If day one was a lot of fun and very interesting, day 2 was just as good.
The first panel of the day consisted of The Slice Girls talking about their work, chaired by Alexandra Sokoloff with S.J.I. Holliday, A.K. Benedict Steph Broadribb and Louise Voss discussing their work. A fascinating discussion about their respective novels, working as women in the industry and future projects ensued. Louise Voss talked about working in partnership with Mark Edwards (remarkably easy) as well as her own independent work. Steph talked about her upcoming new Lori Anderson novel, Deeply Troubled – a follow up to the hugely successful Deep Down Dead.
A.K. Benedict suggested Cambridge as a great spooky place to set her novel and gave us some insight into a forthcoming TV. adaptation of her work, which had the audience enthralled as she suggested casting should be hugely interesting, but was giving no secrets away!
Susie Holliday contrasted Cambridge with the small town life in East Lothian that her trilogy centres on and gave us a foretaste of her new book, a Christmas death special.
Alexandra Sokoloff gave us an insight into her work as Exec Producer on her Huntress books. A really great panhandle with some fascinating women, of whom more later.
The second panel was next door to the Bute Museum in Rothesay Library. Another great all women panel with Lin Anderson, Alex Gray and Caro Ramsay. We were treated to a great discussion around inspiration for their books, how and where they do their research; the helpful nature of Police Scotland.
Lin's dad was a D.I. In Greenock. Her character, Rhonda McLeod was inspired by a pupil she once had who had gone on to study forensic science, which she talked about as an ever changing and ever challenging science. These three women have all taken a course in forensic science, though Caro Ramsay was the only one to go on and get her certificate – in of all things – doping in sport. She had some great tales of some the legal things athletes do to give themselves an edge, which was quite gory enough in itself!
They each had some spectacular gory stories from their connections with pathologists and forensic scientists and Caro told a particularly squirm making story about a naked man, a Rottweiler and a snake, which she described as 'basic forensic odontology'.
All three agreed that forensics were very important and also made it clear that the whole question of determining time of death is never as exact a science as it can appear on screen. As Caro said:"All forensics are open to interpretation'. A really good discussion with a lot of great stories from all three.
Next, we headed off to Print Point for Antti Tuomainen. Antti is a Finnish writer, sometimes described as the King of Finnish Noir, which makes him slightly embarrassed. Antti knew from the age of around 18 that he would be a writer. He fell in love with books and read a lot of American Noir, amongst them the books of Jim Thompson and Charles Willeford. He ever had a Plan B other than to write and before turning to published works had worked as an advertising copywriter, and a journalist. He would take anything as long as it meant he was writing.
Discussing his methodology, he revealed that he submits a one page idea to his publisher and if that's accepted, he just starts writing. He starts with no clear idea of how it will end, but reassured us that they always do end! He agreed that there was some affinity between the (generic) Nordic Noir and Tartan Noir, which he described as partly to do with the rain, cold and dark, but also a similarity of mood and tone in how these authors look at life.
Panel 4 of the day was Luca Veste and Steve Cavanagh. Now, if you have ever heard their podcast, 2 Authors and a Microphone, all you need to know is that their chat was exactly like their podcast. Very, very funny and highly enjoyable, peppered throughout with anecdotes and a hilarious story from Steve about how he mistakenly ended up doing law instead of business studies. If you haven't listened to the podcast, you really should give it a go. It's free and a great listen
Now, there was another panel, but your intrepid chronicler decided she had to eat, and so, sadly I missed that one.
Then the highlight of Saturday night was the quiz, with Craig Robertson as quizmaster. Much hilarity with some memorable moments from Luca Veste trying to play the kazoo and Mason Cross endeavouring to mime book titles. The whole thing was very entertaining, though later some Americans in my B&B were wondering just what they had wandered into….
The night ended with 3 excellent musical contributions – from Doug Johnston, Luca Veste and then the piece de resistance was 2 numbers from the Slice girls which the audience adored.
Such a great and memorable night.
Sadly, I wasn't able to stay for the final day as I had a previous engagement in Tighnabruaich, but it all sounded just as interesting as the previous 2 days.
I was sad to leave, but mostly was incredibly impressed by the organisation, the range of authors, the friendliness of everyone involved. What struck me most, though, was the way the community all worked together to make it happen and to ensure that the audiences were so very well looked after.
Bute Noir is a brilliant festival and the best value you will get anywhere. Craig Robertson and his team are to be hugely congratulated on their efforts.
A five star festival. I will be back.