about quite how fascinating it all is. So were we.

I got my Lin Anderson book signed, as I said hello to her afterwards, while my photographer caught the group from the Fresh Blood event posing obediently. I hope it means what I hope it means, and not the other way round.

Gordon Brown, Frank Muir, Anna Smith, Sara Sheridan and John Gordon Sinclair

Working backwards here, we began the day with evil things. Denise Mina, who looked as nice as ever, talked evil with Peter James, who has been to Broadmoor. Not as an inmate, though.

Denise Mina, Alan Riach and Peter James

Reading from their books, Peter offered up the shortest chapter one I have ever met. So he read a little more. Denise stopped just as she got to the bit about orgies, which was mildly disappointing. But there could have been young people in the audience, or we could have become so well informed we wouldn’t then need to buy the book.

Peter James

Grandiosity is the sign of a psychopath, and somewhere in the discussion Americans entered into this. And there were more sock puppets.

Authors writing their own book blurbs is another kind of self advertising.

Denise never knows how her books are going to end, whereas Peter does. And then he changes his mind.

Denise Mina

The hotel turned out to be easier to leave than to arrive at. Both by picking the right door this time, but also because we made good use of the geriatric shuttle bus laid on. The authors, on the other hand, had been allocated their own named parking spots in the car park. We saw an empty one, bearing the name of Val McDermid, for instance.

Peter Guttridge

Val, along with Karin Fossum, spoke to Peter Guttridge on the subject of Deadlier Than The Male, and Peter felt distinctly spooked at times. I think it was Karin’s no-nonsense approach to death, which made him burst out with ‘you are seriously freaking me out.’ Wimp.

Trying to get rid of her character by moving her to America didn’t work for Val. She immediately felt the need to have her back, except her agent said ‘you can’t just leave the dog in America!’ So on discussing the dog conundrum with Laurie King, Val’s fictional dog has now moved crime series in order to avoid months of quarantine.

Val McDermid

Fans who know best can make the oddest comments. Between hardback and paperback Val was asked ‘are you aware that you can no longer turn right at those traffic lights?’ along with the suggestion she change it.

Karin has discovered that when she puts back in what she has already taken out of a book once, it’s time to stop editing. She mentioned how she wanted to make her detective dizzy, so she did. She didn’t know why he was dizzy, so this is something she now has to work out. This also worried Peter.

He compared her to Ruth Rendell, whom Karin admires, and who admires her in return. Karin also writes poetry, which is mainly about death, so it has a lot in common with her crime novels.

Both Karin and Val had long signing queues afterwards, which is why I didn’t practise what I’d been talking about over afternoon tea earlier. The lovely Keith Charters drove over to Stirling for a chat with the witches, and to deliver a vacuum. He is very kind. Keiths really do seem to come bearing gifts.

Karin Fossum

Anyway, we were talking languages. He was intrigued to hear that when Scandinavians talk to each other, we do it in our own languages. So I really should have ‘pratat’ with Karin, giving her the opportunity to ‘snakke’ to me.

And she’s not scary!

5 responses to “Hell has already frozen over

  1. I agree that genre fiction should be eligible for the Booker. Who decided that genre fiction was inferior anyway? Honestly. Marketing….

  2. I did wonder if it was actually the ‘normals’ who wanted a bite of the ‘famous and rich’ cherry. It’s not just the Rankins they are jealous of. It will be you rich children’s book author types, as well.

  3. Listening to a panel now. Re: the gender debate, Denise Mina is my fav British author. I buy books with by female writers all the time and, as you’ve seen, I’m a guy.

  4. Could have been a disguise… 😉
    I have yet to read Denise, but am a fan of her hair and clothes. I definitely am a girl.

  5. No, ’tis fair enougth. Her hair rocks.

    You should get around to her books, though. They also rock. 🙂

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