Revealing the 2019 McIlvanney longlist and debut prize shortlist

It's that time of year again where we reveal the McIlvanney Prize longlist for Scottish Crime Book of the Year. We know that you skip all this pre-blurb to get straight to the juicy stuff so we won't hold you back.



A Breath on Dying Embers, Denzil Meyrick (Polygon)
A Treachery of Spies, Manda Scott (Transworld)
All That’s Dead, Stuart MacBride (Harper Collins)
All the Hidden Truths, Claire Askew (Hodder)
Breakers, Doug Johnstone (Orenda)
Broken Ground, Val McDermid (Little, Brown)
Conviction, Denise Mina (Vintage)
Fallen Angel, Chris Brookmyre (Little, Brown)
In a House of Lies, Ian Rankin (Orion)
In the Silence, M R Mackenzie (Bloodhound Books)
No Man’s Land, Neil Broadfoot (Little, Brown)
The Way of All Flesh, Ambrose Parry (Canongate) aka Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman
Thunder Bay, Douglas Skelton (Polygon)

Read more about the longlist titles here.

We also have a prize for best Scottish crime debut book this year for the first time and here's the shortlist...


All the Hidden Truths, Claire Askew (Hodder)
Black Camp 21, Bill Jones (Polygon)
From the Shadows, G R Halliday (Vintage)
In the Silence, M R Mackenzie (Bloodhound)
The Peat Dead, Allan Martin (Thunderpoint)

Read more about the shortlist titles here.

The longlist and shortlist were chosen by an independent panel of readers and booksellers and the finalists for the McIlvanney Prize 2019 will be revealed at the beginning of September and selected by Alison Flood, books reporter for The Guardian; James Crawford, presenter of BBC series Scotland from the Sky; and Stuart Cosgrove, writer and broadcaster who was formerly a senior executive at Channel 4.

The debut prize will be judged by a panel from our own board including Lin Anderson, Craig Robertson, Gordon Brown and Abir Mukerjee. The debut shortlist makes up the debut panel at the festival on Saturday 21 September.

Congrats to all!

Alexander McCall Smith celebrates at Bloody Scotland

Alexander McCall Smith, Scottish writer at his home in Edinburgh, Scotland. 2nd April 2014
Picture by Alex Hewitt/Writer Pictures

We're delighted to announce that we will be launching the 2018 programme on June 4th in Stirling in the presence of one of Scotland’s best loved crime writers, Alexander McCall Smith.

The official programme launch on Monday 4 June will be followed by afternoon tea in the Ballroom of The Golden Lion Hotel in Stirling as Alexander McCall Smith celebrates the 20th anniversary of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.

Alexander McCall Smith says ‘I can’t think of any better way to celebrate 20 years of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency than with afternoon tea at the launch of Scotland’s biggest crime book festival. I have always wanted to appear at Bloody Scotland & am glad we have managed to make it work as I’ll be in Botswana when the actual festival takes place.’

Not only will Bloody Scotland announce the line up for the 2018 festival, it will toast a milestone anniversary for one of Scotland’s greatest crime writers. Incredibly, it is 20 years since The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency was first published, introducing Precious Ramotswe to captivated audiences around the world. In the two decades since, Mma Ramotswe- along with Grace Makutsi and the excellent mechanic, Mr J L B Matekoni – have entertained us in a further 17 novels from Botswana. Their creator is as captivating as his characters.

Tickets are available here: or from the Albert Halls or The Toll Booth in Stirling.

We look forward to seeing you on June 4th!


McIlvanney Prize Finalists 2017

Congratulations to the five finalists of the 2017 Scottish Crime Book of the Year, the McIlvanney Prize! Judges Lee Randall, Susan Calman and Craig Sisteron had the below to say about the top 5:

Val McDermid - Out of Bounds (Little, Brown)

'The Queen of Scottish crime adds yet more jewels to her crown with Out of Bounds and shows us why she's writing at the very top of her game…Karen Pirie is one of the most engaging and charismatic of all the fictional Scottish Detectives'

Denise Mina - The Long Drop (Random House)

'This elegantly written novel confirms Denise Mina's stature among the great Scottish crime writers…The Long Drop transports you to the pubs, grubby back alleys and courtrooms at the heart of this unsavoury chapter of Scottish history'

Craig Russell - The Quiet Death of Thomas Quaid (Quercus)

'The Quiet Death of Thomas Quaid is an assured riff on a classic noir caper which reveals Glasgow in all its gritty and compelling glory…The writing is as stylish as Lennox's bespoke suits'

Craig Robertson – Murderabilia (Simon & Schuster)

'An intriguing premise in a contemporary setting which tiptoes along the darker edges of crime fiction with an unusual detective at its heart…Murderabilia is a terrific addition to this inventive series'

Jay Stringer - How to Kill Friends and Implicate People (Thomas & Mercer)

'This unexpected and explosive novel proves that Jay Stringer has reached the major league of Scottish crime fiction…The prose in How to Kill Friends and Implicate People crackles like a roaring campfire and you find yourself rooting for the unlikeliest of heroes'

The winner of the Scottish Crime Book of the Year will be awarded The McIlvanney Prize in memory of William McIlvanney at the opening reception at Stirling Castle on Friday 8 September (6.30-8.30pm) and followed by a torchlight procession – open to the public - led by Ian Rankin on his way down to his event celebrating 30 years of Rebus. The award recognises excellence in Scottish crime writing, includes a prize of £1000 and nationwide promotion in Waterstones.

Location, Location, Location

The Book Trail returns as guest blogger this year, with a blog particularly relevant to her expertise - an exploration of our Location, Location, Location event on Saturday 9th September, 10:30am

Nothing to do with the stress of house-moving but the much better and much more exciting kind of discovering new places via books - travelling to countries and cities you might never get the chance to see if you don’t pick up a book. On the BookTrail, we map out the locations in novels so you can almost feel you’re there, via photos and travel guides. The three novels by the authors in the Location, Location, Location panel certainly clocked up the miles!

Setting is often vital to the plot of a novel – it is sometimes a character in itself – but it always shapes and colours our expectations and understanding of a country and its people. Setting a novel in a remote location can either ramp up the fear of isolation or create a sense of peace. An island can provide an idyllic getaway or a place you can’t escape from.

So, what can you expect from authors who set their books in Albania, the Antarctic and the stunning coast of Australia?

Sinclair-Walk in SilenceWalk in Silence by J.G. Sinclair - set in Albania

Albania – not your usual destination for a crime novel. Even if you’ve been to the country, the view you’ll get in this novel is definitely not what you’d get if you saw it through your own eyes! Instead, J.G. Sinclair takes you to the dark side to set his crime thriller in the gritty shadows of the Albanian Mafia aka “The Clan”.
The Scottish link is nicely woven in since the lead character is a hard-nosed Glaswegian lawyer who has experience of an Albanian gang. Moving her from the usual territory into the unknown gives the novel a fish out of water feel and she doesn’t just venture into this place but goes in feet first, chasing criminals in a world where the rules don’t apply. The underworld is brutal and in Albania, even more so it would seem!


Larkin-DevourDevour by L.A. Larkin - set in Antarctica

With all the running from the mafia in the last book, L.A. Larkin is going to cool you down with the freezing isolation of this location! Set in Antarctica, we follow an expedition to dig a subglacial lake in order to explore what’s underneath. You’d never get a chance to do this in real life (and this is based on a real life case) so the thrill of the adventure allows the author to expand on fact with some literary flourish. We all have that little bit of adventure inside us and to essentially go back in time to something that really did happen is perhaps the biggest thrill of all. You might want to wear gloves and a hat and scarf when reading this as this gets very cold and very remote...


Bay of Martyrs by Tony Black - set in Australia

Slightly warmer in location than the previous novel but just as chilling. The Bay of Martys is a stunning part of Victoria in Australia and is a favourite tourist location along the Great Ocean Road. You might not expect to find a dead body on the beach - but then that’s the shocking contrast; just how does a community feel when a family find a body in a place where families spend time every day? What are the consequences on a small beach side community? Lots to analyse and think about in a crime novel with so many local touches.




When you read novels so imbued with a sense of time and place like these, you really get a sense of what it must be like to be there. If the author evokes each of your five senses with their words, even some of the language or dialogue, the journey is almost as vivid as if you were actually on location.
Books set in a distant land or country can open up worlds both reading and otherwise, allow us to live other people’s lives, stand in their shoes and even go to the dark side to see and understand the world, cultures and more.

Plus, when you come off a literary holiday there’s no holiday blues – as even if you miss the place and characters, you can instantly go back there just by picking up that book again.

For more holiday reads visit:

Four Blokes in Search of a Plot...hopefully

Four Blokes in Search of a Plotlong

So, there’s four crime writers, right? Real wise guys. And they want a plot. A deadly plot. Someone’s going to die. Maybe quite a few people. It won’t be pretty. But it might be funny.

This year, Bloody Scotland is giving an audience the chance to witness the birth of a crime story – and help write it.

Neil Broadfoot, Gordon Brown, Mark Leggatt and Douglas Skelton took part in the recent #ScotLitFest Collaborative Crime Creation as part of The Saltire Society's annual virtual literary festival, where over the course of four hours on–line they wrote an improvised crime story, complete with murder, mayhem and a rubber duck, between all four of them.

Now, in person and almost live, they will repeat the process, with help from the audience.

They will ask for a lead character and a crime – and that’s about as prepared as they get. While one is writing, the others will talk to the audience about writing, crime, and writing crime.

There may also be hats and cat jokes.

The deadly prose will be projected for all to see. The author will also have to read it aloud, because he’s not getting away with it that easily.

If you want to know how it’s done/not done, or just want to see four blokes make absolute fools of themselves (and each other) book now to avoid disappointment.

Four Blokes in Search of a Plot, Allan Park South Church, Sunday September 10, 5.30pm


Volunteer at Bloody Scotland 2017

Volunteers-2016Bloody Scotland is seeking enthusiastic, responsible and reliable volunteers to help out at this year’s festival. This is our sixth year and the festival is taking place across Stirling from Friday 8th to Sunday 10th September.

There are a variety of roles available for volunteers from being the first port of call for information for our guests to helping set up venues, providing assistance and usher around festival-goers and featured authors alike. So if you would like to gain some valuable festival experience, meet some authors and get free tickets to some events or would just like to get involved and get behind the scenes then follow the link below to download the information pack to see the full list of available volunteering opportunities.

Deadline for applications: Friday 11th August.

Full information and application form:

Practicing what you preach

David Bishop
David Bishop

In the first of this year's series of guest posts from crime writers and bloggers, we hear from Edinburgh Napier University MA Creative Writing programme leader and writer David Bishop who gives us insight into what it's like writing under the Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship and preparing a MA course for specialising in genre fiction, which includes crime. 

I killed two people this morning - one with a dagger to his chest, the other an arrow wound – but Robert Louis Stevenson must take some blame for my murderous ways.

In the 1870s the celebrated Scottish writer spent several summers in Grez-sur-Loing, a village south of Paris that attracted creative types from around the world.

These days Grez is home to Hotel Chevillion, a retreat for artists, composers and writers. Each year Creative Scotland and the Scottish Book Trust award Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowships to four writers, enabling them to spend a month at Grez working on a project. To my surprise I was selected as a 2017 RLS Fellow, alongside such luminaries as poet and playwright Liz Lochhead.

I am repaying this kindness by killing as many people as possible.

Not in reality, of course – in prose.

For my project I am writing a historical crime novel called Safer To Be Feared, set in late Renaissance Florence. My sleuth is Captain Cesar Aldo, a law enforcer for the Otto di Guardia e Balia, Florence’s most powerful criminal court. He is also gay at a time when sodomy is a crime punishable by public humiliation, imprisonment, even execution.

I have been researching this novel for more than a decade, but never found the time to write it. When you usually create work to contract, setting aside months for a speculative project isn’t easy. But the RLS Fellowship is giving me the luxury of four weeks to write, write and write some more.

It is also forcing me to practice what I preach, as I’m programme leader for the MA Creative Writing programme at Edinburgh Napier University. We specialise in genre fiction, almost the only creative Writing MA in the UK or US that does. We love crime and mystery novels, not to mention fantasy narratives, horror stories, and science fiction.

One of our core principles is purpose. We argue every story should have a purpose underpinning its narrative. This goes beyond simply having a theme like diversity, sexism, or law and order. We ask students to define their sub-genre, and expect them to be reading it extensively.

We also challenge students to consider what they want readers to be doing while reading their stories, and what meaning they wish readers to take away after finishing each one. For example, do they want readers to be a detective piecing the story together from different elements, as in Graeme Macrae Burnet’s acclaimed novel His Bloody Project? Or are they asking readers to empathise with a protagonist, only to discover all is not as it seems, as in psychological thrillers like Gone Girl?

So my first task at Grez was to remind myself of the purpose underpinning my project: to write a historical mystery with a queer sleuth in a pre-Victorian setting, a rarely seen scenario; and to  challenge perceptions of Renaissance Florence, showing how it could be home to great artists like Michelangelo and the murderous manipulators detailed by Niccolo Machiavelli.

I’m aiming to draft the first 20,000 words of my novel during July. That’s nothing compared to Stevenson, who reputedly wrote The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by hand in just six days – all 64,000 words of it! Of course, he was living in Bournemouth at the time...

Seeking inspiration in Stirling…

neil-broadfootThis all happened because of Ian Rankin. And Chris Brookmyre’s jobbie.

Sorry, I should probably explain. Last week, it was announced I’ve signed with Constable to write a new crime series based in Stirling. The first book, No Man’s Land, is out (in hardback, no less!) next July. It’s a huge honour to sign with Constable, and I can’t wait to introduce readers to Connor Fraser.

But his creation, and the idea for No Man’s Land, can be traced back to Ian, Chris and Bloody Scotland’s annual Scotland v England football match.

I was playing last year  - well, I say playing, I hadn’t kicked a ball in 20 years before that ill-fated day so I was really just making a good show of running around the pitch like a headless chicken. This probably explains the final score, which I won’t repeat here for fear of giving Craig Robertson a stress-related aneurism.  At one point of the game, I was mercifully subbed off. Staggering off the field, chest filled with shards of molten glass, I passed Ian Rankin, who asked if I was ok then trotted onto the pitch.  Once the immediate threat of a heart attack subsided, I settled back to watched the match and spotted Ian who, for a guy 17 years old than me, was making it look embarrassingly easy.

And that’s where it started. Writers free associate. We take one small thing we’ve seen, connect it to some other random fact and then add another. Before long, an idea begins to form. James Oswald calls it worrying a small problem until it’s big. So I sat there. And worried.

I was thinking about Ian and how he’s brought Edinburgh to life for millions of people around the world. He’s given people who have never visited the capital a taste of the city, a feel for its texture. Its as much a character in his books as Rebus, Clarke or Big Ger. And sitting there on the bowling green beside Cowane’s Hospital in the heart of historic Stirling, I started to think what a great character Stirling would make. Shaped by some of  the bloodiest chapters in Scotland’s history, a city where the old and the new crash together and with some of the country’s most iconic sites in the town itself or within a few miles’ reach, it’s the perfect place for a crime or three. Just as I was kicking the idea around - and making a lot better job of it than I had with the actual ball on the pitch – I heard a shout. Looking up, I saw Chris gesticulating for the ball.

Bang. Free association. Lighting in a bottle. I remembered Quite Ugly One Morning, and that opening. Suddenly I was back reading it, tears streaming down my face, marvelling at the humour and the graphic description of the body with the missing fingers and nose. And that jobbie.

Humour and horror, all wrapped up in one 214-page package.

A few minutes later, the match was forgotten and I was dumping bodies on the bowling green, plotting murders and thinking characters. Who would live in Stirling? A seemingly quiet place that’s an easy commute to Glasgow to the west and Edinburgh to the east? What type of work would they do? Why would they be looking for a quiet life? And what would it take to drag them into a bloody murder case? A message only they could understand, perhaps?

I spent the rest of the day gnawing away at the idea, making the problem bigger. Then, that evening, my agent, Bob, arranged for me to meet Krystyna Green, the publishing director at Constable. Krystyna was a fan of my first book, Falling Fast, and asked if I was working on anything new. I smiled, tried not to laugh like a delighted child, and we chatted.  After that meeting I went home, sobered up after Bloody Scotland, and got to work putting synopses and sample chapters together for the first three Connor books. A lot of people helped and acted as sounding boards, but I owe particular thanks to Douglas Skelton (which hurts) and Craig Russell for their advice and support during Connor’s formative months.

And now, almost a year later, I’m wreaking havoc in Stirling (only on the page, so far!), have a new book deal, and I’m gearing up for Bloody Scotland, where I’m appearing with Gordon Brown, Old Man Skelton (still hurts to think he was nice to me) and Mark Leggatt in Four Blokes in Search of a Plot. Bloody Scotland is a phenomenal weekend, but this year I’ll be celebrating a little harder thanks to everything that’s happened since last year.

And it’s all the fault of Ian Rankin. And Chris Brookmyre’s jobbie

A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil

Screen Shot 2017-07-16 at 18.19.01

We have something a little different for Bloody Scotland attendees this year in what we're calling the 'Bloody Scotland Fringe' where criminally relevant events are taking place during the Bloody Scotland weekend outside of our programme.

One of those events is a performance of A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil by Christopher Brookmyre, performed by Horsehead Theatre.

When a double murder reunites the classmates of St Elizabeth’s Primary School, scores are settled, debts repaid and alliances forged. Twenty years have passed but will those bonds still hold fast? This hilarious Scottish black comedy, adapted from Christopher Brookmyre’s novel, takes a nostalgic look at school days, filled with psycho teachers, class jokers and playground feuds. All set to a cracking 70s/80s soundtrack!

Warning – this play contains very strong language and scenes of a sexual nature.

They come off the back of a near sold-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and are sure to have you cackling throughout the evening.

9th September, 8:30pm
To book tickets:

McIlvanney Prize 2017 Longlist Announced

We're pleased to announce the 12-strong McIlvanney Prize Scottish Crime Book of the Year longlist for 2017!


Those up for the £1,000 prize include:


Lin Anderson – None But the Dead

Chris Brookmyre – Want You Gone

Ann Cleeves – Cold Earth

Helen Fields – Perfect Remains

Val McDermid – Out of Bounds

Claire MacLeary – Cross Purpose

Denise Mina – The Long Drop

Owen Mullen – Games People Play

Ian Rankin – Rather Be the Devil

Craig Robertson – Murderabilia

Craig Russell – The Quiet Death of Thomas Quaid

Jay Stringer – How to Kill Friends & Implicate People


The judges will be chaired by Director of Granite Noir, Lee Randall, comedian and crime fiction fan, Susan Calman and journalist, Craig Sisterson who between them cover three continents. The finalists will be revealed at the beginning of September and the winner announced at our Opening Gala reception on Friday 8th September, which you can buy tickets to attend.