Shari Low joins our programme

There has been a change to our programme - Quintin Jardine is unfortunately no longer able to join us at the event with Caro Ramsay.
However international bestselling author Shari Low will be taking his place at the event.
Shari has co-written thriller Taking Hollywood with author Ross King- her first foray into the world of crime-writing - under the combined pen name of Shari King.
Taking Hollywood is a gritty page-turner of three Glasgow friends with a murky past who have embedded themselves in Hollywood life - and a journalist who threatens to expose their secret.

Tickets on sale via our website or the Tollbooth Box Office in Stirling. 

Crime Writing Tips

Killing your darlings and other stories - Liam Murray Bell's Crime Writing Tips

To tie in with this year’s Bloody Scotland Short Story Competition, on the theme of ‘Escape’, I’ve been asked to draw up some hints and tips for all you crime writers out there, along the lines of the ‘rules’ for writing that Elmore Leonard drew up in 2010 .

So here they are: my five tips for writing a crime short story. Happy writing!

1) First impressions count. Grab the reader with your opening scene. Hell, grab them with your opening line – drag them into the plot by getting them to ask What has happened? or What will happen next? These two questions, in essence, are the cornerstone of plot, tied to the idea of a whodunit and a cliff-hanger. Even better, get the opening line to ask both questions, as with the opening line to Ruth Rendell’s A Judgement in Stone: “Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write”.

2) Avoid cliché in your similes and metaphors like the plague. This is not because similes and metaphors don’t work – they do – but a tired image will just cause your reader to skip over it. Make it original and bold and tie it into the voice of your character. You can’t go wrong with Philip Marlowe, the detective written by Raymond Chandler, who’s never far from an original wise-crack, like “I belonged in Idle Valley like a pearl onion on a banana split”.

3) Following on from the last point, think about the voice of your main character and how close you want the reader to be to them. This can be in third person or in first person, but make sure it’s consistent and that you’re signalling to the reader if/when you’re shifting point-of-view. The degree of intimacy between the character and the reader is important because it can produce sympathy or, even, a degree of complicity. So, for instance, Jeff Lindsay is able to produce some form of feeling for his serial-killer character of Dexter by giving him a platform for a ‘confession’: “I know what I am and that is not a thing to love”. Ah, bless.

4) Think about your structure. This is a short story you’re writing, so there’s no point in setting up a police investigation that’s never going to be concluded or setting up a will-they-won’t-they love affair. Your story should have a beginning, middle and an end, although not necessarily in that order. And why not a twist, to cap it all off. Like this tip not ending with a quote like all the others have – didn’t see that one coming, did you?

5) Edit. Sounds obvious, but make sure that the work you’re putting forward is the very best it can be by re-writing and re-working until you’re happy with setting, character, plot and the prose style. If possible, let it lie in a drawer or on your desk for a few days before editing or give it to a trusted reader for comments and corrections. And be brutal with your edits: even if you love a line, if it doesn’t fit or work then leave it out. You can always keep it in a notebook for another story. As the saying goes, “Kill your darlings”. As Stephen King says, “Even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings”.

Liam Murray Bell is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Stirling and author of 'So It Is', shortlisted for Scottish Book of the Year 2013, and 'The Busker', released in May 2014.

Liam will also be holding workshops during the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Masterclasses at the University of Stirling on Friday 19th September. You can find more information and book your place here.

 Enter our Bloody Scotland Short Story Competition before 31st July for the chance to win £1000, a weekend pass to the festival and a bottle of Deanston Single Malt Whisky. 

Bloody Scotland logo

2014 Programme out now

We’re delighted to announce our programme for the third edition of Bloody Scotland.

Actor-turned-crime novelist John Gordon Sinclair joined us at Stirling’s historic Tolbooth theatre this afternoon to formally announce the programme to the media. The 2014 festival, which runs from 19-21 September, is bigger and more ambitious than ever before, with thirty-seven events and more than fifty of the biggest names in crime fiction descending on Stirling over the course of the weekend.

As well are more author talks than ever before, we’re very excited to announce some exciting event experiences this year. Some of your favourite authors will swap jotters for jerseys as Scotland takes on England for a crime writers’ football match, there will be a real-life medieval murder mystery at Stirling Castle and we’re presenting our first theatrical performance with a play in a real courthouse.

Some of your favourite parts of Bloody Scotland are back and once again we’ll be playing host to the Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year awards dinner, where you can dine with some of your favourite crime writers. We’ll also continue to encourage the next generation of writers with our University of Stirling Masterclass and pitch sessions.

There are so many things to choose from this year, from crime writing superstars like Kathy Reichs & Ian Rankin, Scottish favourites Christopher Brookmyre & Denise Mina to sure to be fascinating panels on topics such as the role of the women in Crime Fiction and digital publishing.

The full programme is online now and tickets are on sale.

Pitch Perfect 2014

Are you an aspiring crime writer?

We're inviting new writers to pitch their debut novel to us in 100 words. We'll then shortlist the top ten and invite the finalists to the festival to deliver their pitch in person. On the day finalists will have three minutes to sell their idea to a panel of experts including Alison Hennessey – Senior Crime Editor at Harvill Secker, Krystyna Green – Editorial Director for Constable & Robinson crime fiction & Tricia Jackson – Editorial Director at Pan MacMillan.

As well as receiving feedback the finalists are also in with a chance to win some great prizes.

You can find out all about last years competition by clicking here.

The deadline for entries is Friday 15th August (extended) and you can enter by filling in the form below:


Mazars and Bloody Scotland

We're delighted that leading accountancy and business advisory firm, Mazars, has announced that it is the headline sponsor of Bloody Scotland, for the third year running.

Bloody Scotland was launched in 2012 with Mazars as its inaugural lead sponsor and the international accountancy firm has continued to be the main sponsoring partner working with the Festival throughout its first three years. With the support of Mazars and other public and private sector organisations, Bloody Scotland has gone from strength to strength.

Peter Jibson
Peter Jibson, Mazars’ Scottish Managing Partner

Bloody Scotland will take place in a number of historic venues across Stirling between 19-21 September, immediately after the Referendum and before the Ryder Cup. The event will once again draw on Scotland's love of crime fiction by bringing together leading Scottish and international writers for a weekend of debates, readings, signings and some one-off special events. The line-up will be announced in Stirling on Wednesday 4 June, and promises to be very exciting: guests at previous festivals have included internationally-renowned novelists like Lee Child and Jo Nesbø, and world famous home-grown talent like Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, William McIlvanney and Denise Mina.




Peter Jibson, Mazars’ Scottish Managing Partner, said:

“The first year of Bloody Scotland, in 2012, was a real success but we hadn’t quite anticipated how rapidly the Festival would grow and take root in the Scottish literary calendar. Ticket sales increased by more than 40% in year two and the festival attracted world-renowned international writers including Lee Child from the USA.

“Based on the last two years, the third year will be enormously exciting. 2014 is an incredibly significant year for Scotland with the Referendum, the Year of the Homecoming, the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup. Scotland will be watched by the world and to showcase our talent, spirit and culture with Bloody Scotland is incredibly important.

“Part of Mazars’ ethos is to support our local communities at grassroots level and we were delighted to see how well the Festival was received in its first year and subsequently how it has grown and developed. This third year will be a real showcase and high point for the event and we are proud to support Bloody Scotland and be closely involved with it."

Dom Hastings, Bloody Scotland Festival Manager, said:

“We’re delighted to be working with Mazars for a third year. They’ve been with the festival since its inception, allowing us to develop and grow as an organisation, and we’ve built up a great working relationship together."


For information about Mazars, please visit


Waterstones Crime in the City logo

Crime in the City

Waterstones Crime in the City logoOur friends at Waterstones in Glasgow have announced Crime in the City.

Throughout June they're presenting events with some of our favourite Scottish crime writers, perfect to get you in the mood for Bloody Scotland.  The full programme is below and all tickets are free and available from Glasgow branches of Waterstones.


John Gordon Sinclair
Wed 4Th June, Argyle Street, 7pm
John Gordon Sinclair's 's first book was described as 'a remarkable first novel' and 'an impressive and bloody' by The Times. Please join us as John introduces his second, Glasgow based, crime novel Blood Whispers.

What Drives the Story
Wed 18th June, Sauchiehall St, 6.30pm
A panel event with Caro Ramsay, Sara Sheridan, Will Jordan and Nicola White that will look at character/setting/plot and which of these elements drives each author.

‘Islands are the New Cities’
Friday 20th June, Argyle Street, 7pm
A panel event with Craig Robertson, Simon Sylvester and Alex Gordon where they will be talking about their latest books and examining why crime writers are fascinated by the Island setting.

Assault ‘n Battery V Assault ‘n Sauce
Thursday 26th June, Argyle Street, 7pm
A panel event with a plethora of crime writers; Caro Ramsay, Douglas Skelton and Matt Bendoris representing the good coast…sorry the west coast and Doug Johnstone, Frank Muir and Neil Broadfoot representing the East.
Ding Ding Ding round 1

James Oswald
Thursday 3rd July, Argyle St, 7pm
Please join us as best selling author James Oswald introduces Dead Men's Bones, the fourth novel in his phenomenal Inspector Mclean series set in Edinburgh.

Short Story Competition
Closing Date 20Th June 2014
Enter our fantastic short story competition and have the chance to see your work published on Simon and Schuster’s crime website and receive a £100 Waterstone’s Gift Card!
Entries MUST be new and unpublished work and no longer than 1500 words and must start with the opening line: ‘She sat in the manager’s office listening to the steady rumble of Argyle Street’s traffic, with murder on her mind…’
The competition will be judged by three Scottish crime writers; Lin Anderson, Craig Robertson and Russel McLean, who will also be representing Waterstones. Entries should be emailed to and marked for the Attention of Caron. Please make sure your contact details are included with your entry.


For up to date information about Waterstones events, call 0141 248 4814 or visit



The Last Refuge Launch

The Last Refuge


You can run from your past but you can never hide from yourself…

When John Callum arrives on the wild and desolate Faroe Islands, he vows to sever all ties with his previous life. Then the solitude is shattered by an almost unheard of crime on the islands: murder.

John's nightmares have taken an even more disturbing turn, and he can't be certain about the one thing he needs to know above all else. Whether he is the killer…


Craig Robertson’s new novel is far removed from the familiar Glasgow setting of his usual novels. Instead of Stewart Street police station and the city centre pubs frequented by Tony Winter and DS Rachel Narey, he takes us to entirely alien territory.

The Last Refuge is set in Torshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands, the wind-swept and rain-lashed dots of land that sit at the mercy of the North Atlantic in a bemused triangle between Iceland, Scotland and Norway.

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 live in a landscape as bleak and dramatic as it is peaceful and stunningly beautiful. Apart from the weather and the fact that they don’t grow vegetables, it’s all very unlike urban Glasgow.

The Faroes are said to have the lowest crime rate in the world and have suffered only one murder in 25 years. Until now…

The Last Refuge is launched this Thursday, May 22, in the Mediterranea restaurant in Stirling at 6pm. (The North Atlantic restaurant wasn’t available). Waterstones are hosting the event and Craig is being interviewed about his book by fellow crime writer Michael J Malone.

As well as a reading from the new novel, there will be Faroese music, island images and – for those brave enough – the strongest akvavit in the world. The booze takes a central role in the book and readers can get a chance to find out why.

Tickets for the event are free and available from Waterstones Stirling, telephone 01786 478756.


Short Story Competition


Image via KristinNador

Today at the NGC Bocas Lit Fest in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Bloody Scotland launch their short story competition to find the best new international talents in crime writing.

Leading Scottish crime fiction authors Denise Mina and Allan Guthrie are visiting the Bocas Literature Festival in Port of Spain, with Bloody Scotland – Scotland’s International Festival of Crime Writing, to foster new connections with writers and readers of crime fiction.

Writers are invited to enter the Bloody Scotland Short Story Competition with crime short stories based on the theme of ‘Escape’.  The winner will receive a £1,000 cash prize, a weekend pass to the 2014 festival and a bottle of Deanston whisky. In addition their story will be published as an ebook short by Bloody Scotland.

The shortlisting panel includes acclaimed crime writers Alex Gray, Craig Robertson and Gordon Brown and the winner will be decided by an online public vote.

Entries should be on the theme of ‘ESCAPE’ and be no longer than 3000 words. There is a £10 admin fee for entries.  Short stories should be entered online by 31st July 2014.

Visit the competition page for more information and to enter a story.

John Connolly at Tolbooth

Join us, on Monday, April 14, we are back in our spiritual home of Stirling to welcome international bestseller JOHN CONNOLLY to the Tollbooth Theatre.

John comes to us from Dublin via Maine, the setting of his phenomenally successful series starring former policeman Charlie Parker. The Wolf in Winter is the twelfth book in the Parker series and John will be discussing that and his other work in conversation with Bloody Scotland’s own CRAIG ROBERTSON.

Tickets are priced at just £5 and the event starts at 7pm. John will be signing books afterwards and our friends at Waterstones will be there on the night with copies of The Wolf in Winter available for sale.

Click here to book tickets

Crime does pay as titles top list

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: