Tag Archives: Peter Guttridge

Lizday

At 9.59 there was considerable panic among Horrid Henry fans. Parents were seen running with their children across Charlotte Square, and then back again a minute or so later. It’s also known as ‘I didn’t need the toilet before but now I do.’ The event started at 10.

Liz Kessler

Francesca Simon

My first – literary – port of call was with Liz Kessler. I then had half an hour in which to take pictures of her signing, run across the square to see if I could catch Francesca Simon still at it, and then get myself to my second event with Gill Lewis. That’s when I remembered I had a book I wanted Liz to sign, and being a popular sort lady she still had a long queue and I wasn’t anywhere near the front of it. So I thrust the book at her publisher Fiona Kennedy and asked her to see to it that Daughter got an autograph. Surprisingly, Fiona seemed to know who I was.

Gill Lewis

Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

After Gill’s event I had slightly longer, so had time to take pictures of her, and to dash across the square for Chris Riddell and Paul Stewart in the other signing tent. Had to remember to go back to base and get my hopefully signed book back. Then I went to meet Caroline Lawrence, whose Saturday event I had been forced to miss, but who very kindly sacrificed some of her time on me today.

Norse monster

Norse monster

Norse monster

Kate O'Hearn

We decided there was time for an ice cream – because we both carried spare food in our rucksacks, so didn’t need lunch – and we exchanged news and discussed what’s hot and what she’s working on now, and then she ran on to hear Kate O’Hearn, whose rather fantastic team of Norse monsters were a sight to behold. I caught up with them in the bookshop an hour later, where they chatted to babies (who will never forget this early literary experience) and posed and were generally rather unsusual.

Michael Rosen

Meanwhile I had found Michael Rosen signing across the square, talking to his young fans with his normal charm and performing facial acrobatics. He too had caused a late rush on the toilets, so that seems to be a hazard with young fans.

Simon Armitage

‘Backstage’ I found Carol Ann Duffy and I saw Peter Guttridge at a safe distance from sleeve-tugging. Again. While I waited for Simon Armitage to come to his photocall, Kate O’Hearn and her monsters returned, and thanks to Chris Close I got another opportunity to snap these fantastic creatures.

Kate O'Hearn

Elizabeth Wein

Elizabeth Laird

Chris Riddell

My final event this book festival was another couple of Elizabeths; Laird and Wein. I even had a few minutes during which to take photos of Liz and Liz, as well as of Chris Riddell who was still signing away an hour after his Goth Girl talk, before I ran off to find a tram to the airport. It was high time to collect Daughter from her Californian adventure.

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Masters of the Dark

Masters of the dark they may well be, but Mark Billingham and Stuart Neville are also a lot of fun. With the help of Peter Guttridge as chair, Bloody Scotland offered a marvellous morning of entertainment, well worth braving a dark and stormy Stirling at noon. You could ask yourself ‘who goes out to a literary event in weather like that?’ and the reply would be, ‘quite a few, actually, including Arne Dahl’ who presumably needed to check out the competition.

Peter Guttridge

Peter was back to his usual sparkling self, and we could have gone on forever. We only got an hour, but it was a good kind of hour. I knew nothing about Mark before, and emerged rather fond of this writer who is brave enough to go out with uniforms, just to see what it’s like at ‘the sharp end.’ Fun, until reality calls, when it gets pretty grim. In the police car it’s mostly filth and farting.

The two policewomen who gave Mark the guided tour suggested putting his DI Thorne back in uniform, which you can do, apparently. They keep their rank, but discover that the bad treatment dished out to uniforms rubs off on them as well. A lower rank non-uniform policeman will talk down to someone in uniform even if they outrank them.

Truth is stranger than fiction. There was some unmentionable stuff featuring cats, pigs and horses. The horse and crime scenes tape story was ‘fun’ though, and I wouldn’t have minded seeing that policeman going over the fence.

Stuart’s new book Ratlines is a standalone which has received heaps of praise. It is about Ireland’s history with the nazis. Set in the 1960s, it features Hitler’s favourite commando, Colonel Otto Skorzeny.

It was a break for Stuart, who wanted to write the story before someone else did. He says ‘you couldn’t make Skorzeny up.’ He lived publicly as a minor celebrity, as well as being an acquaintance of Charles Haughey. Stuart did some research on life in the 1960s, which included finding out you can’t dress a woman in an off-the-shoulder dress. It would have been scandalous. You have accuracy versus authenticity, and it’s the feel of truth that you want, rather than truth itself.

Stuart Neville

Jumping into a police car to see what the job is like, isn’t something you can do in Northern Ireland, because of the paramilitary aspects of policing. The police have a fact sheet which sets out what happens at a murder scene, and ‘that is all you’re getting.’

Strangely enough, Stuart had been criticised for having been unfair to the nazis. He said that the Skorzeny/Haughey set-up made things larger than life, and he had to prevent things from becoming too cartoonish.

Mark said about going back in time that you need to get away from CCTV and mobile phones which you have ‘forgotten’ to charge. There are only so many times you can use that. The Lleyn peninsula is good for having no mobile signal. (I think that’s where his Book 14 is set. The title is under discussion, with the editor disliking what Mark wants.)

Mark Billingham

With old age – as opposed to old, old age – Mark has found he doesn’t care for violence, and much prefers the effect of a single drop of blood. He has discovered, much to his surprise, that he enjoys the ‘window moments’ when a character is resting, instead of charging around in action scenes. Detectives need plenty of depth; the reader should get to know what troubles them away from the crime solving. Stuart has a female detective discovering she has breast cancer, for instance.

You can have too much of a good twist. Mark has dubbed them ‘Chubby Checkers’ where they twist, and twist again. And you shouldn’t keep hinting thoughout a book. You know something, you share it. And he definitely doesn’t believe in characters that take over and tell the author what to do.

Peter Guttridge, Mark Billingham and Stuart Neville

Cumbernauld-man-gone-to-Hollywood, Craig Ferguson, has written the screenplay of Stuart’s novel The Twelve, and it looks like Pierce Brosnan is down to play one of the characters. (Looking forward to that!)

Despite hatemail and abuse on Twitter, Mark feels ‘the time comes when you have to kill a character.’ Absolutely. And Stuart likes ‘rooting for the killer.’ That’s not character-killer Mark, btw. I think he meant fictional killers.

I’ve already lost track of where paranormal noir came into the picture – I didn’t even know there is such a thing – and poor Stuart reads very little these days. That’s the problem with babies.

There was another dead cat, with no truncheon involved, and both these writers have definitely evolved from the early days ‘when you’re often rather like someone else.’

Daring to thrill

COUGH, cough, hrumph, cough! Pardon me…

You might recall me mentioning that I once thought Jo Nesbø was a woman. And Danish. I can still just about visualise the Danish Jo, but this image has half disappeared with the rather charming publicity photo of the handsome male and Norwegian Jo.

People frequently tell me they like my honesty. I frequently worry about being too dishonest at times. I shall worry no more.

I was a bit surprised at the news that Jo was having an on-train signing session as he travelled from Manchester to Glasgow and Stirling on Saturday. Fans on the 09.41 Pendolino from Preston could just toddle along and get their books signed. But why not? He was on his way to sign at Waterstones in Glasgow, before coming to Bloody Scotland, where he was the star attraction of the evening. Why not cover a few more angles of that stardom?

Jo filled the Albert Halls, with fans sitting upstairs as well as down in the stalls. He had Peter Guttridge as his chair, so it was all set up to be the perfect evening. Bloody Scotland’s Lin Anderson was sitting in my row. Peter began by listing all the impressive things you might say about Jo, before the man himself came on stage for his superstar reception.

He used to play football. I think Jo even claimed to have played in Inverkeithing (although that could be my hearing), before he got knees like mine and had to give it up. The team didn’t like him. He just scored goals. Now that he’s more famous they praise him for having been a really good player.

Jo Nesbø

(Here I thought it was getting a little boring with all the background. Peter clearly heard my thoughts, because he promised we’d get to the books. He just didn’t say when.)

After the football came the rock band career. The band got better and better until at some point venues and audiences actually wanted to hear them play. The others in the band played full time, while Jo had to have a day job. So he stock-brokered. He did his money job by day, and flew out to gigs by night.

My thoughts at this point was that book tours must seem like a holiday compared to that.

Henning Mankell was name-dropped. Harry Hole got a mention. Or at least we were told how to pronounce the name correctly. But we still didn’t seem to be quite ready for book talk.

I did some calculations. Assuming the hour was to be divided up in the normal fashion, we’d used half the time on the non-book background, mainly being told what a fantastic person Jo is. I suspect that most of the audience agreed. It could be why they’d come. If they were readers/fans they probably also knew a lot of the background already, so it was a waste of time.

Peter Guttridge is one of my favourite chair people, and I admire his work a lot. I don’t know what happened here, but it suddenly seemed to me I could use my evening better than fawning over this surprisingly un-charming writer. So I left.

Not sure if I was alone in my cantankerous-ness, I compared notes with one of Jo’s fervent admirers, to see what he thought of his hero ‘in action.’ I apologise for his language, but the words ‘arrogant’ and ‘t*t’ appeared very close together. I would never say anything like that, obviously, but this was one disappointed reader, who has resolved never to try to meet a hero ever again.

Thinking back, I rather miss the Danish woman I called Jo Nesbø. She was friendly, and a happy sort, despite being a professional killer.

(If you’re near Dublin, you can form your own opinion tonight, when Jo talks to Bookwitch favourite Declan Burke.)

A Bloody Scotland Sunday

I was woken by a strange noise. Worked out it was probably caused by rain hammering on my window. I’m used to the Scottish sunshine which makes no sound at all.

My first Bloody Scotland event of the day was Masters of the Dark with Stuart Neville and Mark Billingham. I arrived far too early, so started by checking out an empty Waterstones, where they were tidying up the piles of books from yesterday.

Stuart Neville books

Stuart arrived, looking rather wet, but better a wet author than no author, I say. I was wondering who gets up on a rainy Sunday morning to go to a literary event, but quite a few did, among them Arne Dahl who perhaps came to check out the competition. Fantastic event (and more about it later, as you well know).

Bloody Scotland bookshop on a Sunday morning

Went back to the bookshop in the lift, and one of the other occupants wondered out loud if it was safe to get into lifts with a group of strangers, given what we’d been listening to. Happily we all survived to have our books signed.

Mark Billingham and Stuart Neville

The name Bookwitch rang a little bell for Stuart, who asked if I was the one with the blog. I was. He had dried out somewhat, and I think he might even have combed his hair, possibly with a view to being photographed.

Stuart Neville

When I discovered the rain had been replaced by blue sky, my sandwich and I went outside to sit on a bench, and soon the sandwich was no more. After some dithering I decided to walk up to the Stirling Highland Hotel, just to see if anything interesting was happening. The steep path looked even steeper from the bottom, so I chickened out and went up the less steep path. (In theory I suppose it’s exactly the same height, since you leave one place and end up in the other, and it’s the same for both options.)

After some aimless walking around the hotel, and coming to the conclusion that the bar looked deserted, I saw Stuart being driven away by car along with Arne Dahl, so that was a brief three-hour visit  for Stuart. Arne was on his way to Manchester. Bought some tea to go with my cake. Had left behind my slices of cake in the freezer at Bookwitch Towers, but the Grandmother got out the lemon cake Helen Grant didn’t eat when she visited. The icing is a bit cardboardy, actually, so that might have been for the best.

Nicola Upson, Martha Lea and Catriona McPherson

Went into the other Waterstones and snapped some author pics of Nicola Upson, Martha Lea and Catriona McPherson, along with Craig Robertson and Chris Carter, who complemented each other well in the hair department. History for the ladies and serial killers for the men.

Craig Robertson

Chris Carter

Decided to get the wee shuttle bus down the hill, and ended up on the long scenic route, when I was expecting merely the long but sensible route. Ballengeich Road was an interesting choice for a bus, even when wee.

There was still too much time left before my Lee Child event, and with very little prospect of staying awake, I reluctantly came to the conclusion that Lee would do perfectly fine without me, and walked ‘home’ instead. Clearly timed that wrong, because the rain only started when I was safely back.

Alex Gray, The Swedish Girl

A Bloody Scotland Saturday

Stirling Highland Hotel

Through the archway we went, studiously trying to remove ‘I wanna be like youuuu’ from rotating forever in our minds. My driver had a childish fondness for the archway at the Stirling Highland Hotel (one of the venues for Bloody Scotland), so was very pleased she could take me there. She unwisely confided in me that she had had the song from the Jungle Book running through her head all morning. That sort of thing is contagious, it is.

Stirling Highland Hotel

Anyway, I got my tickets, handed a few back as the good little witch I am, was given another by the kind Lisa, had a pre-event sandwich on a bench in the sunshine, watched authors coming and going, and couldn’t help noticing the twins we tend to see at every Scottish book event.

Stirling Highland Hotel

Went to hear Linda Strachan and Sophie McKenzie talk about ‘Breaking the Boundary,’ which was pretty good. Sex, arson, that kind of thing. (More of that later.) Briefly said hello while they were signing books afterwards, and then I had to run, due to this extra ticket which changed my whole afternoon.

Linda Strachan and Sophie McKenzie

It's all downhill

I hobbled downhill. With some difficulty, but you ‘always get down,’ don’t you? One way or another. Did I ever mention how steep it is around Stirling Castle? Made an assumption that Arne Dahl would still be signing at the Albert Halls after his event (which I missed), and I was right and he was, so I took more photos.

Arne Dahl

Left to go hunt for a salad or something in M&S, which I then ate sitting outside in the sunshine on another bench. Very nice. Went inside for some tea. Went outside again. Yes, I yo-yoed in that lift, up and down, up and down. It was so warm in the sun that my knees, which wore black jeans, almost self-ignited. Such a relief that the forecast for Sunday is rain and winds; ‘it was a dark and stormy Sunday…’

The Albert Halls

Went back in to buy a book. Yes, actually to buy a book. They didn’t have it. Got another instead. Chatted to Colin Bateman who’d just arrived, and apologised for not buying his first book, which they didn’t have. We worried a bit about his lost event partner, Eoin Colfer.

Then I spied Arne Dahl again, and went over to introduce myself. As you do. (We had already facebooked a little, so I wasn’t totally out of the blue.) ‘Do you fancy..?’ he said. ‘Yes, I do fancy. But I no longer have time for anything,’ I replied. So that was that. Nice while it lasted.

Colin Bateman

By then it was time for Good Craic (which I will never be able to pronounce properly!) with Colin and Eoin’s replacement James Oswald, which was great fun. (More of which later.) At the signing after the event I asked Colin if he had more of those books that came from under the table. He did. And then he did that very nice thing and said I could have a copy for free for being such a lovely witch. (Actually, that’s not how he described me, but it was very kind of him. Jolly good thing he writes crime and not romances.) Colin had read from his Dublin Express, so I knew I wanted to read it. James did some of his signing standing up, which looked polite, but uncomfortable.

James Oswald

Val McDermid

I swigged some water and then it was time for Craig Robertson to keep Val McDermid and Stuart MacBride in order in The Great, the Good and the Gory. It was most enjoyable, but not in the slightest orderly. (You know the drill by now; more about this later.) Caught them at their signing afterwards, before I elbowed my way into the room for one final Saturday sitting; the Jo Nesbø event.

Stuart MacBride

Daring to Thrill, where Jo chatted to Peter Guttridge, was planned to be the highlight of the day, and they even used the balcony for people to sit to fit them all in. After which I had a family dinner to go to, because the Hungarian Accountant was in town, so I never got the opportunity to see if I could have sneaked in to hear who won the Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year at the fancy dinner they had. I couldn’t quite fork out £40 to eat with these lovely, but murderous, people, but would not have been averse to the odd bit of sneaking.

Peter Guttridge and Jo Nesbø

And as I’ve said, there will be more details of the day as soon as I have recovered. See you later!

Bateman, Dublin Express

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!

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!