Dubbed ‘Bloody Scotland in miniature’, the island’s first ever crime writing festival ‘Bute Noir’ enjoyed sell-out success at the weekend.
Eleven top crime authors made the trip doon the watter to Bute on Friday for day one of the inaugural festival - the brainchild of author Craig Robertson and Print Point’s Karen Latto.
Kicking things off at Bute Museum were Craig and Luca Veste, interviewed by G. J. Brown on the subject of serial killers. Craig spoke about the phenomenon of ‘Murderabilia’, which is the collecting of items connected to serial killers or violent crimes. Craig revealed that he himself had purchased a few items during research for his latest novel, including a lock of Charles Manson’s hair!
At Print Point on Friday afternoon, Alexandra Sokoloff and Myra Duffy hosted ‘Deadlier than the Male’, looking at the female perspective of crime writing. Alexandra said that women have more reason to kill than men (which drew quite a few laughs from the largely female audience) but said she was interested in why serial killers tend to be male and not female. Myra, who has been writing from a young age, said the draw for her in crime fiction is the ‘who did it, and why’ element. The seven deadly sins always plays a part in crime, she noted, adding that ‘greed’ tends to be the focus in most of her novels.
Christopher Brookmyre’s event on Friday at Rothesay Library was completely sold-out, with a packed audience eager to hear from the award-winning author.
The subject of swearing was a common theme across the weekend, with authors noting that while some readers are only too keen to know the twisted and grisly details of a gruesome murder or rape, the use of the ‘f’ word has them clutching their pearls. Christopher commented that one reader - who described herself as an avid reader who had read all his novels - objected to the use of the ‘c’ word in his latest book. A quick word search revealed that the offending term had been used 250 times across all his books, but only once in the novel in question!
Proving he is a man of many talents - and indeed voices! - Chris read a short story he’d been commissioned to write for the Commonwealth Games about Kelvingrove Bandstand, called ‘Puck Knows’. Serving as a warning to ned ne’er-do-wells of the importance of manners and respect, the hilarious tale had the audience roaring with laughter.
Saturday's programme, which followed the now-annual Scottish Writer’s Bute Putting Competition, started at Rothesay Library with Caro Ramsay, Craig Robertson and Christopher Brookmyre. Local author Barry Gornell kicked off the event by reading from his book ‘The Wrong Child’, before Caro, Craig and Chris did readings from some of their own work. The trio also answered audience questions on being ‘political correct’, and interestingly whose head they would most like to find in a fridge, The name of a a certain American ‘political’ figure cropped up...
At Bute Museum, Alex Gray (whose sister, June McKenzie, resides on the island), chatted to Michael Malone on how she first got started, her interest in the forensic side of crime fiction, and writing about her home city of Glasgow. The language barrier, Alex said, occasionally proves troublesome. She recalled being asked by her American agent what a ‘close’ was. After explaining, the agent asked whether the word ‘foyer’ would be a suitable replacement. Alex said, with some confidence, it would not.
In what had been a fascinating weekend learning about the authors’ real-life encounters with murderers behind bars, how they carry out their research, and what their writing means to them, the festival came to a close with ‘A Question of Court’ on Saturday night at Bute Museum.
With Team Ramsay (consisting of Carol Ramsay, G. J. Brown and Douglas Skelton) facing Team Brookmyre (Chris Brookmyre, Luca Veste, and Michael Malone), host Craig Robertson put the authors through their paces to name theme tunes from TV crime shows, and identify the author from the book quote, among other challenges.
Craig offered his sincere thanks to Karen Latto and the teams at Rothesay Library and Bute Museum for all their hard work in making Bute Noir happen, with special thanks to everyone who had attended over the course of the weekend.
Roll on 2017 for the next Bute Noir Crime Writing Festival!