Tag Archives: Allan Guthrie

Saturday’s people

I had a pot of builder’s tea with Roman crime writer Lindsey Davis first thing on Saturday morning. Well, Lindsey had coffee, but her publicist Kerry and I had Very Strong Tea. It was Kerry who suggested I’d love to meet Lindsey, and how right she was! (Kerry usually is.) I’ll tell you more about our chat in a later post, but I have to mention what a beautiful purple coat Lindsey wore. (Apparently she owns matching colour boots. My kind of woman.)

There was some talk about the Nordic authors who had been offered pickled herring for breakfast (obviously to make them really feel at home), when all they wanted was a good old British cooked breakfast. Rollmops, anyone?

We also talked about Kerry’s lovely dog, which I met last year, and this led nicely to the serious matter of shopping. After our tea, and coffee, we hobbled separately down the hill to the Albert Halls for Lindsey’s event.

Alexandra Sokoloff

Allan Guthrie

Since there is no sense in not photographing signing authors when they’re available, I grabbed pictures of Alexandra Sokoloff, Allan Guthrie, Lin Anderson and Val McDermid, all of whom worked the early morning shift.

Lin Anderson

Val McDermid

Then it was on to Lindsey’s event with all the civil servants. I’ll tell you more later. To my great surprise I found Blackwell’s allrounder Ann Landmann safely outside the onsite Waterstones, wearing a Bloody Scotland t-shirt. Seems she can’t get enough of book events and festivals.

Lindsey Davis

As I was going about my business taking photos of Lindsey, while discreetly ignoring the fact that Ian Rankin was sitting in the café, I encountered a surprisingly soberly dressed Kirkland Ciccone, who’d brought a friend there as a birthday present. For her, not for him.

Kirkland Ciccone

It was still raining so I ate my sandwiches in the bookshop, as discreetly as I could. I checked out Lindsey’s books and decided they look very nice indeed.

Still in the rain, I walked back up to the Stirling Highland Hotel, passing the man with the interesting shoulderbag strap. I recognised the strap first, and the rest of him second. Caught a glimpse of James Oswald on his way down, as I puffed uphill.

Had plenty of time after that so went and sat in the bar, reading and looking at people. Ann Cleeves came in, and I spied publisher Clare Cain – she who drives Plague Doctors around Edinburgh. Went to my afternoon event on Nordic Noir, before starting on my last downhill trip for the day, conveniently finding James Oswald in the car park, so I stopped and chatted. Good thing, as I’ll be running again after his Sunday event.

Not exactly running, but you know.

Ian Rankin & Co

James Oswald, but no cake

If I caused  a couple of chapters of James Oswald’s next novel not to be written yesterday afternoon, I apologise. I’m not sorry, but this is what has to happen sometimes.

James Oswald

I’d been meaning to ask James for an interview for quite a while, and now that I’m so close to losing my photographer, I simply had to make it happen. The interview, I mean.

To allow James enough time with his cattle, or whatever it is he does in the mornings, I suggested meeting in Perth, which is the town closest to him, and in the afternoon, because I had researched a café with gorgeous looking cakes online, but in the end hayfever prompted us to step no further from the railway station than the Station Hotel. So no cake.

It’s a clean hotel, though. Especially after it was hoovered to within an inch of its life during the interview. I may have to make up most of what James said, which went along the lines of writing, cattle, dogs, killing builders, that kind of thing. We also agreed that Allan Guthrie writes the most noir of crime.

Towards the end I felt pleased as I assumed the woman coming towards us was a fan, happy to see him. And in a way she was, since she is James’s partner. The one who provided his detective with the name of McLean.

I’m – almost – glad that Eoin Colfer fell ill, that time James replaced him at Bloody Scotland two years ago. Silver lining, and all that. But James will never again let Colin Bateman read first.

The Book Week in Fife

I have nothing against child labour. I have made Offspring do all sorts of things for me, but mostly they have to be the long arm of Bookwitch when I find myself geographically challenged. Like with this Book Week Scotland thing I mentioned earlier.

On Thursday night I made that arm reach Fife – while I was ensconced in Oldham – by telling, I mean asking, Daughter to pop along to her local library on her way home from the cinema. Small town, so they are almost next to each other.

St Andrews library had a Scottish Crime Evening with local sheep farmer James Oswald and the rather scarier Allan Guthrie, and Daughter only missed half of it. Not liking turning up late, she was more than relieved to find that James, who is very much a gentleman, had left a ticket at the door for her to make (her) life easier.

Apparently James had read the same piece he read in Stirling in September, so I didn’t miss much. (I mean, I know what he read, rather than it is no good.)

In the Q&A there was a writer of ebooks who wanted to share with James, who himself was a writer of ebooks before being discovered. (Doing what, I don’t know.)

The idea was that with my photographer in place, I’d get photos. Allan seems to have escaped by running for it. A train, supposedly, but you never know. But here is James next to a Swedish coloured poster for books. (And she only brought her mobile, so none of the paparazza shots. She went, which is what matters.)

James Oswald

Daughter’s opinion is that next time they organise a book event in town, they should tell every department in the university, because she is sure she knows people who would have been interested.

So there you are! Posters for uni noticeboards.

Guthrie and MacBride

This is ‘the real sh*t,’ if you’ll pardon my language. Allan Guthrie and Stuart MacBride might have written novels suitable for dyslexic adults, but the books are no more simple or childish, let alone tamer, than their longer counterparts.

I had read one crime novel by Allan Guthrie before, which was depressing and gritty. Excellent, but too bleak for my comfort. Stuart MacBride is new to me, apart from playing the part of Sherlock Holmes during Bloody Scotland recently.

Allan Guthrie, Bye Bye Baby

And unlike their female colleagues whose books I reviewed the other day, I suspect Allan and Stuart simply don’t know the meaning of the word light-hearted. As for happy endings; don’t even go there.

Bye Bye Baby, by Allan Guthrie tells the sad and puzzling story about a missing child. We follow the detective whose job it is to find the boy, and how, due to the abnormal nature of the case, he encounters unforeseen difficulties.

I did get one clue correctly, but not the rest. You just know something isn’t right, but which something, and how not right? Trust me, it won’t make you feel good. (At least I trust it won ‘t.)

Stuart MacBride, Sawbones

Now, Sawbones by Stuart MacBride seemed much more streamlined, in a rough American style kind of way. Lots of foul language and lots of killings, but you sort of expected… Well, you shouldn’t.

As the title suggests, it is not for the fainthearted, and thirty years ago I would have stopped halfway. Sawbones is not your typical serial killer with a saw. Nor is one of his victims, the teenage daughter of a New York gangster, a typical victim.

But it won’t be the way you expect. Whatever you expected. There is a certain charm, hidden deep within the violence and gore. Which doesn’t stop me from feeling relief at the civilised length of these two novels. 100 pages of gruesome is about right.

I can truthfully say that dyslexic adults have some great stuff to look forward to. There should be far more books like these, and they should be much more widely known. Whether or not you find reading hard, you have the right to some good sh*t.


I won this book over at Donna Moore’s blog, so Allan Guthrie came very heavily recommended. Slammer, which not surprisingly, is set in a prison, is not a light read. In fact, it was so lacking in any hope and light that I nearly gave up.

That I didn’t is down to Allan being a really good writer, and it was an easy read, if that doesn’t contradict what I said first. And I’d got halfway before I had a talk with myself about the pros and cons of going on, and being halfway is quite a long way, isn’t it?

Slammer does not have a single character I liked, which surprised me, as I’d expected the main character Nick Glass to be intended for sympathy. Or maybe I’m just very hard hearted. The prisoners are awful. The prison officers are worse. I wanted to like Nick’s wife, but I didn’t. I didn’t dislike their young daughter, but then she was barely in the story long enough to get to know her.

Set in an Edinburgh prison in 1992, Nick is young and inexperienced, and he gets bullied by both cons and colleagues. It’s a story about being stuck in an impossible situation, with seemingly no way out. Then Nick is blackmailed, and he’s more stuck than ever. The actions he takes are not good ones, but possibly there was never a lot he could have done.

If you like bleak, then you’ll love this. As most of you know, bleak is not me. But it’s really very well written, so if there is anything lighter out there by Allan, then I’m willing to have another go.