In Bloody Scotland a selection of Scotland’s best crime writers use the sinister side of the country’s built heritage in stories that are by turns gripping, chilling and redemptive.
Stellar contributors Val McDermid, Chris Brookmyre, Denise Mina, Ann Cleeves, Louise Welsh, Lin Anderson, Doug Johnstone, Gordon Brown, Craig Robertson, E S Thomson, Sara Sheridan and Stuart MacBride explore the thrilling potential of Scotland’s iconic sites and structures. From murder in an Iron Age broch and a macabre tale of revenge among the furious clamour of an eighteenth century mill, to a dark psychological thriller set within the tourist throng of Edinburgh Castle and a rivalry turning fatal in the concrete galleries of an abandoned modernist ruin, this collection uncovers the intimate – and deadly – connections between people and places.
Prepare for a dangerous journey into the dark shadows of our nation’s buildings – where passion, fury, desire and death collide.
As soon as August departed my stomach started to feel the butterflies moving. I don’t know about you, but when I get excited, butterflies are the first sign. And with Scotland’s biggest and best crime festival approaching, I was really getting hyped up about spending the weekend of the 8-10 September in Stirling at Bloody Scotland.
Lots of fabulous writers from Val McDermid, Denise Mina, Ian Rankin and Mark Billingham are appearing over the weekend as well as some very strong new blood panellists like Ian Skewis and Felicia Yap. But what should I read to prepare for this fabulous weekend?
Fortunately, Bloody Scotland has thought of everything! This year, in a grand opening ceremony in the Great Hall at Stirling Castle, Bloody Scotland will be launching a brand new book containing short crime stories from some of Scotland’s best kent writers, including three of this year’s nominees for the William McIlvanney Prize for Crime Novel of the Year, Denise Mina, Craig Robertson and Val McDermid . Of course, what else could the book be called but Bloody Scotland?
I am thrilled to have been granted early sight of this terrific book in order to kick off the blog tour. And where better to start than with the inspiration for the book?
Here’s what the Editor, James Crawford of Historic Environment Scotland says :
A number of years ago, I went with a small group of friends to visit the ruins of Castle Campbell in Clackmannanshire.
It was so warm that the castle was blurred in a heat haze. There were no other visitors. We climbed in and out of the ruins, enjoying the dry coolness in the shade of the old stones. The only sounds were our own footsteps, the scratching of grasshoppers, and the lazy hum of bees drunk out of their minds on nectar.
The castle nestles a little in its hillside setting, surrounded by tall trees. When you are there, you can look out and see almost no sign of the modern world. We walked down to the stepped terraces in front of the castle to sit in the sun.
And that was when we heard it. A gunshot. In the stillness of the day, it echoed off the hillsides like a thunderclap. One of our group screamed at the shock of it. We all looked at each other for the tiniest instant with genuine alarm. And then we started laughing. ‘Must be a farmer’, one of us said. And we didn’t question it beyond that. A farmer doing the sorts of things farmers do; not that any of us really knew what those things might be. And, within seconds, we had relaxed again. We rested for a while, walked some more around the castle, and then descended the winding path back to our car, the gunshot forgotten.
Well, perhaps not totally forgotten. Because that moment of alarm always stayed with me. It teased with possibility. What if it hadn’t been a farmer, I wondered? What might we have stumbled upon unwittingly? Who was firing the gun? What – or indeed, who – was in its sights? Why was the trigger pulled? The setting that afternoon added immeasurably to the potential for drama: the dog day heat, the stillness, the seclusion. And looming over it all was the castle – called ‘Glume’ before it was Campbell, and set between the valleys of two portentously-named burns: ‘Care’ and ‘Sorrow’. It is a dark, implacable ruin; a survivor; a witness to so much over the half-millennium since it was first built.
So perhaps, in some imagined story, it could have been more than just a witness; perhaps it could have had a purpose too. Buildings and places have ways of getting under our skins, of provoking thoughts, memories and feelings – good and bad. If we had to recall all of the major emotional moments of our lives, all of the highs and lows, and were then asked to plot them on a map, I suspect most of us would be able to do it remarkably easily. You always remember where you were when… Buildings don’t pull triggers. But perhaps they can trigger people to pull them. Perhaps… .
That day at Castle Campbell came back to me when I found myself talking to the co-founder of the Bloody Scotland Crime Writers’ Festival, Lin Anderson, and its director Bob McDevitt, in the Author’s Yurt at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August 2016. ‘What if?’ I asked them. ‘What if we asked twelve of Scotland’s top crime writers to write short stories inspired by twelve of our most iconic buildings? What would they think? What would they come up with? What could possibly go wrong?’
This book is the answer.
Prepare yourself for a lot going wrong for a lot of people in a lot of ways in a lot of buildings. Prepare yourself for crimes of passion and psychotic compulsion. Prepare yourself for a 1,000-year-old Viking cold-case, a serial killer tormented by visions of ruins old and new, and an ‘urbex’ love triangle turning fatal. Prepare yourself for structures that both threaten and protect, buildings that commit acts of poetic vengeance or act as brooding accomplices to murder.
Yes, a lot goes wrong. But, of course, a lot goes right too. Because these stories offer a perfect demonstration of the incredible wealth of creative literary talent in Scotland today. Scottish crime writing has carved out a formidable reputation. Our authors can entertain and they can shock. And they are fearless when it comes to tackling many of the issues at the heart of contemporary society, shining lights into some of the darkest corners.
Bloody Scotland is published by Historic Environment Scotland on 21st September 2017 priced £12.99
You can see the Bloody Scotland programme and buy tickets here – and its a short hop to most venues from the train and bus stations.
About Historic Environment Scotland
James Crawford is Publisher at Historic Environment Scotland.Historic Environment Scotland is the lead public body established to investigate, care for and promote Scotland’s historic environment
Follow the #blogtour and read some of the fabulous reviews for this ‘must read’ book: