Crime does pay as titles top list

14th February, 2014

Scotland’s book readers have been officially declared a bloodthirsty bunch by libraries.   The list of the top 100 most borrowed books of 2012 has been released and, astonishingly, the entire top 20 are crime novels.

Lee Child’s The Affair tops the list compiled by the Public Lending Right (PLR) and two Scottish authors, Ian Rankin and Stuart MacBride, also leave their bloody stamp on the top ten.

The top 20 also includes murderous tales from such authors as James Patterson, Harlan Coben, Karen Slaughter and Quintin Jardine.

Crime fiction has long been recognised as the most popular genre in both bookshops and libraries in Scotland.

The genre is celebrated north of the border at the Bloody Scotland crime writing festival in Stirling each September. The event has attracted huge crowds since its inception in 2012 and has featured several of the names in the most borrowed list including Jo Nesbo, Lee Child, Ian Rankin and Denise Mina.

According to international bestselling author Val McDermid, there is no mystery to Scotland’s addiction to crime novels. She says that readers love the up-to-the-minute thrills that crime fiction can provide. “Because most crime writers produce a book a year, we’ve always got our finger on the pulse of contemporary society. And now more than ever Scots are fascinated with what’s going on in their world.”

The author of TV’s Wire in the Blood series also says that crime fiction provides a handy outlet for the strains and stresses of living in modern Scotland. “We feel really murderous a lot of the time and reading about it diverts us from doing it!”

Award-winning Scots author Denise Mina says that it’s the quality of crime-writing that attracts readers most, saying that good crime fiction is something they can trust.

“Crime fiction promise a diverting story and, if it doesn’t deliver that, it’s bad crime fiction. Doesn’t matter how well written, researched or sold. That’s the contract with the reader. Also, it’s so broad, from historical into future worlds, from aristos to homeless refugees, all of human life is here”

Stuart MacBride, whose Birthdays for the Dead was at number seven in the list, believes that crime fiction fare reflects the Scottish character.

“The Scottish race is thrawn by nature, and we’re drawn to the rebellious nature of most crime fiction protagonists. We like to root for the plucky underdog, beset on all sides, but determined to see justice done. Crime fiction embraces so many aspects of what it is to be here and now, reflects our hopes and fears, all tied up in a juicy story that grabs you from the first page and won’t leave you alone until you know how it ends. Or at least it should do. And the characters in these books are always caught in extremis, when they’re at their most raw and real. What could be more interesting than that?”

Glasgow crime writer Alex Gray, co-founder of Bloody Scotland, agrees that crime connects to the Scottish psyche.
“Scots have traditionally loved a sense of darkness and mystery in their literature. We are a fairly moral and upright lot and what we want in our stories is a sense that good will overcome evil.

People have always been fascinated by crime and criminals. Those who offend break societal boundaries about what is acceptable and unacceptable and so they take risks that we would never dream of taking ourselves. So too people have always been both scared and fascinated by monsters. Fear and fascination. Two seemingly mutually incompatible emotions but something that psychologists call “co-activation” – which explains why we can be both scared by a horror movie but nonetheless don’t want to look away.”

The chair of Bloody Scotland’s organising committee, agent Jenny Brown, has no doubt that the reading public’s appetite for crime novels justifies the now annual celebration of bloody books.

“Scots clearly love to read about a good murder and we also happen to be rather good about writing them. We have had two outstandingly successful festivals, if we say so ourselves, and it has been wonderful to see readers come along in such huge numbers to listen to, and chat to, their favourite crime authors.”

“We can’t name names just yet but a number of those at the top of the most-borrowed list will be coming to Bloody Scotland in 2014 and I’m sure readers will be just as excited about that as we are.”

For more information, please contact Dom Hastings, Bloody Scotland Festival Manager: dom@bloodyscotland.com