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Wednesday 15 August 2018 Edinburgh International Book Festival. Ian Rankin interviewed by Margie Orford @Edookfest @beathigh #edbookfest

Ian was primarily at the Edinburgh Book Festival to discuss his new book, In A House of Lies. From the reading he gave, we can see that Rebus has lost none of his wit, but his physical mettle is waning. Struggling with emphysema, as a result of COPD, he now finds stairs hard and looks for ways to make walking his dog, Brillo, easier.

Siobhan Clarke has a new boss and times are changing. Rankin worries that Edinburgh is too safe and that there may be more crime writers here than crimes, but it was the dual aspect of contemporary Edinburgh that made him want to write. A city that is by turns cultured but can also be savage. He is attracted by that Jekyll and Hyde nature and he turned to crime writing precisely because it can combine elements of both, most especially in his protagonist, Rebus. Ian Rankin could have followed Rebus’ path, but didn’t, though it was the route map for many working class males at the time – army, police force, some kind of enlistment that gave you a new family.



Rankin confirmed that a new television adaptation of his Rebus novels is in development, to be written by Black Watch playwright Gregory Burke.

“Last year a production company contacted me and said they would love to do Rebus properly, with six-eight-ten or more hour-long episodes,” Rankin said.

“He doesn’t know who will be cast as yet. I think they want to have a younger Rebus, so I don’t know whether it’ll be a project for Ken Stott or not,” he added. “If it happens at all, it’ll happen next year.”

There is also to be a stage play. Rankin has been working with acclaimed playwright Rona Munro on a new stage play titled Long Shadows, which will premiere at the Kings Theatre this October.

Set in the present day, the play will feature Rebus, Siobhan. Large and Big Ger Cafferty. Brillo, however, will not make an appearance.

Charles Lawson, (Jim McDonald in Coronation Street) is playing Rebus and Cathy Tyson takes the part of Siobhan Clarke.

One to watch out for. Hopefully it will tour….

Wednesday 15th August 2018 Olga Wojtas and ES Thomson. Chaired by Sally Magnusson. @OlgaWojtas @es_thomson @sallymag1 @edbookfest #edbookfest

Going to this session was a must, not least for the opportunity to hear Olga read from Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar. If you have read my review, you’ll know that it is a hugely funny book and Olga’s reading of it is one of those moments you just should not miss.

I also wanted to hear from Elaine Thomson, whose books I have not read, and which again need to find their way onto my TBR pile. I love the sound of her books. Historical crime with a medical bent, about a female apothecary who can only be an apothecary if she dresses as a man.




Sally was at pains to point out how well ES Thomason evokes the sights, sounds and smells of pre public sewer works in London. Elaine’s PhD was in entry by women into the medical profession, so she is well researched in her subject. She says she took the interesting stuff and used it, moving it a bit further back to the 1850’s.

Why a crime novel? Elaine says that place, time and setting are all important to the way you tell a story, it to engage people you need a puzzle for them to solve.

Olga did not know she’d written a crime novel. As a journalist and constant news junkie she was getting depressed at the constant stream of bad news from the 24 hour cycle and set out to cheer herself up by writing this book.

Elaine has not only made her protagonist, Jem, a woman living as a man, but she has complicated that life by making her attracted to women and living under the threat of potential madness. Jerks disguise is aided by her port wine birthmark over her eyes. The idea, Elaine told us, came from the fact that she used to suffer from very severe eczema and she saw peo0le looking the mask and not the person she was behind it.
She tries to balance authenticity and imagination to make her books interesting as well as accurate.

Jem is based on James Miranda Barry, a surgeon who served in the British Army.  Although Barryks entire adult life was lived as a man, he was born Margaret Ann Buckley and his gender was only discovered after his death.

Interestingly, one of the people who reads her early drafts is Olga and vice versa and the two are great friends. Olga credits Elaine with the transformation of her writing Jen she suggested a change from third to first person. Both women agree that having other writers critique their early work is invaluable.

Olga’s protagonist is the redoubtable Shona McMonagle, a renaissance woman and former prefect of Marcia Blaine’s School for Girls. She time travels to Imperial Russia and in her feminist fashion, endeavours to raise the consciousness of everyone she meets. (You have to read it).

Rumour has it that Shona’s next trip through time may well be to fin de Siecle France, though not to Paris, but to a small village where she thinks her tasks to fight vampires….

Watch this space, I can hardly wait.

If you want a fuller version of this panel, you can catch the recording this Sunday morning on BBC Radio Scotland at 10am.

Wednesday 15 August 2018 Joanna Cannon and Jess Kidd chaired by Jenny Brown @JoannaCannon @JessKiddHerself @AgentJenny @EdBookFest #edbookfest


I’d heard so much about Three Things About Elsie hat getting to a panel session with her was a must and she was brilliantly paired with Jess Kidd, author of The Hoarder.

For both authors, these are their second books and both books share common themes of ageing, and memory loss, both use humour and both are about secrets.

In Joanna’s Three Things About Elsie, 84-year old Florence has fallen and is waiting for help. Evidently in a rapidly developing stage of increasing dementia, her memory has suffered and she is reliant on the ever-present Elsie as she tries to piece together an event from her past. In the present, we witness the moral and physical struggles experienced by her concerned carers at the Rest Home and the relationships between them.

Joanna says she wanted to explore how we treat people as we get older; why older people are somehow seen as a package and not a person and why as a society we are so afraid of old age.

Jess’s The Hoarder features Maud Drennan – underpaid carer and unintentional psychic who is the latest in a long line of dogsbodies for the ancient, belligerent Cathal Flood. Yet despite her best efforts, Maud is drawn into the mysteries concealed in his filthy, once-grand home. She realises that something is changing: Cathal, and the junk-filled rooms, are opening up to her.

Jess got interested in the relationship between care workers and their clients when she was a support worker and The Hoarder is told from the caregivers perspective. She stresses the need to recognise that in that relationship, caregivers will also bring their own baggage.

She researched the hoarding compulsion and found that it is linked to loss and grief. Joanna is book also deals with loss, with dementia and autism. She feels really strongly about her duty of care in making sure that real people do it bleed into her fictional world. She is interested in loss of power and pursuing uncomfortable themes. Intergenerational friendships, threatened loss of independence of home and ro some degree also of self, are all big themes to explore.

Jess’s book looks at atonement, guilt and shame. Maud has a posse of saints who follow her around but are really not very helpful but are used by Jess as a device to explore the past. All of her. Hard ters are trapped in some way and he uses humour as a device to propel things forward.

Joanna Cannon started writing by creating a blog when she was a junior doctor, as a way of relieving her stress and get her through the tough times. She says it’s full of doom and gloom.

Her first book, The Trouble With Goats and Sheep, was written in her car, in the hospital car park during lunch breaks!

Both women were fascinating and now I have a whole new list of books I have to read.

If you are interested, there is a free e-book created by Joanna titled Three Things I’d Tell My Younger Self. With contributions from authors, performers, doctors, journalist and others, this is an often hilarious, moving and inspiring collection of wisdom to offer solace and entertainment to people at any milestone of their lives.

Tuesday 14 August. Denise Mina and Liam McIlvanney chaired by Stuart Kelly. @DameDeniseMina @LiamMcIlvanney @EdBookFest #edbookfest

The last session of Tuesday was at 20.45.i was in 2 minds about going to this one as I am really fortunate in having heard both authors a number off times recently.

But The Long Drop and The Quaker (links are to my reviews) are both books that have been outstanding and immediately shot to the top of my must read list. There are so many synergies between the 2 books that in the end this was a panel I could not resist.

I am so glad I went. The house was packed as we settled down to listen to Liam McIlvanney talk about his late 1960’s set novel, The Quaker, a fictional story loosely based on the Bible John murders and Denise Mina’s The Long Drop a (barely) fictionalised account of true crime murders in 1950’s Lanarkshire.



What was it, asked Stuart, that appealed about these true life crimes to both writers? Liam had grown up with the Bible John murders and was of an age where he could remember the newspaper reports and the posters of the Bible John likeness on the walls.

It was knowing that the stories were becoming legend, that Bible John once lived next door, or was your postman, so people would later whisper. At the same time, Liam was conscious of the hurt that had been caused, of the relatives still alive. So fictionalising the story made it much less personal but also freed him up to use his creativity and imagination.

Denise found herself getting carried away with the whole Peter Manuel story and not thinking until later about the ethical conundrum of dealing with true crime. Then she thought about it a great deal. Are there manners involved? How many steps back do you need to take before it’s OK to tackle this kind of story?

As Liam pointed out, these were also public stories, widely reported and discussed, not just private. So Denise’s next book is about ethical ambivalences of talking about someone’s story.

Both authors talked about the role of the city of Glasgow which features heavily in their books as a central story in its own right. Corruption is a central part of the stories they tell. Of housing policy and planning and the money made and hidden, which no-one ever talks about. Political crimes went unpunished as the poor suffered.

The population explosion created a huge need for social housing leading to the root of all evil in the city.

Discusion ranged from the impact of  Cagney movies on Glasgow gangsters to the impact of the Bolshevik revolution on Glasgow housing planning to giving a voice to voiceless women.

This was a conversation that sparked and crackled, aided and abetted by Stuart Kelly who got the best out of both authors.

A terrific evening, so well spent. Read the books, Go and see the authors at Bloody Scotland.

Edinburgh Book Festival 14th August 2018 Louis de Bernières @EdBookFest

My first session today was Hannah Beckerman talking to acclaimed novelist Louis de Bernières. In Edinburgh to discuss his latest novel, So Much Life Left Over, the second book in a trilogy that he has been planning and thinking about since the mid 1990’s.

The first book in the trilogy (though Bernières says he has designed them to work in any order), is The Dust that Falls from Dreams.

Bernières was inspired, he says, by his grandfather, who, in the face of a disintegrating marriage, took himself off for longer and longer periods until one day he simply did not come back.

It was only when his father received notification that his grandfather had died at that the age of 96 in the Rocky Mountains, that they even realised he had been alive for all those years.

So Louis went to Canada to talk to his friends and find out the story behind what he had been doing for all those absent years. That was the inspiration, but the rest is fiction. From the outset he knew that it would be a trilogy covering the First World War, the Second World War and finally the period up to the mid 80’s.

The Dust That Falls From Dreams looks at the brief golden years before the outbreak of World War I. Rosie McCosh and  three very different sisters are growing up in an eccentric household in Kent, with their neighbours the Pitt boys on one side and the Pendennis boys on the other. But their days of childhood adventure are shadowed by the approach of the conflict that will engulf them on the cusp of adulthood.
When the boys end up scattered along the Western Front, Rosie is left confused by her love for two young men – one an infantry soldier and one a flying ace. Rosie and her sisters will have to build new lives out of the opportunities and devastations that follow the Great War.

In the second and current book, So Much Life Left Over, the novel follows Daniel Pitt in his troubled marriage with Rosie between the World Wars.

Rosie and Daniel have moved to Ceylon with their little daughter to start a new life at the dawn of the 1920s, attempting to put the trauma of the First World War behind them, and to rekindle a marriage that gets colder every day. But the pull of the ties of home and a yearning for fulfilment threatens their marriage.

Back in England, Rosie’s three sisters are dealing with different challenges in their searches for family, purpose and happiness. These are precarious times, and they find themselves using unconventional means to achieve their desires. Around them the world is changing, and when Daniel finds himself in Germany he witnesses events taking a dark and forbidding turn.

Bernières says he pretty much wrote all three novels at the same time, though the third is awaiting completion. Daniel and his friend Fluke are amazed to have survived the war and wonder what to do with so much life left to live . But Bernières makes the point that none of his characters are left unscathed by the war. Daniel has a recurring dream because he killed so many people in the Grand Attack.

Bernières references his Grandfather who was maimed in a Sopwith Camel and took 3 bullets, but never thought the war was futile. For him it was about the independence of small countries.

He also spoke about his mother’s faith, which was strong, though his is not. His mother said she would have died of loneliness without faith. He has scepticism about religion but tries to balance this in his books through a more philosophical spiritualism in one of his characters.

He is interested in different kinds of loving relationships, sexual and non sexual, and, for example, the strength of bond between a parent and his/her children.

Asked by Hannah Beckerman if he thought the she was right to sense optimism at the end of So Much Life Left Over, he looks a little surprised and says that Daniel, his protagonist is saved by the outbreak of a new war and thus has something important to do again.

In conversation with the audience he talked about the experience of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin being made into a film and his naivety about the process. He did confirm that a new stage version of his most famous book will be premiered next year in Kingston involving the use of physical theatre. It is hoped this may go on tour.

Sadly, that was all we had time for, though I could have listened for hours….

Edinburgh International Book Festival 13 August 2018 @edbookfest @stellduffy @rosemcgowan #edbookfest


My first day at the Edinburgh Book Festival. It was such a dreich day, but he welcome was warm and the place was buzzing as I arrived from Glasgow for my first event.


After checking in and getting my blogger pass, it was off to the Spiegeltent for Stella Duffy, chaired by Creative Scotland’s Jenny Niven. Author of 16 novels, actor, director, creator of fun palaces and holder of an OBE for services to the Arts, Duffy is a passionate advocate for the arts and for the involvement and appreciation of people everywhere,irrespective of opportunity.



Hidden Room, her psychological thriller out last year, was her first crime book in 12 years and 8 books. When she started to write it, she thought it would be a horror story, but as she says, ‘sometimes the story dictates the form’. From which you will infer that Stella Duffy is a pantser not a plotter.

She says that all her books are quite different because she never really has the headspace to replicate the success of the previous book. It’s just not her style – though she does say that all her stories are essentially about family secrets and lies.

Duffy was brought up in New Zealand and was honoured to have been asked by Harper Collins and the 2 nephews of Ngaio Marsh, who look after her estate, to take 5,000 words of a 1942/43 novel and a page of notes and to complete the novel that Ngaio Marsh started. Money in the Morgue has been shortlisted for this year’s CWA Historical Dagger.

Like Duffy, Marsh was also a theatre director. In 1932, a family tragedy brought Marsh home to New Zealand, and in 1949 her writing would earn her the ultimate distinction when Penguin and Collins released the ‘Marsh Million’: 100,000 copies each of ten of her titles on to the world market.

Stella Duffy contends that Marsh, though not necessarily a better plotter than Christie, certainly had a better sense of bothplace and character.

Duffy talked about the fun palaces movement which she was instrumental in starting, inspired by Joan Littlewood.The idea is to take a community building like a library and use it to bring people and their passions together. Whether singing, or gardening, the idea is to have a completely non threatening environment that positively welcomes everyone in. There’s a mixture of things to get involved in, like a mini festival and it’s a place where everyone can go, because everyone has something to offer. It’s access to create, not consume.

As for the future, Stella Duffy has just signed a 2 book deal with Virago (Yaay!) and she is definitely up for another Roderick Alleyn book, so there’s a lot for us readers to look forward to.
Passionate and inspiring, Stella Duffy was a terrific listen.


Also inspiring was my next session. Afua Hirsch, a guest selector for this year’s festival, interviewed Rose McGowan, author of Brave.

What a woman! Director, actor, author, Rose McGowan has become renowned as the woman who led the movement to break the silence. Brave is a book about identity and finding your voice. It is also a searing indictment of the cult of Hollywood.
McGowan knows it is a cult, because she recognises it. She was born into one. Her father was Head of the Italian branch of the Children of God. After moving to the States she ran away, aged 13 and lived a transient lifestyle until being ‘discovered’ in L.A.


McGowan set out to tell it how it is. Growing up she watched her father using trigger words in the cult. She was, as she says, in a hardcore specific version of a cult. She saw her father wire thoughts into peoples minds. In Hollywood it was like being trapped in the same kind of structure, even if diluted.

She developed a strong instinct for danger and bullshit when she was young, yet she didn’t recognise the problems Hollywood threw up until she was in it. She naively believed that as Hollywood employers, she would be treated fairly, and did not think she would be set up, which she was by both men and women.  She does call it as it is. Referring to the rape couch, rather  than the euphemistic ‘casting couch’ .

She did talk a bit about the man she calls The Monster and she says it is good to show that you can cut off the head of power. But she also remarks that a great deal of the protection the Monster received came from the Democratic Party.

Her story is in this remarkable book, and she has clearly been through a great deal, treading a lonely path and from which I think she has not fully recovered. She is an immensely strong woman, but the stand that she took was clearly at great personal cost.
She is currently homeless, travelling and looking for somewhere to settle again. She has found telling her story in Brave has helped her to make peace and she has plans for another book and an album.

Her message to everyone is that it is never too late to be free. I found her to be strong and brave and astounding in the best possible way.

I was pleased to see Madeleine Black, also in the audience and now they have each other’s books, which feels so very right.


More tomorrow.


Broken Ground by Val McDermid (Karen Pirie #5) @valmcdermid @littlebrownuk



Source: Purchased copy

Publication: 23 August 2018 from Little Brown

Pp: 422

ISBN-13: 978-1408709351


Somebody has been here before us. And he’s still here . . .’

When a body is discovered in the remote depths of the Highlands, DCI Karen Pirie finds herself in the right place at the right time. Unearthed with someone’s long-buried inheritance, the victim seems to belong to the distant past – until new evidence suggests otherwise, and Karen is called in to unravel a case where nothing is as it seems.

It’s not long before an overheard conversation draws Karen into the heart of a different case, however – a shocking crime she thought she’d already prevented. As she inches closer to the twisted truths at the centre of these murders, it becomes clear that she’s dealing with a version of justice terrifyingly different to her own . . .

A new Val McDermid is always a cause for rejoicing and I have especially come to love the Karen Pirie books, with all the strength of character and determination that Pirie has, coupled with the atmospheric descriptions of Edinburgh and, in this case, Wester Ross.

In Broken Ground, Pirie will have to deal with three cases. Set in a duel timeline of 1944 and 2018, with dips into the mid-1990’s, the primary cold case Karen deals with is the discovery of a perfectly preserved body of a man in a peat bog in Wester Ross.

Alice Somerville has travelled to a Highland crofting area to claim the vintage motorbikes her grandfather buried there in a peat bog at the end of the Second World War. But when a body turns up under one of the motorbikes it seems she is to be disappointed.

This body is wearing Air Max Nikes, which puts the case firmly in the jurisdiction of Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie, Head of the Historic Cases Unit. Still grieving the loss of her partner, Phil, she isn’t exactly thrilled when her boss, PR conscious Assistant Chief Constable Ann Markie, assigns a new investigator to her unit without discussion. Is Detective Sergeant Gerry McCartney there to help, or is some other motive at work here?

Meanwhile McCartney and Jason ‘The Mint’ Murray are painstakingly tracking down new evidence in a cold case involving several violent rapes. And as if she weren’t already busy enough, Pirie overhears a conversation in her favourite coffee shop, Aleppo, which worries her enough to make an on the spot intervention.

Pirie must follow the trail of a World War II soldier involved in the discreet relocation of 2  vintage motorcycles, Indian 741s,  in order to establish the identity of the murdered man and solve the case. Her need for justice for the victims and closure for the families is what keeps her searching, determined to piece together scraps of old evidence and half-forgotten remembrances and she will let nothing stand in her way.

McDermid is an expert in her craft. She creates a strong and atmospheric sense of place; her characters develop book by book and are well rooted and believable, making the reader care about them and worry for their futures.

Flawlessly plotted, Broken Ground is a masterclass in creating three utterly fascinating interwoven stories and serving up a side dish of personal rancour that could sour a pint of milk. Riven with suspense, full of tension and nail bitingly good, this is a cracker of a book.

This is the fifth Karen Pirie book and she is really coming into her own in a strong and fearless way. She is a good leader, intelligent, fiercely determined and nobody’s idea of a a pushover.There’s a new mantra in town; ‘What would Karen Pirie do?’

Through the character of Karen, McDermid reserves her strongest ire for women who do not hesitate to backstab other women in their race to the top and for those who will let political considerations sway their sense of what is right.  Justice, for some, is seen to be a moveable feast.

As the book comes to a conclusion Karen Pirie has made not just one, but two new enemies, although to be fair, she has also made a new friend. I’ll be fascinated to see what happens in the next book.

Verdict: A flawlessly plotted, gripping page turner you will not want to put down.

Amazon                                                                       Waterstones

About Val McDermid


Val McDermid is one of the biggest names in crime writing. Her novels have been translated into 40 languages, sold over 15 million copies worldwide.Val comes from Kirkcaldy, Fife, and read English at St Hilda’s College, Oxford (where she is now an Honorary Fellow). She was the first ever student from a state school in Scotland. Following graduation she became a journalist, and worked briefly as a dramatist.

Her first success as a novelist came with Report for Murder The first Lindsay Gordon Mystery, first published in 1987.

Among her many awards are the Portico Prize for Fiction, the LA Times Book Prize, the Lambda Literary Pioneer Award and the Cartier Diamond Dagger. She has published 27 novels, short stories, non-fiction and a prize-winning children’s book. She is a regular broadcaster for BBC radio and lives in Edinburgh

Val says: “I never imagined when I started on this journey that I would have the success that has come my way. All those novels, radio plays, short stories, non-fiction and even a children’s book make a significant pile that I have every intention of adding to. I divide my year between writing and promoting my work at home and abroad, and when I’m not travelling, I divide my time between South Manchester and Edinburgh where I live with my partner and my son. Most days, I feel like one of the very lucky ones.”



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