Summary (because this is likely to be a very long post): Bloody Scotland 2014 was pure, dead brilliant!
Bloody Scotland is Scotland’s first crime-writing festival, returning in 2014 for its third iteration. It takes place 40 miles from me and is an easy 40-minute drive. I visited in its 1st year, skipped it last year, but decided to go back this year because there were a couple of non-discussion events that proved irresistible. Let’s see if you can spot them.
The festival took place in 4 locations in Stirling and my events meant I visited them all. As you will see, this gave me the added bonus of a darn good workout, which should have translated to happiness on the scales this morning. No chance because I discovered an Austrian restaurant in the passing, and the opportunity for authentic schnitzel and chips was not to be missed. As Oscar Wilde once said, I can resist everything, except temptation.
Venue 1, Event 1: McLaren Suite, Stirling Highland Hotel Danielle Ramsay and Nele Neuhaus
I have attended many a business conference in the Stirling Highland Hotel. It’s very Scottish with many a tartan decor, but on Saturday morning it was host to Danielle Ramsay (English) and Nele Neuhaus (German). The event was chaired by Jenny Brown. I haven’t read Ramsay’s novels, set in Whitley Bay, Yorkshire but am more than a little curious now. After the first novel had been published, she was approached by residents of the area who kept commenting on how well she understood the gangsterly goings on in the area. She had, of course, made it all up! As you would expect, I have read Neuhaus’s novels; Snow White Must Die, reviewed here and Big Bad Wolf, of which more to follow.
Venue 2, Event 2: Stirling Castle, Medieval Murder In The Castle
And so began the workout, up through the historic town to the castle on the rock. What a venue!
The event was included in the price of castle entry. £14, a bit steep like the hill but the guided tour of the castle was also included. I haven’t been in Stirling Castle for years, but given that it is subject of an ongoing (?) £12 million renovation to restore it to how it was in the day’s of Mary, Queen of Scots, I can say that entry is worth every penny. What a stunning project!
In 1452, the castle was the venue of the heinous murder of William, Earl of Douglas, stabbed 26 times and thrown from a castle window,
125 Bloody Scotlanders attended the tour, which took us to the renovated Great Hall.
Here the political tensions of the day were explained. Thereafter, we were taken and to the site of the murder and the place where the body landed. (The Douglas Garden, funnily enough.)
Now the perpetrator was well-known. It was the hot-tempered King James II himself, and, of course, he got away with it. But what would have happened, if the murder had been committed today?
Cue the Chapel Royal and instruction by Return to Scene, experts in forensic science who help the Scottish police to solve contemporary crime.
Venue 3 Albert Halls
Early Sunday morning and it was time to dress up as a classic crime novel! Orion Books are reissuing lots and lots of classic crime novels in e-books format (and paper for those die-hards like me who still haven’t taken to this e-reading milarkey). The Murder Room is a website devoted to this project, but during Bloody Scotland it was the dressing up area with a prize for the best interpretation of a classic title. There were lots and lots of entries …
and I, worrying what might happen to the incriminating evidence if I chose to interpret The Pub Crawler, opted instead for The Case of The Sulky Girl!
Event 3: Sophie Hannah introduces The Monogram Mysteries
I bought this ticket about 5 minutes before the event. I hadn’t been planning on it, but Sophie Hannah is one of those authors I been meaning to read since forever. So here we have an author I haven’t read, talking about an author I decided to read no more. (Agatha Christie’s Flight to Frankfurt was simply dreadful.). Not only did Hannah persuade me to read her new Hercule Poirot novel, but she’s also persuaded me to give Christie another go. I mean how can you ignore this reaction to the end of Murder on The Orient Express?
Bookwitch has published a fantastic write-up of Sophie Hannah event here.
Event 4: Lin Anderson and Return to Scene
in many ways, this was a rerun of the talk at Stirling Castle from the day before, but I had a better seat and a better view. Haznat suitting, fingerprinting, DNA swabbing, it was all happening. By the way, this fingerprint is real!
Alongside tales of a windy Orkney and two unfortunate German tourists who pitched their tents too close to the cliff edge during a gale. They didn’t survive. Lin Anderson said that one of her readers had complained that this story was too far-fetched. It is the only true story in her novel Paths of The Dead.
Venue 4 Event 5: It was inevitable. After a weekend of mayhem and murder, I ended up here.
Thankfully, I hadn’t been arraigned on a murder charge, but the Beast of Birkenshaw had. The finale and the pièce de résistance was a specially commissioned drama, performed live in the Sheriff’s Court. (No pictures allowed.) The text was based on original trial transcripts and was interwoven with music of the day. Peter Manuel was convicted of 7 murders, and, in July 1958 was one of the final men in Scotland to hang for his crimes.
This was a powerful ending to the festival – a reminder that while crime fiction may be an entertainment, the subject matter is anything but.