Bloody Scotland, the crime writing festival, is now 5 years old. This year saw some changes – not all of which worked well. I’m sure the organisers are aware of the issues but let me get this off my chest and then we’ll move onto to the good, even great things.
The big events took place, as ever in the Albert Halls in Stirling, but smaller events moved to a new location, The Golden Lion. In my opinion the new venue was too small. There was no room for queuing, with selling and signing tables squeezed into tight little corners. It was hot, stuffy and at times claustrophobic. I bought nothing. I joined a signing queue only once, and there were problems due to 3 authors at one table signing at different paces. (Not normally an issue when separate queues can be formed but it caused a back-up and a bit of a kerfuffle when there was only space for one queue.) Finally, and crucial to the whole experience, there was nowhere to relax, enjoy a coffee and read between events. (The bar was mobbed, the foyer was packed with the aforementioned queues and the restaurant reserved for those wanting meals.) In conclusion, location 4/10.
The programme, however, was a wide-ranging 8/10. Over the course of the weekend I attended events covering classic crime (Josephine Tey), Victorian Gothic (E S Thompson and Oscar de Muriel), spy fiction (Charles Cumming, Alan Judd), psychological thrillers (Rachel Abbot and Melanie Raabe), detective fiction set abroad (Graeme Macrae Burnet – France, Michael Ridpath – Iceland, and Craig Russell – Germany) and crime verging on horror (Neil MacKay and Alexandra Sokoloff). The festival ended on home territory with Ian Rankin and Quentin Jardine, who talked of the difficulties of finding new places in Edinburgh to send their experienced detectives. Let’s just say that Quartermile can expect a (fictional) crime wave in the near future!
The biggest round of applause and a 10/10 is reserved not for Christopher Brookmyre who won the inaugural William McIlvanney Prize on Friday night, nor for the English Crime Writers who won the traditional England vs Scotland football match 7-1 on Saturday afternoon (I couldn’t let that pass unremarked – I’ve been there when winning boots were on Scottish feet), but for the new main sponsors of the festival, Bookdonors. A not for profit organisation, whose mission it is to save books from ending up in landfill. Over the course of the weekend, they gave away 10,000 (!) crime fiction books. There was a gift on every chair at every event. This led to a version of musical chairs as the audience walked up and down rows picking their seats based on the book that was on it. Although there was no problem if you didn’t like the book on your chair. You could always visit the stall in the Albert Halls, where there were crates and crates of books on offer, and swap one book for another. By Sunday afternoon, however, you could simply help yourself to as many books as you wanted! Now that’s what I call booty-ful.