The annual McIlvanney judges lunch was a virtual Bank Holiday breakfast this year with Karen Robinson in London, Stuart Cosgrove in Glasgow and James Crawford in Edinburgh.
All were impressed by the variety and diversity of the finalists, with titles of dark humour, historical research, ambitious and innovative writing which demonstrate the sheer range of the crime genre and continuing strength of Scottish crime writing.
The list includes two who were finalists / bemused winners last year when Manda Scott announced that she was sharing the prize (Ambrose Parry & Doug Johnstone); an author who is also shortlisted for the 2020 Bloody Scotland Debut Prize (Francine Toon) and someone who provided and operated the audio, lighting and staging for the first Bloody Scotland Festivals and only started writing three years ago (Andrew James Greig). When he heard he was a finalist he said: “As a sound engineer I pinned a lapel mic on William McIlvanney at what was to be his last appearance at Bloody Scotland in 2014. I never imagined that in six years time I’d become a writer myself and be a finalist for the prize that bears his name.”
The judges praised WHIRLIGIG by Andrew James Greig (Fledgling Press) for an ‘ambitious, innovative concept and the most intricate modus operandi for killing the victims of any book this year…a real page turner’
They described PINE by Francine Toon (Transworld) as ‘an impressive and atmospheric novel, with a portrait of remote rural Scotland, bringing in issues of school bullying, mental health and alcoholism. Very readable and engaging, It’s also beautifully written.’
It’s the third time in five years that Doug Johnstone has been a McIlvanney Finalist. A perennial favourite at the Festival his latest book, A DARK MATTER (Orenda) was described by the judges as ‘a brilliant idea, a heartwarming portrait of a family with three generations of women set in an undertakers. A confident, entertaining novel with dark humour, pace and energy.’
THE ART OF DYING is the second collaboration by husband and wife team, Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman. Chris won the McIlvanney Prize in 2016 with Black Widow and as Ambrose Parry they were finalists for the McIlvanney Prize last year. The judges loved the ‘original setting in Victorian Edinburgh’ and praised the ‘fascinating medical research’ and the ‘implicit love affair building between the two main characters – the medically trained man, and the untrained women (who is clearly the smarter of the two).’
The winner will be revealed from Stirling on Friday 18 September at 7pm and all the finalists are involved over the festival weekend. Andrew James Greig is on The Never-Ending Panel as is Doug Johnstone and Ambrose Parry; Chris Brookmyre (50% of Ambrose Parry) and Doug will also be participating in The Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers – Behind the Music and Crime at the Coo Online and Francine Toon has contributed to the debut short story in association with new sponsors of the two prizes, the Glencairn Glass.
Marisa Haetzman (the other 50% of Ambrose Parry) summed it up when she said “It’s little surprise to say that this is the best news we’ve had all year.”
The McIlvanney prize is sponsored by The Glencairn Glass with match funding from Culture & Business Fund Scotland
The Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival takes place virtually this year from 17-20 September 2020. Full details and (free but please make a donation) tickets at http://www.bloodyscotland.com