SCOTLAND’S first home grown festival of crime writing started off with a spot of play acting from Lin Anderson and Alex Gray, the godmothers of this particularly friendly criminal gang.
Somewhere in England, multiple train changes away from home, they cast their eyes around and saw a small colony of Scottish crime writers and wondered why they always had to head south of the Border for conventions. After all, if Scottish exile Val McDermid had made a success of Harrogate, couldn’t they do the same a little closer to home?
“It could be the Harrogate of the North.”
“Harrogate is in the North.”
Yes, but Stirling is even further north, diplomatically situated between Edinburgh and Glasgow and on the very faultline that separates Highlands from Lowlands. And with an appropriately bloody history to boot, the battlefields of Bannockburn and Stirling Bridge on its doorstep.
As in Kevin Costner’s film “Field of Dreams” with its promise “if you build it, they will come”, Anderson, Gray and the committee they quickly co-opted built a festival and so they came. Scottish crime writers by the dozen, headlined by Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, Denise Mina, Stuart MacBride, Christopher Brookmyre, Quintin Jardine and Anne Perry (OK, born in England but a long time resident of the eastern Highlands).
Perhaps most significant of all was William McIlvanney, whose novel “Laidlaw” is the cornerstone of Scotland’s crime boom and whose 35th birthday was one of three anniversaries being celebrated at the first Bloody Scotland — 125 years of Sherlock Holmes and 25 of Rebus were the others.
Without “Laidlaw” there would be no Rebus — “the Edinburgh Laidlaw” as he wrote in a dedication to a young would-be writer called Ian Rankin — and without the success of Rankin, publishers would be less inclined to take a chance on Scottish crime writers, so no Scottish crime boom, no Tartan Noir. Simple as that.
Which made it all the more fitting that the two most welcome items of news out of the weekend were that McIlvanney’s books were being re-issued and that he was considering writing a new Laidlaw book.
It was not an exclusively Scottish party, however. Along with Scots living outside Scotland, like the French based Peter May, or non-Scots writing about England, like Ann Cleeves, other star guests included Brighton’s Peter James, Iceland’s Yrsa Sigurdardottir and Norway&rsquo