Category Archives: Crime

Bridge travel miscellany

I did the unthinkable and agreed to cross Öresund on The Bridge. As the Resident IT Consultant said on the way out, it’s what normal people would do. I decided I would be as normal as I could. The reason I felt able to do it in the end was that I remembered my eyelids. They can be used for things like covering your eyes with. So it went well, -ish. I did feel him swerving rather when overtaking, and I harboured less enthusiastic thoughts about the venture at those points.

He and Daughter asked how I am with tunnels, as there is a tunnel at the end of The Bridge. I explained that vertigo is less bad in most tunnels.

At the airport I was intrigued to hear they were trying to get the family King to contact the ‘authorities.’ I do hope they found the King in the end. It’s nice that he came along.

In my suitcase I carried some well-travelled side plates. I bought them in London back in the mid-1970s and packed them carefully in my oversized ‘handbag’ to make sure they got home safely. Security poked at them and asked what they were, but that was all. The plates then came with me when I moved to England. And then, for reasons I can no longer recall, they were driven back across the North Sea (in a car on a boat, obviously) in the last fifteen years, and forgotten about.

I was happy to encounter them in a locked cupboard (maybe to prevent escape?), and covered them in bubblewrap and took them on their fourth journey, back ‘home.’

Daughter was the last to leave Bookwitch Towers before this holiday, and was unaware of the bread in the breadbin, which is why it was still there when we returned. I am impressed by how un-mouldy it was. Four slices were a bit green, but one on its own in a bag was completely free from any growth, which makes you wonder what on earth they put in it.

Generally Bookwitch Towers smells a bit fishy. No doubt we will get used to this.

The Bloody Scotland programme, and other fun stuff

They had to launch the Bloody Scotland programme without me, but it’s actually quite a good one despite this.

Before the Bloody Scotland weekend even begins you can go to writing classes – if you are young enough – or you could take part in their short story competition. And then, on September 11th (hm, that’s an ominous date…) the Stirling goings-on start.

There are many of the regular Scottish authors we have come to expect, from Lin Anderson to Val McDermid, Ian Rankin and Philip Kerr. Sophie Hannah is returning to talk about what looks like an even scarier book than usual. We have Nordic Noir, and Arne Dahl is coming. Edinburgh also offers some noir, and Alexandra Sokoloff knows about self-publishing. Brighton Rocks, and there’s the poisons of Agatha Christie, and Pitch Perfect (which might not be about a capella singing).

Plus lots more.

And when all the fun in Stirling is over, you could hop on a chartered plane to Shetland to discover the settings Ann Cleeves has used in her crime novels, and you can do it in her company. There will be film locations, too, and you can ask Ann questions. That’s not a bad deal at all.

(I’m going to have to sit down and do some realistic calculations on how much fun I will be able to tolerate.)

A pleasant 8

I’ve been having witchy feels for weeks, so it’s hardly surprising it went like this.

It won’t be obvious to everyone that the way to get to Holiday Bookwitch Towers is to fly to Denmark. You know, fly to one country when you aim for another. But you can just about get used to that.

However, flying to Norway to fly to Denmark to eventually cross over to Sweden, strikes me as excessive. It’s not quite a U-turn; more like two sides of a triangle (although I’ve not looked at a map for a while, so could be wrong). They cancelled our direct flight, and sent us to Oslo where, as the captain said, it was a pleasant 8. Degrees, I believe. Not pleasant at all, and extremely wet.

They were fussy, too, discovering the Kindle I had omitted to take out for the second lot of security checks of the day. Edinburgh didn’t even notice.

In my boycotting-stupid-trains-mode, we hired a car, as Son had found a rental that was so cheap it would have been silly not to. And then we didn’t cross on The Bridge (which is what sensible – or did he call them normal? – people do, according to the Resident IT Consultant) because I, well, I didn’t feel like it. We got the ferry instead. We hit Helsingør ferry terminal at 19.30, and even with fussing over the ticket buying, we were on the ferry, car and all, for the 19.40 departure.

Kronborg, Helsingør

There is no end to Danish television ties here. It was pure Borgen on the way, as I gather they have just called an unexpected election (unless they were merely trying to prevent Mr Cameron from visiting).

Helsingborg

On the other side we found a Lidl car park to stop for a five minute food break, so it was all good. The Resident IT Consultant accidentally hit the hot-seat button, so got rather warm before he found the off-button, but since we’d been warned it was going to be cold here, that might not have been a bad thing.

We could be in for more pleasant 8s, if we’re not careful.

The Fugitive

The fifth Theodore Boone is here! I have to own up to still enjoying these junior John Grisham books very much. And that cliffhanger I could see at the end of the first book, which then didn’t materialise? Well, it’s here now. And matters continue to wobble near the edge of the cliff as we leave Theodore and have to wait for the sixth and last book.

Strattenburg’s most wanted man is back. Theodore goes on a school trip to Washington, and accidentally comes across this suspected murderer on the run. Because Theo is Theo, he knows what to do to prove it’s Pete Duffy, and the point of the book is not the catching of Mr Duffy, so much as the trial he needs to face.

John Grisham, The Fugitive

Because it’s the law that Theo the miniature lawyer is passionate about, and it’s important that young readers learn how the law is – supposedly – there to take care of you and keep you safe. The town of Strattenburg is not perfect, but it does its best.

Pete Duffy is not the loveliest of men, and nor is his defense lawyer, or his ‘helpers.’ Some people will go to any lengths to escape jail, and one of the witnesses for the prosecution in particular has to stay brave and remember his duty. But will he? Can he? The case is so difficult that Theo begins to doubt his calling.

The usual interaction with Theo’s parents, Theo’s favourite judge, and some pretty nifty action from uncle Ike.

CrimeFest

I was going to waffle a wee bit about yet another CrimeFest I’m not actually at. (And half glad I’m not, because of that ‘new-ish’ intolerance to travel and crowds.) The main reason I would have wanted to be there was to hear Maj Sjöwall. But we can’t have everything.

Andreas Norman, Into A Raging Blaze

But you’ll be spared the waffling, because the only other comment I have to make about this Bristol weekend gathering of professional killers – who according to Stuart Neville ‘are generally friendly’ – is that they announced the shortlist for the CWA International Dagger on Friday evening. And they’ve had the good taste to include Into a Raging Blaze by Andreas Norman, mostly famous around these parts for having been translated ‘in-house’ by Son of Bookwitch.

I’m actually reasonably proud.

And in the Short Story Dagger, the aforementioned Stuart Neville has been shortlisted for his contribution to the Oxcrimes anthology with Juror 8, which was my favourite. Well done, there too.

May both my favourites win.

Prayer for the Dead

If he’s not running around Edinburgh shivering in the snow, while wearing inadequate shoes, then James Oswald’s hero Tony McLean staggers round a sweltering Scottish capital. I remember that – last – summer well, and I sympathise. (He’s still a bit of an idiot, but he’s a kind and polite and likeable idiot. And we love him.)

The supernatural elements in Prayer for the Dead were a little confusing, as this time things are far more real than they have been in the past. Some of James’s villains are still quite insane, though, and you know there will be no reasoning with them.

James Oswald, Prayer for the Dead

It’s the usual start; where the reader witnesses the murder happening, alongside the victim. You’ve not had time to get to know the victim, but you still feel for them, as they discover what is about to happen. And as far as one of the subplots is concerned, I am convinced James has been to Son’s former flat in Newington. He describes it perfectly. I reckon those builders must have been in on that one, too.

Things are awkward for McLean. Former enemies are brought closer than is comfortable, and he can’t even rely on his boss to be as impossible as he usually is. Must be time for a new new boss.

Anyway, lots of murders of the worst kind, and surely they are connected? That’s what McLean believes. MacBride and Ritchie are both suffering from what happened a few months earlier, and even Madame Rose has problems.

Prayer for the Dead is quite simply another page-turner; with just the right blend of gore, grit and good manners.

Yay! YA+

Cumbernauld Theatre

Yesterday saw the long awaited birth of Kirkland Ciccone’s first ever Scottish YA book festival Yay! YA+, and I really appreciate his thoughtfulness in arranging it for the day on which I celebrated my first year in Scotland. Kirkie had lined up ten teen authors, 200 teens and one tardis-like venue in the shape of the Cumbernauld Theatre. In Cumbernauld. He also arranged for the lovely people of Scotia Books to come and sell books, and between you and me, they not only had the good taste to like my sense of humour, but their mobile shop was the best I’ve seen.

Scotia Books

Once we were all in, Kirkland explained how some authors would ‘be taken out’ and split up into tiny pieces. Yeah. I don’t think he meant that literally. He wanted to say that six of the authors would be ensconced in their own little rooms (=bars and subterranean dressing rooms), where smaller groups of the audience would come to hear them read from their books, or talk about their writing, or anything else they might want to do. Ten times. Eek!

Kirkland Ciccone

Cathy MacPhail

Meanwhile, Cathy MacPhail, Theresa Breslin and Barry Hutchison stayed in the main theatre and each had 25 minutes in which to charm the half of the audience left behind, which they did with real style. Twice. Multi award-winner Cathy started by sharing the trailer to her film Another Me, based on a nightmare she once had. She can see a story in anything (perhaps because she’s from Greenock, where you know everyone), and Cathy is surprised she writes such scary books, when she really is such a nice person.

Theresa Breslin

Theresa brought her gasmask, which looked quite uncomfortable to wear, and some shrapnel from WWI. She reminisced about travelling to America a month after September 11th, and hearing he same words then, that soldiers used a 90 years earlier to describe why they went to war. Some things never change. She read a tense bit from Remembrance, before telling us how good it is to write YA for teens, as they will read everything, with no set ideas of what a book has to be.

Barry Hutchison

Last but not least, Barry Hutchison talked about his fears, so it was back to his perennially entertaining tales of ‘Death and Squirrels’ and his childhood concern whether the dead squirrel was ‘proper dead’ or might come back and attack the young Barry. I can listen to his tale of weeing in the kitchen sink as many times as he will tell it. Or about his friend Derek. Barry read from The 13th Horseman, which must have made half the children want to buy a copy.

Roy Gill and Lari Don

There was lunch – with cupcakes and fruit – and signings and even some time for hanging out. Keith Charters turned up, and admitted to a life-long ignorance of sharpies. That’s not why he came, but, still. I contemplated stealing Kirkie’s sharpies-filled lunchbox, but didn’t.

Keith Charters

After the eating I aligned myself with half the group from Cumbernauld Academy for my rounds of the nether regions of the theatre, and they were both lovely and polite as well as interested in books. Although, I joined them after their session with Linda Strachan – in the bar – which unfortunately meant I actually missed Linda’s seven minute show, as I was sitting out the empty slot with Alex Nye (one school was missing). And you’ll think I have something against Linda, since she is the only one who does not appear in any of my – frankly substandard – photos (photographer had better things to do…).

Alex Nye

Anyway, Alex spoke about her cool books, Chill and Shiver, featuring snow and ghosts, before we went to join Matt Cartney who not only sat in a warm bar, but who had been to the Sahara. Admittedly, he had been to Hardangervidda as well. His Danny Lansing Adventures (Matt loves adventures!) are set in sand, and snow, and wherever else Matt might find inspiration.

Matt Cartney

Lari Don read from Mind Blind, which was her first non-fantasy, for older readers. She had been troubled by not being able to solve problems with magic. Lari is very good with school children. We then found Roy Gill in one of the dressing rooms, and the poor man was only allowed five minutes with us, so raced like crazy through his werewolves and a reading from his latest book.

Kirkland Ciccone

We finished in another dressing room where Victoria Campbell had brought her Viking weapons. Just imagine, small basement room full of young teenagers and some – possibly not totally lethal – weapons. She dressed one volunteer in a spiky helmet but didn’t let go of either the Dane Axe or the sword. Victoria asked what the best thing so far had been, and my group reckoned it was the selfies! Apparently some of her Viking interest comes from a short period living in Sweden (good taste). Before we left her, there was an almighty scream from – I would guess – Roy’s dressing room.

Victoria Campbell with Viking

Ever the optimist, Kirkie had scheduled a panel session at the end (a full 20 minutes!), chaired by Keith. Unsurprisingly, the authors had different opinions on nearly everything. But the questions were good. Very good. This was one fine audience.

KIrkland Ciccone tweets

Theresa brought out a gift for Kirkie, which might have been a chocolate boot. And while the panel wound things up, he and some of the others hastily got ready to run off to Edinburgh, where they had an(other) event to go to. All good things come in twos.

Theresa Breslin gives Kirkland Ciccone the chocolate boot at Yay! YA+

The very lovely Barry Hutchison offered to remove me from the premises, on his way home to Fort William, which meant I was able to actually leave Cumbernauld – something that had worried me considerably earlier in the week. He set me down outside the newsagent’s after some nice conversation, and a secret.

My verdict of the day is that if we can only get Kirkland to speak less loudly in places, this worked really quite well. Might let him repeat it, if he can find more dark corners in which to stash Scotland’s finest.

(I found the photo below on facebook, and because it has Linda Strachan in it, I decided to borrow the picture, a little.)

Linda Strachan, Lari Don, Roy Gill, Alex Nye and Kirkland Ciccone