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I’ve got a bunch of events coming up in the next couple of months and thought it was about time I shared them. So if you want to see me counting using my fingers, as below, or talking with my hands, as per usual, then come along to one of these.
August 23 @ 3.45 – Edinburgh International Book Festival with Luca Veste
August 25 @ 3.30 – North Lankarksire Libraries Big Day out at Summerlee Museum
September 8 – Bouchercon in St Petersburg, Florida
September 22 @ 10.30 – Bloody Scotland in Stirling with Lin Anderson
October 10 @ 2.30 – Brechin Library
October 19 @ 7.00 – Dick Institute, Kilmarnock with Alexandra Sokoloff
November 2-4 – Grantown-on-Spey
November 16-18 – Iceland Noir
November 19-25 Book Week Scotland, somewhere near you
Portsoy Book Festival | 12 March | The Salmon Bothy
11am – 1pm
Tickets are available for purchase at the Ice Cream Shop, Seafield Street, Portsoy, or reserve by calling 01261 843822
Aye Write Book Festival | 18 March | Mitchell Library | Glasgow
Talking online crime with Stav Sherez. With Theresa Talbot. Book your ticket now!
Off The Page | May 9 | St Ninian’s Library | Stirling
Keep up to date with all details as they are published
Bloody Scotland 2016 is almost upon us!
This year you will be able to catch up with Craig at the following events (click on links to book tickets) :
Join Craig and a host of friends and fans at the launch of his new novel Murderabilia.
Sunday 11 September from 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm Tickets: £7.50/£6.50
How good a witness would you make? You will find out in this fascinating insight into the science behind witness identification. You will get a front row seat to a bank robbery but will you be able to spot the guilty party or will you risk sending an innocent man to jail?
Helping you make this vital decision will be researcher in forensic psychology Professor Graham Pike, an expert in eyewitness identification; author Craig Robertson and some unsuspecting crime writers.
Sunday 11 September from 11:45 am – 12:45 pm Tickets £9.50/£8.50
Meet three bestselling authors whose work focuses firmly on the dark side of human nature. For Those Who Know the Ending is Malcolm Mackay’s latest trip into the brutality of gangland Glasgow. James Oswald’s Inspector McLean confronts shadows from his past in The Damage Done. Craig Robertson’s new novel Murderabilia delves into the murky world of serial killer collectibles in the company of DCI Rachel Narey and photographer Tony Winter.
Anyway, The Last Refuge is out in paperback so that’s pretty darn exciting. The lovely people at Simon & Schuster have celebrated the fact by sticking up advertising posters just about everywhere there’s a choo-choo train. Sightings have come in from across central Scotland, the borders and northern England, with even a lesser-spotted poster been seen in warmer climes. If you see one, please give it a wave.
Over the summer, I was signing books and talking nonsense in various parts of the UK including but not limited to Bristol, Ayr, Kirkintilloch, London, Kirkcaldy, Glasgow, Tillicoultry, Harrogate, Callendar and Stirling. I can honestly say I enjoyed every one of them and thanks to all those who turned up to say hello.
In the middle of all that, I’ve also been writing a book. In fact, I’m still writing it. I sort of stopped and started again, then repeated that pattern so that I’m now on version three which is definitely (has to be) the final countdown to deadline day at the end of this month. After all the faffing, I’m happy that I’ve got it right and sometimes those agonies of just being plain wrong have to be gone through to get to the right place.
The book takes me back to Glasgow after my brief sojourn in the Faroe Islands, and reunites me with some long-lost friends in the shape of Rachel Narey, Tony Winter et al. Actually some of the et als might be in or not and some of the et als may die but that’s another story. Actually, it’s this story but never mind. I can’t tell you much more about it for now other than it involves murder and architecture and stuff.
What else? Well the third Bloody Scotland festival in my home city of Stirling passed off very successfully in September. Actually, you know what, there is so much to tell about it that I will do a separate blog on it. Anything to keep me from having to finish that book… But for now just let me say, Scotland 13 England 1.
In the coming couple of months I will be off on my travels, starting on Friday (October 10) when I’m off to Rome for the weekend to play for the Scotland Writers football team against our Italian counterparts. Assuming I survive that with both legs in working order then I’m off to Grantown-on-Spey for the Death in Grantown weekend festival which also features Lin Anderson, Alexandra Sokoloff, Russel McLean, Neil Broadfoot and many more.
Then in early November, I’m off to the US of A for a book fair in San Diego then Bouchercon in Long Beach, California where I’m on with a panel of fellow Scots – Catriona McPherson, James Oswald and Caro Ramsay. I’m home for one day then off to Reykjavik for Iceland Noir, again appearing with Mr Oswald but thankfully also with Louise Millar. November then finishes with a flurry of stuff, probably including snow, in Dalkeith, Glasgow and Glenrothes.
Whenever I’ve appeared at festivals as a panellist or speaker, I think I’ve been guilty of just enjoying them and not realising the hard work that’s gone into putting them on so that people like me can talk about books and drink alcohol. (Those two things aren’t necessarily in order of festival importance).However for the past three years I’ve been on the organising committee of Bloody Scotland, the crime writing festival held in my home city of Stirling. Now I KNOW how much work these other festivals put in in order to make it look easy.
Preparation for the next year’s event starts almost the moment that the previous one ends and it’s a constant process of ideas, invites, acceptances and refusals, cancellations, tantrums, alcohol abuse and occasional diplomacy. Committee meetings increasingly become a bonfire of the profanities. It’s sort of fun.
I can’t say who’s in our line-up for this September as the programme isn’t launched until June 4 but it’s looking very good. As well as a bunch of bestselling crime writers from across the globe (from ten different countries as things stand) we are also planning a few very different events that will be taking place away from our usual venues. In fact, they are in three particularly unusual and historic locations. More later.
Anyway, suffice to say I’ll fully appreciate the work done by the organising committee of Crimefest this week. It should be a good one.
But if there is a tiny, hardly-worth-mentioning drawback of sorts then it’s signing books. Not when people buy them and thrust them under your nose – that bit’s perfectly fine. More than fine. It’s really quite good.
Stock signings aren’t usually quite so much though. Not when you have to sign hunners of them at once. (For anyone outside Glasgow, hunners is an official term for any number greater than 47). I know, I know, this is ridiculous whining and I really am glad I have to sign them because the alternative is not signing them.
But last Friday morning, complete with post-pub quiz hangover, I had to sign 850 of them. That was officially hunners. Thankfully the good folk of Harper Collins warehouse in Bishopbriggs, namely Marie and Neil, looked after me. They made sure I got the medicine I needed to cure my sore head – black pudding, haggis, sausages, potato scones and fried egg. It was great.
Duly fortified and fattened, I scrawled my signature on all 850 books that were destined for Scottish stores. It took just a bit under three hours and by the end my right hand was in as good a shape as Abu Hamza’s. It was all worth it though and Marie and Neil’s chat took most of the pain away. They passed on tales of previous signing visits by the likes of Michael Barrymore and Chris Eubank that I couldn’t possibly repeat unless bribed.
The shiny new hardback copies of The Last Refuge are now winging their way to bookshops all over the country. If you wanted to buy one then that would make me happy.
I interviewed the brilliant John Connolly at the Tolbooth in Stirling for a Bloody Scotland pop-up event. We had a great turnout and John entertained them royally in that annoyingly effortless Irishy storytelling way of his. The night was topped off by drinking beer and playing dominoes with John and his publicist in a local pub. That’s the rock n’ roll lifestyle of a crime writer for you.
That was followed by a night of Murder Most Entertaining which was held in A’The Airts in the town of Sanquhar in Dumfries and Galloway. The entertaining bits were done by fellow authors Lin Anderson, Michael J Malone and Douglas Skelton. There was quite a bit of talk about sex if I remember correctly and Lin said a number of naughty words.
A couple of nights after that, I was back south again, this time in the company of Ian Rankin at the Queen’s Hall in Hexham. A capacity crowd of 350 turned out to see Mr R as part of the Hexham Book Festival. I was asking the questions and judging by the response after the event and the laughter during it, everyone seemed to enjoy it. No dominoes this time but a curry in the company of crime-writing compadres Mari Hannah, William Ryan and Alexandra Sokoloff. Oh and more beer.
This week I’m off to Bristol for Crimefest where I’m on a panel entitled “An Irishwoman, A Welshman, An Englishwoman, A Scotsman, & An English Moderator Walk Into A Book”. Basically, it’s Ruth Dudley Edwards, me, Jasper Fforde and Sheila Quigley talking about a sense of place under the direction of Simon Brett.
After three days in the south-west, I will have just a couple of days for my liver to recover before the launch of The Last Refuge on Thursday May 22. It is being held in Mediterranea in Stirling at 6 and there will be Faroese music, strong Faroese akvavit and (if I can get it here on time) traditional Faroese food. In case you haven’t worked it out, the book is set in the Faroe Islands. Michael J Malone will be in the chair and quizzing me on the book wot I wrote. Tickets are free and available from Waterstones Stirling.
After that, I am making appearances at a trio of Waterstones stores. Namely Falkirk on May 24, Ayr (with Michael J Malone again asking questions) on May 28 and Kirkcaldy (with Frank Muir) on June 5. Then I’m taking part in Readers Day in Kirkintilloch on June 7, Waterstones Argyle Street on June 20 talking about islands as crime settings along with Simon Sylvester and Alex Gordon. I’m back in Argyle Street on June 26 to referee a panel between teams of crime writers from east and west Scotland. June finishes with a gig at the West End Festival in Glasgow on the 29th. I’m at Cottiers along with Lin Anderson and Russel D McLean.
There’s other stuff too including speeches to a primary school graduation and a rally to Save Gillies Hill, and a night to raise money to combat MS in Kelso. July… actually let’s worry about July when it happens but it includes a wedding in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and, of course, the Theakstons Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate. Rock n’ roll.
That’s pretty much how I felt about having given up the comfort and safety of writing a series set in a city I know very well to instead come up with an entirely new set of characters in a place I’d never been to. Even worse – and yet in many ways better – it is set in a place far removed from the Glasgow that’s home to my Tony Winter/Rachel Narey series.
Torshavn is the capital of the Faroes Islands, said to be the smallest capital city in the world with just 17,600 inhabitants. Buffeted by the harsh weathers of the North Atlantic, the people live in multi-coloured houses with turf roofs and most of them depend on the sea for a living. They eat whale and puffin, drink akvavit, enjoy endless summer days, endure long, dark winters and frequently have four seasons in an afternoon.
They are said to have the lowest crime rate in the world and live in a landscape as dramatic as it is stunningly beautiful. Apart from the weather and the fact that they don’t/can’t grow vegetables, it’s all very unlike urban Glasgow.
The more I learned about the place as I scouted for an overseas location as part of a planned Winter/Narey book, the more I knew I wanted to write something there. It just didn’t fit for my police photographer and detective sergeant so it had to be a standalone. New characters, new plot, new location. There was nothing else for it but to visit.
In November 2012, I flew from Edinburgh to Amsterdam, to Copenhagen – it took eight hours before I got north of where I started – and then finally on the bumpy final leg to the Faroes and one of the world’s smallest and supposedly most dangerous airports to land at. I booked into the Hotel Torshavn for eight nights and endeavoured to learn as much as I could in that time.
There were two things in particular that I was keen to find: a good pub and a good place to kill someone. Within a couple of days, I’d discovered both. (Just to be clear, they are not the same place. Torshavn pubs just aren’t like that. Another difference from Glasgow.)
The people were just as friendly though and frequently someone would come up if I was sitting in a bar – which I had to do in the name of research – and start a conversation. They were more than happy to talk about their town and the islands, sharing both the joys and hardships of living in the middle of a rain-lashed triangle between Iceland, Norway and Scotland. They generously gave me what I needed to write a book.
They have a lot of weather in the Faroes, most of it wet. In those eight days there were two brief occasions when it didn’t rain – and it snowed instead. There was not a single moment when there wasn’t something falling from the sky. It felt like home.
Obviously, much as I liked the place, I had to spoil the Faroe Islands’ crime figures. I felt a bit bad about doing so, even if it was only in the pages of a book. A crime novel without a crime just wouldn’t be right. So a place with only murder in 25 years had to have (at least) another one. And there’s quite a bit of blood spilled, not all of it human. Sorry about that.
It did seem like a good idea at the time and now, countless hours of research later, it still seems like a good idea. Much better at least than jumping naked into a mess of cactus…