Tag Archives: Karen Campbell

The next big thing is Higashoo

Those of us who braved the unexpected rain on Sunday morning, could enjoy a discussion on The Next Big Thing with Barry Forshaw, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, editor Jade Chandler and Val McDermid.

Barry Forshaw, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Jade Chandler and Val McDermid

In between pronunciation issues and translations that made sanitary towels into bath towels, Barry kept hinting he knew the answer. It’s Higashoo. Sort of. I cornered him afterwards and even he didn’t know what he’d been saying, so there is little hope for me.

Barry Forshaw

The cream of Nordic crime has now been joined by less creamy novels, and the future might lie on some hitherto unheard of Scottish island. Or Man. Manx murders, anyone?

As long as president Putin doesn’t say he likes – or dislikes – what you write, you’ll be all right. Hopefully.

After Yrsa had said how she just likes creepy stuff, we crept uphill to the Highland Hotel and the one children’s books event of the weekend. It was free, which only goes to prove how undervalued children’s books are. We had the excellent Gillian Philip and Cathy MacPhail, along with the to me unknown, but now very scary, Helen FitzGerald talking to Christina Johnston.

Gillian Philip, Cathy MacPhail and Helen FitzGerald

The ladies chatted on the subject of Once Upon a Crime, and were photographed next to a clothes hanger. I worry a bit about the significance of that. They each read from their books, and Helen’s piece was about seeing your mother’s dead body. I think she said Deviant is her happiest book, so I don’t know… She road tests her books for teen authenticity on her daughter. For money.

Helen FitzGerald

Cathy, who does ‘like a good murder,’ learns about her genuine child characters on school visits. She likes writing from a boy’s point of view, and her next book, Mosi’s War is another boy book. What Cathy does not like is to be put in the Scottish section in shops, next to Nessie.

Cathy MacPhail

Gillian read from The Opposite of Amber, and said she tries to avoid slang for fear of it dating too quickly. But she doesn’t tone down content for YA. For her it simply means the protagonists are younger. And she does swear in her books.

Gillian Philip

All three bemoaned the lack of room for reviews of children’s books in the papers, and seemed to feel the answer might lie in reviews by young readers.

After getting a couple of Seth MacGregor books signed, we rolled down the hill, back to the Albert Halls for The Red-Headed League. An all star cast of crime writers read a dramatised version of one of Sherlock’s best known mysteries, with Gillian Philip as the villain. Karen Campbell had the most unlikely red hair, and Craig Robertson was Lestrade. Members of the audience – OK, other crime writers dotted about – made up the other hopeful redheads.

The Red-Headed League

Waiting outside beforehand provided a parade of Who’s Who in Scottish crime, with most authors walking past our sandwich-bench under a tree. (It was still trying to rain.)

Sarah Reynolds

Once an arrest had been made, it was on to the Worth the Wait short story competition, where out of 232 entries, they had chosen the best 19 for their free ebook (download it now!). The winner Sarah Reynolds received her price from one of the sponsors.

And then it was time for the inaugural Scottish Crime Book of the Year  Award 2012, introduced by Sheena McDonald and presented by William McIlvanney. The winner was Charles Cumming for A Foreign Country.

Charles Cumming

Once this was done, we trooped out and most of us went home. Sort of.

Except the witch who likes to meet authors. She had tea with Helen Grant, who is even scarier (in her books) than most of the Bloody Scotland lot.

Then we went home.


Evil and deadly and Scottish (ish)

It’s going to be blo*dy difficult to choose. I am talking about Bloody Scotland. The programme goes live today, and I have to urge you to buy tickets while stocks last and all that. Hurry.

You might also want to stock up on stamina. I began making a list of what I want to see and hear, and setting aside that little inconvenience of having mislaid my timeturner, meaning I can only go to one event at a time, I have come to realise it could turn out to be too taxing going to one event for every slot in the day. Do you think? Or perhaps I can?

Bloody Scotland venues

It’s in Stirling, and what better place for it? The organisers have commandeered the Albert Halls and the Stirling Highland Hotel. They are near each other, so the toing and froing will be OK. Or would be but for that little matter of the hill. The hotel is the former Stirling High School, the alma mater of the Resident IT Consultant. (No, he didn’t go to school in a hotel. He had to go somewhere else.) The Albert Halls sounds grand, and seeing as it has been good enough for the Singing Kettle, it will be good enough for the cream of crime.

I’m aware that I haven’t listed all the crime writers who are appearing. You will just have to check out the programme. Karin Fossum and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir are coming, which means it’s not exclusively Scottish. It’s northern, though, and Scotland has expressed this understandable interest in joing the Nordic countries. And I daresay that if they murder well enough, we might let them.

There are so many great looking events I don’t know how to choose, and I won’t even try to list them here for you. What I absolutely mustn’t miss is Gillian Philip and Cathy MacPhail with Helen FitzGerald talking about YA crime.

A couple of fancy dinners are also part of the programme, where you can dine with your favourite crime writers. I hope that the former school does nice meals. They say the dinners go on until late. Luckily it’s downhill on the way home (unless, of course, it isn’t – depends on where you intend to sleep), so that’s all right.

Get on that website now and book your tickets. There are even reduced prices if you buy lots (except I’m not sure they have been reading those maths books I’ve mentioned) of tickets.

See you there!

Glasgow crime

It was great and novel idea. At least, I think it was novel. For one of the schools events last Friday they teamed Theresa Breslin with adult crime writer Karen Campbell, and that worked really well. When I first heard about it I was so keen to go, and it was just as well that Mr B wasn’t going and the photographer and I could get in as Theresa’s guests.

Theresa Breslin's boot

It also happened to be another Kathryn Ross event, and as the three ladies walked in I was struck by the somewhat frivolous thought that they all had great hair. (I know. It shouldn’t matter.) And then I forgot all about hair when Daughter nudged me and whispered something about Theresa’s shoes. Wow! (I know. It should’t matter at all.)

Like most of the students I knew little about Karen, but she was good at explaining her background as a police officer and mother and author. Most crime writers aren’t ex- police, so I imagine Karen can bring a lot to her books that you don’t usually get.

She read from her second novel, about the life of a firearms officer and his thoughts and his fears when out on a job. Whatever we might feel about the police, that extract makes you think. Until she started writing, Karen had never seen a book about what it’s like to be in the police. And it’s the ordinary policemen and women she finds interesting. They have the hard jobs, whereas she feels CID have it easy.

Karen has never shot anyone, and she has only ever been to Barlinnie prison once, as an escort, and she was so relieved when she could leave again. Afterwards she needed to take the dog for a walk. Policemen are normal people with families and homes and feelings. We forget that sometimes.

Now she’s working on a story about a Somali refugee, dealing with the small everyday difficulties like wanting to buy fish and not speaking the language and finally coming face to face with a packet of fish fingers.

Theresa Breslin and Karen Campbell

Theresa read the beginning of Divided City, showing how easy it is for a young well behaved boy to end up in the wrong place. She started the book by wanting to write about an asylum seeker, and looking for tension, she was surprised to find herself writing a book about football, never having been to a match. (So it’s not just ‘write what you know’. It can be ‘write what you haven’t got a clue about and get help with the facts.’)

Both authors find Glasgow a beautiful city, especially if you look up, away from the sometimes narrow streets (narrower than Edinburgh’s, anyway). There is at the humour, the banter that’s so Glaswegian, the quick-fire wittiness. Karen feels she knows so many different Glasgows; the place she was a child in, where she ‘posed’ as a teenage girl, her university city, and the place where she worked as a police woman.

Theresa would have liked to have more of the ‘man in the hospital’ in Divided City, except that wasn’t part of the plot. He wasn’t needed any more. The book she found the hardest to write was Remembrance, set during WWI, because at the time people were still alive, and it was important to get it right.

It was good to see the interest the pupils had in the writers and there was demand for books by both at the signing afterwards. Something that would be worth remembering if this kind of children’s author and adult author event happens again, is that schoolchildren don’t generally come equipped to buy £20 hardbacks. The bookshop was helpful and found some paperbacks by Karen, so hopefully that sorted things for some of the prospective book buyers.