Bloody Scotland returns to Stirling

Dark and deadly happenings are predicted in Stirling on 8-10 Sep when our greatest crime writers gather for Bloody Scotland. But we find there is far more on offer than those big name authors to have put Scotland on the crime writing map

Feature by Ceris Aston | 01 Sep 2017

There is a whisper in the literary underworld... a name, wreathed in mystery, drenched with blood. A place, with a dark and tumultuous history (Stirling). A date that they dare not speak in public (8-10 Sep), but in the sheltered booths of inns (The Curly Coo on Barnton St, you know, just next to the Shelter charity shop) they speak of a gathering – the greatest criminal minds of a generation, all in one place. There is no end to the crimes that this group have plotted – from the petty and spiteful to the deeply transgressive, from the political to the purely gory. Time after time, they have blackmailed, bribed, injured and killed.

But the criminals will not have the field to themselves. Here too are those who have tracked their footsteps, set their wills against their opponents, deployed all their natural cunning and determination to unravel motive, means and opportunity: the detectives. It will be dark. It will be bloody. It will be Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival – and these plotters and solvers of crimes? One and the same – and, of course, the authors.

It's the sixth year for Bloody Scotland, which has carved out a niche for itself at the heart – or at the very least, the liver – of Scotland’s flourishing literary festival scene. A combination of exceptional authors, atmospheric surroundings and enthusiastic audiences draws lovers of crime fiction from around the world.

The festival’s gala opening will be held at Stirling Castle on Fri 8 Sep (6.30pm), launching the Bloody Scotland anthology and announcing the winner of the 2017 McIlvanney Prize for the Scottish Crime Book of the Year. The judges – crime writer Craig Sisterson, comedian Susan Calman, and Chair & Director of Granite Noir, Lee Randall – are faced with an impressive longlist of new Scottish crime, featuring both established authors and debut writers. Whoever takes home the prize, there’s not a red herring among them – we only hope the judges have nightlights.

From the castle, onwards, to the Albert Halls, in a torchlight procession led by crime writer Ian Rankin. 2017 marks thirty years since our first introduction to John Rebus, Rankin’s iconic Edinburgh detective, in Knots & Crosses. Fans can look forward to a celebration of Rankin’s most famous character as the author joins fellow crime writer Mark Billingham in conversation (8.45pm, Albert Halls). It is thirty years too since Val McDermid’s first crime novel, Report for Murder, was published in September 1987, and her event on Saturday (12.15pm, Albert Halls) will see the bestselling author reflect upon her extraordinary career and discuss her thrilling new novel, Insidious Intent.

It’s not all anniversaries though – Bloody Scotland welcome new writers to the stage in Crime in the Spotlight, which on Sat 9 Sep this year will shine on the exciting New Female Crime Writer Award (launched by Virago in association with The Pool) before McDermid’s event. Pitch Perfect gives new novelists the chance to pitch their novels to industry professionals (Sun 10 Sep, 12.45pm, Allan Park South Church), while previous pitchers share their success stories at The Graduates: Past Perfect panel, featuring Joseph Knox, Steph Broadribb and Matt Wesolowski (Sun 10 Sep, 2.30pm, Allan Park South Church).

The programme is packed with writing masterclasses, talks, and panels on everything from procedural detail to television adaptations. Friday’s Deadlier event sees authors Sophie Hannah and Cath Staincliffe introduce a compilation of the best and most bloodthirsty in women’s crime writing, from Christie to Atwood (5pm, Golden Lion) while on Saturday Four Broads in Search of a Killer set out to ‘prove that the female of the crime writing species is deadlier than the male’ (7pm, Allan Park South Church).

This year’s festival also features two crime-inspired plays, Inspector Faro Investigates the Vanishing Vagrant by Alanna Knight (Golden Lion, Sun 10 Sep, 4pm) and A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil by Christopher Brookmyre (Tolbooth Theatre, Sat 9 Sep, 2.30pm & 8.30pm).

Meanwhile, Friday night’s Never Mind the Buzzcops quiz, with teams led by McDermid and Billingham, promises to be bloody good, while the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers gig that follows it will be, well, criminal (10.30pm, Albert Halls). And, of course, there’s the Bloody Scotland Crime Writers Football Match on Saturday – Scotland vs. England – with old scores to be settled in the struggle for The Bloody Cup (2pm, Bowling Green Cowane’s Hospital).

Bloody Scotland 2017 closes on a high on Sunday with award-winning author and screenwriter Lynda LaPlante, best known for her creation DCI Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect (5.30pm, Albert Halls). The festival’s final event will celebrate LaPlante’s career as well as introducing audiences to her newest novel Good Friday.

And then (perhaps after a drink or two) readers and writers alike will disperse – go their own ways, their bags weighed down with books. These, they will read, in the sheltered booths of inns – or perhaps just at home, solving crimes in their pyjamas until the next Bloody Scotland. 

Bloody Scotland takes place from 8-10 Sep across Stirling