If you enjoy reading books, love a good thriller or a meaty psychological twist, or are just a fan of a good murder mystery, Scotland has a lot to offer you and the town of Grantown on Spey in particular has a brilliant festival you need to know more about.
Grantown is a splendid little Highland town in the centre of the Scottish Highlands on the northern edge of the Cairngorms National Park.
The town’s Square and High Street are lined with unique, independent and interesting shops and businesses selling everything from children’s clothes to whisky, fishing line to pottery.
Most importantly, the town has a splendid bookshop owned and run by an amazing woman called Marjory Marshall. She has owned The Bookmark since 2007 and personally selects every title and the astonishing range of stock squeezed into limited shelf space is testimony to her own eclectic and very varied reading.
Perhaps you have always fancied attending a crime festival, but are worried you won’t know anyone? Or maybe you’re suffering withdrawal symptoms from Bloody Scotland being over for another year?
For the festival beginner or the serial crime attender, there can be no better or safer place than the Wee Crime Festival in Grantown on Spey. One of Scotland’s hidden gems, it is just the right size, using mostly one venue (apart from the dinner and the bacon rolls on Sunday morning), and is just the place to meet crime writers and fellow readers in a calm, beautiful and pleasant atmosphere; designed to get you reading and chatting about some of the best crime fiction around.
I was so impressed last year that I couldn’t wait to find out what would be on this year’s programme. Goodness me if it isn’t a cracker again! The brainchild of independent local bookshop owner, Marjory Marshall of The Bookmark, The Wee Crime Festival has quite the knack of knowing who and what is current, as befits any great bookshop.
So, if you are thinking of coming, who might you see and how does it all work? Well, The Bookmark sells the tickets and provides the books for signing. This year, the 6th Wee Crime Festival, most sessions take place in the Pagoda a rather lovely performing space, not far off the High Street.
Before the author sessions start, there is an ice breaker on the Friday evening, also in the Pagoda, in the form of an early evening supper – beautifully titled ‘A Crime of Pie-sion’ – a snip at £7.50 to include a gourmet pie and a glass of Cairngorm ale or Prosecco. After supper the authors themselves will act for you in brand new play written especially by acclaimed author Douglas Skelton. This year’s premiere is The Mysterious Affair at Pyles, a farcical whodunnit.
On Saturday morning, a decent 10am start will keep you on the edge of your seat as Alexandra Sokoloff and Douglas Skelton discuss Dead in the USA- Trump That with Neil Broadfoot.
At 11.30, Caro Ramsay will be in discussion with Michael J Malone and Craig Robertson discussing Me and My Book – We’ve Got Issues, a look at how these crime writers use their fiction to highlight societal issues.
After a break for lunch, the author sessions resume at 2pm with Stuart MacBride and Neil Broadfoot chatting about Authors and Their Lives of Crime which considers authors at different stages in their work – new series and long lasting series.
Then at 3.30 Alex Gray, Caro Ramsay.and Thomas Enger will discuss their thrilling crime series in a session called The Series Crime Unit with Craig Robertson.
On Saturday evening, at The Garth Hotel, there is a Crime and Dine dinner, attended by the authors who rotate between courses and sit at different communal tables, so that you have a chance to chat to at least three authors during the course of the evening.
The finale comes on the Sunday morning at Grantown Golf Club (again not far from the High Street) where tea, coffee and bacon rolls are served before the final session of the festival at 10.30am where Sandra Ireland, Margaret Kirk and Helen Forbes will be interviewed by Michael J Malone in a session looking at new female crime writers in a session called Killer Women – Here Come The Girls.
It’s a terrific programme showcasing both Scottish authors and those from further afield, and it is a great opportunity to meet like-minded readers in a friendly and intimate atmosphere, as well as getting those precious books signed.
Tickets are very reasonably priced at £7 per author session or 4 sessions for £20, with the Golf Club Sunday morning session £10 including tea/ coffee and bacon rolls. The Friday evening pie and drink is £7.50 as is the play.
The Crime and Dine dinner is a bit more, but is it a special three course dinner with a glass of wine, and so is reasonable costed at £35.
So you could do everything in the Festival for £80, which is pretty astonishing for such a top class weekend line up.