McIlvanney Prize finalists

We're excited to reveal the four finalists of the McIlvanney Prize 2016.


Black Widow - Chris Brookmyre
The Jump - Doug Johnstone
Val McDermid - Splinter the Silence
E. S. Thomson - Beloved Poison

Judges Lee Randall, Stewart Bain & Magnus Linklater said of the finalists:

Black Widow by Chris Brookmyre - this novel is like watching Olympic diving – just when you think the plot can’t twist again, it takes a new turn.  Even the twists have twists.  With a theme of cyber-abuse, this shows an author taking a long running series to new heights.

Splinter the Silence by Val McDermid - set in a totally believable world of internet trolling, this novel features established characters but moves their relationship into a new place, suffused with longing.  Easily accessible, even to those readers who have not been introduced to earlier books in the series.

The Jump by Doug Johnstone a taut psychological thriller with a powerful and absorbing narrative which makes this work a compelling read. The reader is drawn into a family drama, suicide, murder -- and a plot whose outcome remains nail-bitingly unresolved until the final pages.

Beloved Poison by E. S. Thomson - an ambitious and original novel, full of vivid historical detail about Victorian medicine, and a richly gothic atmosphere, with a large cast of wonderfully named characters, including the strong lead character.

The winner of the Scottish Crime Book of the Year will be awarded The McIlvanney Prize in memory of William McIlvanney at the opening ceremony of Bloody Scotland. His brother, Hugh McIlvanney OBE, will present the award on Friday 9th September to the winner and all four finalists will be presented with a full set of Laidlaw novels.

For full info on the longlist go here.

There is also more information available in the press release.

Writing Orkney

The latest blog from The Booktrail:

Mention Orkney and what do you think of?

Mysterious islands with an ethereal quality to them? A mist swirling around the bare trees and desolate landscape? Islands cut off from the rest of the world where the weather dictates your daily routine? A place where you are among some of the most diverse and fascinating landscapes in the world?

It’s also a good place for a crime scene or two - no one is going to hear you scream after all. There are more than one or two rocky outcrops where you can hide a body and with only animals as witnesses... crime fiction novelists can really let go.

Three writers who have brought their own brand of death and destruction to these windy isles therefore are the best guides to the landscape and people.

Lin Anderson - None But the Dead (on Booktrail)

Lin AndersonOur first visit to Orkney is remote even by Orkney standards. Sanday, one of Britain’s northernmost islands, is not the most hospitable of places nor one of the easiest to get to... and the weather is hardly welcoming either.

The ferry only runs if the wind and rain allow. The planes are also dependent on the weather conditions so that means any communication and of course police work is too.

A craggy, inhospitable landscape is therefore the ideal blank canvas for Rhoda Macleod to explore. Imagine being stranded here with people you don’t know or indeed a crime writer with a dastardly glint in their eye?

“After all, uncovering old bones on Sanday was almost as frequent an occurrence as high winds and rain.”

Gale force winds, the souls of dead children and a remote, claustrophobic place with no modern forensics, no quick and efficient soil sample analysis...

Lin Andersen’s palette is dark and brooding, lines blur and the picture is grim and chilling. It would be a booktrail like no other to go to Sanday with Rhoda Macleod.

Doug Johnstone - Crash Land (on Booktrail)

doug-j2-300x200Orkney’s history and mythical past are the main colours on Doug Johnstone’s canvas. He not so much paints than carves the landscape into his story.

He sets his story in Kirkwall and although he changes some of the village geographically, it’s undeniable the brutal unforgiving landscape that Doug just carves up with a very sharp knife.

As for the historical angle. The Tomb of Eagles mentioned in the novel is as mythical and as fascinating as it sounds. This is a real tomb which over the years has released more than its fair share of ancient bones and artefacts. The ideal tool for a crime writer really and a veritable cave of story ideas.

I laughed when Doug admits in the novel that he’s invented a bar inside Kirkwall airport. If the island doesn’t offer the crime writer exactly what he needs he can always invent it!

Louise Welsh - Death is a Welcome Guest (on Booktrail)

Louise WelshNow the third writer in the Orkney panel is the lovely Louise Welsh and her version of Orkney is beyond that which you will have ever encountered.

I know because I’ve spent time in her dystopian London and smelling the sulphur tinge in the air as I exited the Tube...for the smell of sulphur was the start of a horrific spread of disease and death in the first Plague novel....

Now, this fear has potentially spread all the way to Orkney. And if “the sweats” reach here there is no way out.

“Orkney was flat and almost treeless. You could see for miles, here roads took dark twists and turns, the high verges and hedgerows deadened sound and it was impossible to know what might lie around the next corner.”

So, if you really want a good look at Orkney and see why this stunning archipelago has enchanted so many writers and created so many myths, travel with any of these three writers and see the landscape through their eyes. It’s a great, if not chilling, view.

You won’t want to miss this visit to Orkney!

Get your tickets to Writing Orkney: September 11th, 1:30pm

booktrail-logoThis is the fifth post of the Booktrail blog takeover for a series of posts exploring where setting shapes a number of novels from authors attending Bloody Scotland this year.

Visit the booktrail for maps, travel guides and reviews for the books featuring in Bloody Scotland.



Doug Johnstone's top 5 crime writers

McIlvanney Prize longlister Doug Johnstone told us his top 5 crime writers.

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 19.04.501. Megan Abbott

I think Abbott is just the best writer around at the moment. She writes dark, tense, atmospheric novels about the secrets and lies that hide in American suburbia. These are brilliant psychological thrillers, often revolving around teenage girls as they struggle to understand their place and power in the world.


Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 18.54.022. James Sallis

Sallis’s Turner trilogy is the finest crime trilogy of all time, wonderfully laidback smalltown Americana with a dark underbelly. He’s also written amazing detective novels and some of the finest standalones around, including Drive, which got made into the movie with Ryan Gosling in the lead role. His latest, Willnot, is as good as anything he’s written.


Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 18.55.183. Sara Gran

Gran writes really oddball crime novels, from the historical junkie book Dope to the psychological horror of Come Closer. Her Claire De Witt series is an existential detective masterclass, with the strongest female central character. She’s been writing for television recently, but I hope she gets back to books soon.

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 18.56.43

4. James M. Cain

I think Double Indemnity is my favourite ever novel. Such amazing dialogue, plot, character, setting, attitude, all crammed into a hundred pages! Just a grade A, classy writer. The Postman Always Rings Twice and Mildred Pierce are up there with the best ever novels too.


Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 18.57.295. Don Winslow

Winslow’s The Power of the Dog and The Cartel are extraordinary examinations of the Mexican drug cartels, brutal and unforgiving in their bleakness. But he also writes poetically about crime and its repercussions, like in the wonderful Savages and The Kings of Cool.


doug-j2-300x200Doug Johnstone will be appearing at Bloody Scotland in Writing Orkney on Sunday 11th Sept, 1:30pm and at our Scotland vs England football match.

Doug Johnstone: 5 albums to write crime by

doug-j2-300x200McIlvanney Prize longlister Doug Johnstone told us his top 5 albums that he listens to while writing. 

I mostly listen to instrumental music when writing, as I find it hard to concentrate if there are vocals and lyrics. I like to listen to stuff that’s maybe a wee bit unsettling or offbeat too, just to set the vibe for the nasty things in the books.


Boards of Canada, ‘The Campfire Headphase’

Two Scottish brothers who make electronica that sounds like a false memory from the 1970s. Retro but also futuristic, somehow comforting but also unnerving. I love all their music, but this is their best album.

Mogwai, ‘Les Revenants’

Again, I love all of Mogwai’s music, but I find myself returning to this record over and over again. It’s their soundtrack to the melancholic French drama of the same name, beautifully understated, but still disturbing.

Jon Hopkins, ‘Late Night Tales’

Hopkins is a brilliant producer and soundtrack composer, and this is a mix album of other people’s music that he’s weaved together. It’s a beautiful example of how to evoke mood through sounds, so skillfully put together, it’s a real journey from start to finish.

LCD Soundsystem, ‘45.33’

LCD Soundsystem are an amazing punk-dance outfit from NYC. Their regular music is full of poignant lyrics and vocals by frontman James Murphy, but this continuous mix is one of the finest and funkiest soundtracks to life imaginable.

The Avalanches, ‘Since I Left You’

This album was allegedly made up entirely of samples from other records, and I could believe it. A leftfield Australian collective, they disappeared after this amazing album, which is a patchwork of wobbly beats and scratchy mash-ups.

Doug Johnstone will be appearing at Bloody Scotland in Writing Orkney on Sunday 11th Sept, 1:30pm and at our Scotland vs England football match.