3rd May, Newcastle Noir
Appearing at a cabaret night alongside many others, probably playing tunes.
4th May, Newcastle Noir
I’m on bright and breezy at 9.30am along with a bunch of Orenda compadres, Will Carver, Steph Broadribb and Lilja Sigurdardottir.
16th May, Breakers Launch Party, Blackwell’s, Edinburgh
25th May, Coastword, Dunbar
3rd June, First Monday Crime, London
20th June, Listen Softly, Golden Hare Books, Edinburgh
28th June, Toppings, Bath with Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers
29th June, FLCW Gig, details tbc
6th July, Jaffe & Neale, Chipping Norton with Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers
7th July, Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, Cornbury Festival
19th July, Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, Theakston’s Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate
23rd March, Aye Write, Glasgow
I was introducing two cracking debut crime authors, Harriet Tyce and Anthony Good. We had a good old blether about horrible narrators and personal experience.
22nd March, Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, Aye Write, Glasgow
Our second gig at Aye Write, this time in the Mitchell Theatre, which was a 400-seat sell out. Ooft!
9th March, Crime & Publishment, Gretna Green
I gave a workshop as part of a weekend of cracking crime writing courses in a lovely hotel outside of Gretna.
4th March, Orenda Roadshow, Waterstones Edinburgh West End
Fourteen of us in total, all talking nonsense about our books. Nuts.
22nd November, Carnoustie Library
Tiny audience turned this daytime Book Week Scotland gig into a wee informal blether. Interesting chat about the nature of noir, and dark psychology.
16th-18th November, Iceland Noir, Reykjavik
What an absolutely wonderful festival run by brilliant people in a beautiful city. I was part of a Scottish panel with Craig Robertson, Chris Brookmyre and Michael Malone. Sadly Val McDermid had to pull out last minute with flu, which meant that the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers show was rejigged last minute too, but we just about managed to pull it off. Top time!
9th-11th November, Pisa Book Festival
Did an event at the festival itself, plus also at two bookshops, Libreria Nuova Avventura in Marina di Carrara and Lettera 22 in Viareggio, all promoting the Italian publication of Gone Again, called L’Ultima Volta. Also did lots of interviews and eating and drinking and chatting. Huge thanks to my Italian publisher Martino Ferrario at Casa Sirio.
2nd November, The Oh Yeah, Belfast
This was a Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers gig organised by Noireland Festival. We did a daft book event first, then rocked da house. Took a while to get them up on their feet, but they were rocking by the end.
20th October, East Riding Festival of Words
This was another band gig, but with book events thrown in too. We were in Beverley Memorial Hall. I did a panel with Luca Veste and Stuart Neville, chaired by great local author Nick Quantrill, which went in very interesting directions about class and much more. The gig was the usual rockingest rock-fest, tighter every time.
6th October, Portobello Book Festival
I was asked to do a Desert Island Books, so I picked The Crow Road, Come Closer by Sara Gran and Raymond Carver’s collected stories. Getting to talk about books you love is a real privilege. Then I picked some music and played a cover of a Wilco song. Great fun act my local festival.
21st September, Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, Bloody Scotland, Stirling
Triumphant return to Stirling. Say no more.
22nd September, Scotland v England Football Match, Bloody Scotland
Got beat 6-2 and I fucked my knee.
22nd September, Come Hell or High Concept, Bloody Scotland
Alongside Gordon Brown and Will Carver. We talked entertaining shite for an hour.
22nd September, Crime at the Coo, Bloody Scotland
I played guitar for German author Simone Buchholz, who was amazing, and did a few songs on my own. Also shaky egg for Mark Billingham.
20th September, Oran Mor, Glasgow
Secret band gig. Shhh.
10th September, Arbroath Library Reading Group
This was a lot of fun, great to return to the library I used as a kid. I rambled on for ages about all the secrets of the business, then played a couple of songs and signed a load of books. All good!
25th August, Victorious Festival, Portsmouth
I was the ‘headline’ slot on the Literacy Live stage. Read a bit of Fault Lines, and a short story Moby Dickheads, played some tunes, a solo one, a Northern Alliance tune, a Solange cover and a first ever outing for ‘Murder on the Dancefloor’, which kind of worked acoustically. The sun shone and people clapped – what more could you ask for?
23rd August, Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, Edinburgh International Book Festival
A triumphant return to the site of our first ever show. This time round we were tight, the crow was even bigger and more rocking, and the whole thing was a goddamn thrill from start to finish. More like this please.
18th August, Edinburgh International Book Festival
An intriguing event with Malcolm Mackay, who had a speculative fiction book set in Scotland same time as me. What are the odds? Kirsty Logan did an excellent job of chairing us, and I was a bit wobbly having got a colossal black eye playing football during the day. Had a great chat, Malcolm is a lovely guy, and sold and signed a ton of books at the end. All good, even if I had concussion!
19th July, Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, Theakston’s Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate
Crazy, hot and sweaty fun from start to finish. We played a shorter hour-long set, and the place was jumping from start to finish. Folk were coming up to us all weekend saying how much they loved it. Crime writers and readers are just the best.
27th June, London Launch for Fault Lines, Collyer Bristow LLP, London
Absolutely amazing launch party with fellow Orenda author Louise Voss, whose The Old You came out in the same month as Fault Lines. Great to see so many pals, in amongst a very swanky art gallery/lawyer’s office.
8th June, Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen
This was absolutely awesome, basically. Sadly, Chris couldn’t join us for this gig, but we struggled on without him, and the brilliant Aberdonian welcome certainly helped. Everyone was up dancing, drinking, chatting and buying books – what a nightmare, eh?
6th June, Waterstones Edinburgh Reading Group
The last of three great reading group events, this had the added curiosity of Ian Rankin turning up to talk about Fault Lines too. Cos that sort of thing happens every day.
5th June, Waterstones Dundee Reading Group
Absolutely sweltering in the cafe of this Waterstones, on a sweltering day outside. Another terrific discussion about Fault Lines, which went in a very different direction to the others. I love getting all this feedback about the book, really makes you think about what you’ve created and the impact it has on others.
5th June, Waterstones Perth Reading Group
Great turn out for this first reading group event. Angie Crawford from Waterstones chaired proceedings, and we got lots of interesting discussion about the book and writing in general. Then I had to hotfoot it to Dundee for another one.
2nd June, Ayrshire Athletics Arena, Kilmarnock
This turned to be at the Dick Institute because the original venue was all locked up. Either way, it was a great couple of hours doing an editing workshop with aspiring writers.
24th May, Fault Lines Launch Event, Waterstones West End, Edinburgh
Well, this was absolutely terrific. The place was absolutely jam packed, and Chris Brookmyre came through to talk to me about the book. We blethered like the old pals we are, and the masses were suitably entertained, I believe. I played a couple of tunes at the end, the Northern Alliance ‘classic’ ‘Earthquake Zone’ and Solange’s ‘Cranes in the Sky’, which I’m really feeling these days. Lots of books signed and sold, beer and wine drunk, all good. Thanks to Waterstones, Chris and my amazing publisher Karen Sullivan for everything.
19th May, Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, Rothes Hall, Glenrothes, 7.30pm
Part of the Reimagination Festival, this was a terrific show on a massive stage, with a very dance-friendly crowd going at it from early on. Just wonderful, thank you, Glenrothes! We played three brand new tunes as well that we had only rehearsed for the first time during the day.
19th May, Rothes Hall, Glenrothes
This was part of the Reimagination Festival taking place over the weekend, and a first chance to really chat about Fault Lines, with Lee Randall. Lovely audience with smart questions, and I played a couple of tunes, ‘Earthquake Zone’ and Solange’s ‘Cranes in the Sky’.
6th May, Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, Newcastle Noir
This was the grande finale of Newcastle Noir, in a hot and sweaty venue, and we tore the roof off with our unique blend of rocking tunes and daft banter. They ran out of beer, that’s how good it was.
6th May, Newcastle Noir, Orenda Books Showcase
Did a panel with Louise Voss & Johana Gustawsson, two amazing writers on Team Orenda. the event was chaired by The Book Trail blogger Susan Heads, so we talked a lot about location and setting, but all sorts of other stuff too.
1st – 2nd May, Sandwick Junior High School & Mid-Yell Junior High School, Shetland
This was hard work but really worthwhile. I did creative writing workshops in both schools with various groups of S2 pupils, who really seemed to get a lot out of it. The teachers and librarians were great too, and I was generally looked after amazingly well up north.
1st May, Lerwick Library Shetland
I had absolutely terrific fun gabbing about Crash Land and Fault Lines for the first time, and I played a few tunes too despite a staved finger. I played old Northern Alliance songs ‘Earthquake Zone’ and ‘Tomb of the Eagles’ as well as ‘Bjork is Calling Out from the Wreckage’.
11th April, Creative Scotland Showcase at London Book Fair
A really interesting discussion about Tartan Noir and Scottish crime writing in the context of international markets with Jenny Brown, Denise Mina and Sara Hunt. It was great to wander round the fair as well, which is mad.
24th March, Aye Write, Glasgow
I pitched in on an event about the Bloody Scotland short story collection, with Val McDermid and Lin Anderson. Great blether.
23rd March, Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, Aye Write, Glasgow
370 folk at the Tramway, rocking! And we got a bunch of crime writers up on stage for backing vocals at one point, sweet.
19th March, Largs Writing Group
Crime writing masterclass. Great turn out for a Monday morning, very engaged, tea and biscuits, and they bought a load of books! Nice.
12th March, Polmont Young Offenders Prison, Falkirk
Chatted about creative writing and books with the boys, then did the same across the road at the women’s prison. Fascinating stuff, and hopefully some help to some.
26th February, Liverpool Waterstones, Orenda Books Roadshow
Fourteen Orenda authors all pitched up to talk smack about books and shit. It was pretty chaotic, but so good to have so many great writer friends in one place.
17th February, Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, Winter Words Festival, Pitlochry
We rocked the Pitlochry Festival Theatre on the banks of the River Tummel, as over 250 locals pitched up to sing along to a set of crime-flavoured classics.
11th January, Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, The Islington, London
Ha, this was amazing! A sold-out show in a proper music venue, full of London’s finest readers, writers, publishers and general funtime charlies. We also recorded a live version of Luca Veste and Steven Cavanagh’s podcast, Two Crime Writers and a Microphone, which was utterly hilarious. What larks, honestly.
6th December, Waterstones Liverpool Final book event of the year and it was a corker, with all five fellow Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers band members. Luca being the home lad he conducted proceedings, as we all talked total shite about the writing life and books for ages. Had em rolling in the aisles, then played a couple of acoustic tunes to finish. Cracking stuff. Roll on 2018!
30th November, Kirkcaldy High School This turned into more of a creative writing class, as the 65 kids were working on their portfolios for Higher English. Metaphors, openings, action, plot, editing and more were discussed in detail. Smart pupils!
28th November, Pentlands Book Festival At the Juniper Green Bowling Club. Someone put her hand up during the Q&A: ‘Are you Andy Johnstone’s son? If so, I was your babysitter.’ Nice.
28th November, HMP Edinburgh An event at my local prison. Always get top questions from prison audiences, though I had to pass when asked to give general life advice to 40 inmates – really?
23rd November, Stirling Castle An event promoting the Bloody Scotland anthology with Val McDermid, Chris Brookmyre and Lin Anderson. This was a total hoot, in the great hall of the castle. Packed and a massive signing queue afterwards.
19th October, Biggar Little Festival This was event promoting the Bloody Scotland anthology, with me, Lin Anderson, Sara Sheridan and Elaine Thomson. Cracking crowd of folk well interested in the book, and we each blethered about our stories, then each others, then anything else that came to mind.
14th October, Durham Book Festival This was my first appearance at the Durham Book Festival, and the event was in the lovely Palace Green Library, a stone’s throw from the cathedral. It was with the lovely and inimitable Louise Welsh and brilliantly chaired by Sasha de Buyl. Cracking chat about Orkney, apocalypse and female protagonists.
6-7th October, Portobello Book Festival, Edinburgh I did two events at my local festival – playing a song at the opening night which was themed around songs inspired by books. Then took part in a fascinating event with Janice Galloway and Thomas Clark about writing residencies. Janice and Thomas were great company, and the audience were really interested in the whole topic. Made a change from just punting books!
8-10th September, Bloody Scotland, Stirling I was involved in SEVEN different events, which was crazy:
Crime Writing Masterclass – taught aspiring writers about editing, two groups of 25 for two hours each. Exhilarating and inspiring, actually!
Gala Opening including launch of Bloody Scotland short story anthology – I was only really drinking and getting my photo taken at this one.
Playing drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers after the quiz – This was IMMENSE. Had an amazing time at our second ever gig.
Bloody Scotland football match – we won 6-3 against the mighty English, and I scored one. I might’ve been playing with a broken toe.
Crime at the Coo – I did a turn, as per, playing tunes. Later I accompanied Chris Brookmyre, then played a drunken Mull of Kintyre.
Bloody India – Had a great Sunday morning chat with Abir Mukherjee, Monabi Mitra and Lin Anderson about Kolkata and Scottish crime fiction. Really fun event and lots of laughs.
Building Plots: Bloody Scotland – Excellent chat with Louise Welsh, E.S. Thomson and publisher Jamie Crawford talking about our short stories in the Bloody Scotland anthology.
25th August, Edinburgh International Book Festival This was supposed to be a joint event with English author, poet and playwright Barney Norris, but he had to pull out last minute so me and my chair Anna Day had to fill the hour ourselves. Luckily I know Anna really well so we had plenty to blether about, including my next book out next year. Plus I just happened to have my guitar with me, so I bashed out a couple of tunes at the end related to Crash Land. Nice.
23rd August, Edinburgh International Book Festival I was playing drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers as part of the festival’s Unbound programme. It was our first ever gig and the place was fucking jumping! An absolute fucking triumph, basically, start to finish. I have rarely had so much fun in my life. Onwards!
4-6th August, Bute Noir, Rothesay This was absolutely amazing. A cracking line up of 16 authors talked crime on the beautiful island of Bute over the weekend. I did an event with brilliant Finnish author Antti Tuomainen, ably chaired by the wonderful Alexandra Sokoloff, on the Friday night. On Saturday I did the quiz with Caro Ramsay, Steve Cavanagh, Craig Robertson, Mason Cross, Susi Holliday and Luca Veste. My team lost. Then I played a few tunes, as did Luca, then The Slice Girls did their thing afterwards. Top night. Then on Sunday I did another event with Luca and Craig about sense of place in our books. In between there were fish suppers, putting competitions, beach walks, mad gothic mansions, fry ups and late nights. Great to hang out with everyone, a terrific festival, loads of readers and loads of books bought and signed, amazing volunteers running the show. Can’t wait to go back!
23rd July, Caffe Letterario Le Murate, Florence This was organised by the inimitable Mauro from Mucho Mojo bookshop, a terrific place dedicated to all things crime. The event was on a proper stage in a square outside the cafe, which used to be a prison. Loads of folk again, very engaged, sold and signed lots of books and drank a spritz or two then went for pizza. Hard times!
22nd July, Libreria Il Gorilla E L’Alligatore, Orte Up into the hills next in the beautiful old city of Orte. After a wander around some mad Etruscan tunnels and caves, the event was terrific – loads of food (a very strong theme emerging in Italian book events), lots of great questions and some tunes to finish. CasaSirio’s Nico and Flavia had travelled from Rome for it – that’s dedication for you.
22nd July, La Vela Lungolago, Trevignano Romano All book events should be sitting outside a cafe by the shore of a lake, right? This was Alessandra’s hometown, and her friends and family popped along as we talked about nasty noir in Edinburgh. Then we went for lunch at her mum and dad’s house, also by the lake. What a tough life!
21st July, Libreria Le Storie, Rome Is it a bar, a cafe, a bookshop or my publisher CasaSirio’s office? It’s all of them! Absolutely terrific first event on my wee Italian tour, lunch in the afternoon then an event in the evening. My publisher Marti had drummed up loads of readers, my translator Alessandra did a sterling job, and my pal Francesco hosted the event. I managed to play a couple of songs on a borrowed guitar despite a broken string, and the shop owner Stefania was super nice and enthusiastic and everyone was lovely. Bella!
1st July, RebusFest, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh I gave an all-day crime writing masterclass inspired by the museum’s collection and celebrating 30 years of yer man Rebus. Twelve lovely students worked hard all day and were rewarded when Ian Rankin popped in for a surprise Q&A at the end. Cracking!
31st May, Noir at the Bar, The Wash Bar, Edinburgh A cracking night with loads of writers doing short readings, including pals Neil Broadfoot, Sara Sheridan and Aly Monroe. I read ‘Moby Dickheads’ and played ‘Bjork is Calling Out From the Wreckage’, which both seemed to go down well. Lots of bloggers in the audience, so it was good to meet a lot of them in real life for the first time.
18th May, Crimefest, Bristol Did a really interesting event called The Dark Side of Human Nature with Johana Gustawsson, Jørn Lier Horst, Luke McCallin and Michael Stanley. We’re all just a Rizla paper away from chaos, was the conclusion. Great to meet old friends and new friends – the bar at the festival was mobbed as always. Nice!
11th May, Waterstones, Dundee, 6.30pm Strong Johnstone clan turnout on home turf to celebrate the paperback launch of Crash Land. A frank chat about the machinations of the publishing industry too. And a couple of tunes. And a free sandwich!
23rd April, Dates with Dangerous Authors, Blackwell’s South Bridge, Edinburgh This was a very weird CWA event which was billed as ‘speed dating with authors’, with about two dozen crime writers at various tables around the shop. I was at a table with the inimitable Stuart MacBride and Chris Brookmyre and we had a good old laugh chatting to readers and whatnot. Great to catch up with readers and fellow authors alike.
12th March, Aye Write, Glasgow Had a cracking blether with two great writers, Louise Beech and Michael Malone, ably chaired by Russel McLean. We all write very varied books, delving into the weirder regions of crime writing, so there was a lot of crossover in our attitudes to what we do. Louise seems intent on writing an erotic novel, or maybe she was just winding up her publisher from Orenda Books, who was there. Good times!
25th February, Granite Noir, Aberdeen This was an event about whether writers plan our novels or fly by the seat of our pants. Joining me on the planners sofa was Chris Brookmyre, while Kati Hiekkapelto and Kate London were the pantsers. It was a rollicking good laugh of an event, where we all agreed to disagree, but the one thing we all said was you have to just sit on your arse and write, get on with it. I particularly liked when one audience member misheard and thought that I’d been a Thai hooker for two years. Easy mistake to make. The 90s are a bit of a blur, to be honest.
24th February, Granite Noir, Aberdeen Had a great chat with Sarah Ward and festival director Lee Randall about the use of setting and location in thrillers. Large audience, very engaged, some great questions, lots of positivity at the signing afterward, and some books sold to boot!
19th January, Noir at the Bar, The Raven, Glasgow This was a cracking night, with short readings by Louise Welsh, E.S. Thomson, Kaite Welsh, Russel D McLean & Les Wood. I read my short story ‘Moby Dickheads’ and played ‘Bjork is Calling Out From the Wreckage’. Everyone gave great readings, from comedy stuff to super-dark material and all points in between. Booze was drunk and books were given away. Lovely audience. The whole thing is run by Russel McLean and Jay Stringer, who do a great job with this cabaret night, managing to create a perfect relaxed vibe for writers and readers alike. Cracking stuff!
24th November, Arbroath Library Made it with 2 mins to spare thanks to Edinburgh traffic. Lovely audience in the town I grew up in, I blethered for ages, got some great questions then played a few tunes. The next day I read a blog by an aspiring writer who said she felt inspired to get back to her writing because of my chatter – wow.
23rd November, Edinburgh Central Library The last of four shows with Sarah Ward and Rod Reynolds, treated so well by the staff and a great turnout on a cold night. Love doing gigs in Edinburgh, especially the Central Library, which is an amazing space. Afterwards we decanted to Howie’s for food, then Rod and I went to the Bow Bar for a few ales. I told him I met Kurt Cobain and blew his tiny mind. Good times!
23rd November, Blackburn Library Getting slick now with Sarah and Rod, but still surprising each other, coming out with new and interesting angles about our work. More school kids were along asking about writing, some really interesting questions and engaging discussions. Very busy!
22nd November, Lanark Library Nestled in the children’s section of the library with Sarah and Rod, we read, we chatted, we got loads of great questions from smart cookies including aspiring writers and bloggers. Treated so well by everyone!
22nd November, Dumbarton Library This was the first of four gigs with fellow Faber crime writers Sarah Ward and Rod Reynolds. I hadn’t done events with Sarah or Rod before but we quickly clicked, had a lot in common, had plenty to say about our work and each other’s work. Audience were great, including some S6 school kids. Some daft old guy monopolised questions, accusing us of being elitist or some bullshit. Aye, whatever mate.
2nd November, Blackwell’s, Edinburgh
This was the official launch for Crash Land. Had an amazing time, loads of people there, standing room only, while me and Craig Robertson gabbed about the book, all the usual nonsense. I once more extolled the virtues of Double Indemnity to anyone who would listen, and we all had a bit of booze. At the end I played ‘Tomb of the Eagles’ and ‘The Years the Locusts Ate’, joined on vocals by good friend and brilliant musician Candythief. Then a cover of Weezer’s ‘Miss Sweeney’, which went down well. Onwards!
28th October, Alloa Library
This was the first proper outing for Crash Land, a warm up for the launch party. Alloa Library is a beautiful place, a converted swimming pool, and a sizeable audience put up with me rambling about Orkney, survivor guilt and femme fatales. I played a couple of songs at the end, a cover of Bjork’s ‘Hyperballad’ and the old Northern Alliance tune ‘The Years the Locusts Ate’, which was inspired by George Mackay Brown. Quality.
15th – 18th September, Bouchercon, New Orleans
Ach, it was awesome. Well, what did you expect, it was New Orleans. Had a great few days gadding about the place in the humidity, eating amazing food and watching jazz and blues bands. Oh aye, and promoting my books. Highlights were meeting James Sallis at Laura Lippman’s house and performing at the House of Blues with Mark Billingham, Stuart Neville and Bill Loehfelm. What a crazy few days.
11th September, 1.30pm, Bloody Scotland with Lin Anderson and Louise Welsh
Writing Orkney was the remit, and we talked all things Orcadian with Stewart Bain, the man behind the infamous Orkney Library Twitter account. Lots of crossover between our books, and always great to share a stage with Lin and Louise, two fine writers and human beings. It was the first time I’d talked about Crash Land in public, and it was good to get the ball rolling. The book wasn’t even out yet, but they had copies exclusively at the festival. A good 200+ people were there, and the signing queue went on for ages! Love Bloody Scotland so much.
10th September, Bloody Scotland Crime at the Coo
Totally mad cabaret night, much fun had by all. Me and Val McDermid opened proceedings by playing a few tunes we had quickly scrambled together. So we did ‘Long Black Veil’, ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ and a rousing version of The Proclaimers’ ‘500 Miles’. Seemed to go down well. The Slice Girls did their cabaret thing brilliantly as always, and a bunch of writers took turns playing and singing and reading in a rammed pub full of punters. I did another wee set later, some cover versions loosely tied into the new book. For the record, the set list was:
‘Hyperballad’ by Bjork
‘The One That Got Away’ by Katy Perry
‘Miss Sweeney’ by Weezer
Oh yeah, then Luca Veste played Britney Spears, then I played ‘Ally’s Tartan Army’ for the Scottish football fans, then ‘World in Motion’ by New Order for the England fans, with Luca doing the John Barnes rap.
It was as awesome as that sounds.
10th September, Bloody Scotland Crime Writers Football Match
We got beat 7-1. I scored our 1. End of match report.
20th June, 7pm, Musselburgh Library
Small but perfectly formed audience for this gig, including possibly my biggest fan, Anita, an elderly lady who kept interrupting to tell me how great I was! There are worse things in the world. Her dog was very cute too.
10th June, 7.30pm, Fort William Library with Chris Brookmyre, Craig Robertson, Gordon Brown and Matt Bendoris
A cracking laugh in some great company. Loads of top banter, and a very engaged and sharp audience. We were all a little nervous about doing the Caley Challenge the next day, but we cracked on regardless.
6th May, Ullapool Book Festival with Helen FitzGerald
Oh I love this book festival so much! Authors are treated so well, the town is absolutely gorgeous, the staff are super-friendly and the punters are incredibly engaged. What’s not to like? Had a great time at my even with Helen, all the usual sweary nonsense, some serious shit, some laughs. Then drank and ate and chatted and went to see a whole load of other writers. My favourites were probably Kevin MacNeil and Lisa Moore. So sad to leave, but left feeling very warm and fuzzy. Quality!
17th December, Perth Prison
I always love prison gigs, the folk you get along are so interesting. This had fewer folk along than there was meant to be because of ‘a disturbance in C wing’, and the nurse hadn’t been in that morning, so a number of guys hadn’t had their methadone. But the guys who made it were very engaged, loads of direct questions, and it ended up becoming more like a writing workshop or discussion. You can bet these guys have stories to tell, and a lot of them want to write them down. Cracking event, and definitely time well spent.
26th November, Alexandria Library
This was a really interesting night, pretty much sold out beforehand, and the audience were very engaged, if a little tough going at times, if I’m honest.
First question: ‘Have you ever attempted suicide?’
‘Then what gives you the right to write about it?’
Well now. What gives anyone the right to write about anything? You think all crime writers are murderers? Respect is the key, I think. If you treat the subject matter with respect, then you can write anything you damn well like. That’s what I told the guy anyway. Got a lot of audience members’ personal stories about suicide after the event. This book is proving a hard one to go out and publicise, if I’m honest, given the subject matter, but it’s worthwhile, and hopefully I’m helping break down the taboos that still surround suicide in my own tiny way. Onwards!
25th November, Cardonald Library, Glasgow
I’m not going to piss about, this was very poorly attended. Sometimes that happens, eh? If there are more library staff than punters, you know you’re in trouble. But the few that came along were lovely and we blethered about all sorts of shite anyway, and I cranked out a few acoustic tunes at the end. Next time, Cardonald, get out yer houses and come talk books with me, OK?
24th November, Highland Literary Salon, Glen Mhor Hotel, Inverness
This event was called The Nuts and Bolts of the Book Industry and that’s exactly what I talked about. I always have an awesome time in Inverness, I just do, dunno why exactly. The air is cleaner, or the beer is stronger. This event was in a pub, which is my kind of venue, frankly. I was talking to aspiring writers, so gave them the inside track on the publishing industry, including some stuff that, genuinely, I had to swear them to secrecy about. Then I realised someone was recording it. Made him promise to edit that bit about Amazon out. Fun!
23rd November, Stewart’s Melville College, Edinburgh
With Christopher Brookmyre, Alex Gray and Sara Sheridan. This was a terrific laugh, with the inimitable Peggy Hughes chairing the event. We each read a bit, chatted, took questions, all the usual stuff. It was a charity event for Meningitis Now, and we managed to raise £1500 apparently, which is amazing. Almost 200 folk came along, which is also amazing. Plus we all learned that Sara is a qualified hostage negotiator, which is nice.
2nd October, Portobello Book Festival, Portobello Library, Edinburgh
A cracking night of singing, poetry, stories and more from mostly local residents. What a talented bunch we have in Porty! I read my short story ‘Beyond the Heliopause’ which got a Porty-related gasp, then played ‘I Did It Deliberately’ and a cover of ‘The Most Beautiful Widow in Town’. Great night all round, but the highlight was definitely the Lothian Bus Male Voice Choir, though – top lads!
24th September, Cambusbarron Library, Stirling
I always have a great time at Stirling libraries and this evening was no different. A really great audience had read lots of the books and had loads of terrific questions. The book club’s next book was Hit & Run too, which was cool. Talked a lot about suicide and mental illness, which was interesting, and there was a lot of frank talking from me and the audience. Finished with a few tunes including ‘Song for the End of the Set’, so they didn’t go away to depressed with my random shite.
12th – 13th September, Bloody Scotland, Stirling
Various cracking events over two days. Here’s a thing I wrote about it all for The Life Sentence.
30th August, Literary Death Match, Edinburgh
I was up against Lynsey May with Chris Brookmyre versus Cathy Rentzenbrink. I read a brand new short story called ‘Moby Dickheads’, full of cunts and fucks. I didn’t win. Chris won overall. The whole thing was a total riot, though, endless daft fun. Never laughed so much at a book event before. Cheers, Adrian Z!
27th August, Topping & Co Bookshop, St Andrews
Carlsberg don’t do indie bookshops, but if they did… Andrew and Mairi treated me like a king in their awesome shop, and the event went brilliantly, me reading, blethering, all the usual. I read a different part of The Jump and played some different tunes. Had a good bit of banter too, always get that with the smaller crowds. Topping & Co rocks!
26th August, Edinburgh International Book Festival
I appeared alongside legendary Nordic noir writer Gunnar Staaleson, chaired by Russel Maclean. Gunnar was a lovely gent, lots to say about detective fiction traditions and Norwegian literary scene. I appeared to have some kind of existential crisis on stage. “If you wanna read books about nice people… I dunno… that’s not what I do.” And so forth. Event was rammed, which was amazing.
13th August, Blackwell’s Writers at the Fringe, Edinburgh
I did a turn alongside Jane Alexander, Alwyn James and Sue Lawrence. I’ve done these events a few times and they’re always a hoot. It’s great to see a variety of different writers do their thing and the audiences always seem to get a kick out of it. I read the opening chapter of The Jump then played the Frightened Rabbit tune and one of my own. Seemed to go down well.
6th August, Launch Party For The Jump, Looking Glass Books, Edinburgh
Absolutely superb top mega-awesome night! Helen FitzGerald kindly chaired the event, we chatted, drank wine, I read, folk asked questions, it was standing room only, then I played a few tunes. Specifically, I played Frightened Rabbit’s ‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land’ and Sparklehorse’s ‘The Most Beautiful Widow in Town’, as well as a couple of my own tunes, ‘I Did It Deliberately’ and ‘Question Mark’. This was the first event for The Jump, and I suddenly realised it’s going to be quite hard to talk about the subject matter for the next year, but ho hum, that’s life.
26th June, Waterstones George Street, Edinburgh
A rematch of the East v West crime writers event we did last year. It was nonsense. Appearing were Caro Ramsay, Frank Muir, Neil Broadfoot, Douglas Skelton, Matt Bendoris and Craig Robertson, split into two teams and a judge. It was nonsense. But someone live tweeted it, and that resulted in Ian Rankin meeting us for a pint after, so that was cool.
14th – 17th May, Crimefest, Bristol
A great weekend as always catching up with old friends and making new pals along the way. A couple of drunken nights at the bar, some nice walks around Bristol and even a run one morning – I must be getting healthy or something! Too many other great writers to mention them all, and a terrific sense of camaraderie over the whole weekend – crime writers are the best.
30th March, Palimpsest Launch, 50 George Square, Edinburgh
I read a story at this event, where Edinburgh University launched an interactive literary map project which was very cool. I also judged their writing competition, and got to announce the winner, who read an extract too.
7th March, Barrhead Library with Helen FitzGerald
A downpour of biblical proportions greeted us and the audience on our arrival at the spanking new Foundry centre in Barrhead. Once we’d towelled ourselves off, we set about reinventing the crime novel, or something like that. I also told my story about being assaulted by a police officer in the back of a van as a teenager, which was nice. Really lovely crowd, despite the weather, and hugely enthusiastic library staff. Onwards!
25th February, Gourmet Reads, Apex Waterloo Place Hotel, Edinburgh
A handful of folk had paid quite a lot of money for a three-course meal with wine and a natter with yours truly. A great night, actually, really informal and great atmosphere, just like being paid to go out for dinner with folk and have a chat. Sometimes, it’s a tough life. I drank a lot of wine and said some things I probably shouldn’t have, but who cares, right?
11th February, Blackwell’s South Bridge, Edinburgh
The lovely Ann Landmann chaired this joint event with Helen FitzGerald – we know each other’s schtick, I mean work, so well, we just blether on for ages about anything and everything. Sold quite a lot of books into the bargain. Blackwell’s always do a great event.
10th February, Newmains Library
Cracking evening in North Lanarkshire, a joint event with Helen FitzGerald, chaired by Jane Graham, where we blethered on about crime, noir, ordinary people getting fucked over, all that shit. Good stuff.
I spend the last week of November travelling around the country doing events for Book Week Scotland. Had an amazing time. Thanks to EVERYONE who came along, all the fantastic library staff who made me very welcome, and the Scottish Book Trust for the whole idea. Here’s some chat about the gigs below:
29th November, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh
What a way to finish the week! This was amazing. For a start, it was totally rammed with people, great atmosphere, cans of Red Stripe helping, natch. We had jazz from a live band, Hannah McGill read a brilliant ‘split-screen’ short story, there was noirish art from Stan Douglas and then me, reading from The Dead Beat, my obit, then The Funeral Crasher (the audience decided which story I’d read). Then I did a terrible cover of a Lemonheads song, then better versions of two of my own. Hollywood dude Ewen Bremner was in the audience, a crowd best described as ‘feisty’, I think i.e. half-cut.
28th November, Arbroath Library
I grew up in Arbroath. My first book, Tombstoning, is set there. For the first time in years, everyone at an event had read Tombstoning (which is now out of print). Really nice audience, very friendly. One lady asked ‘Do you ever worry about giving your readers heart attacks, because when I read your books I can hardly breathe’. Awesome! I played a couple of tunes, and someone bought both my EPs afterwards. At the book signing bit I got a lot of this: ‘See the guy behind the bar in The Lochlands in Tombstoning, is that XXX?’ and ‘See the drunk teacher in Tombstoning, is that XXX?’ My lips are sealed. But yes, it is. Kind of.
27th November, Bonnybridge Library
Libraries in the Falkirk area always do me proud, and this was no exception. The local reading group were along and had some great questions about Gone Again. I read from The Dead Beat, as well as part of my own obituary. I talked about being obsessed with death and funerals, and a psychiatrist in the audience said she was worried about me. Turned out the library was built on a cemetery. Spooky. And head librarian Naomi tried to stab me with a knife on the way to cutting a Book Week Scotland cake. Good times!
26th November, Rothesay Library
A bus, two trains and a ferry and I was in Rothesay. Lovely place, though I only really saw it in darkness, stupid Scottish wintertime. Great event in the library – the staff were amazingly welcoming, the place was packed, and there were seemingly gallons of wine. I read from Smokeheads because it’s island-related, then my short story The Funeral Crasher. I loved the woman who said ‘I didn’t understand that story’. I played Keep it Afloat and the Bjork song. We hung around for a long time afterwards drinking and chatting, and Print Point Books sold a good few books. Would love to come back to Rothesay again, mibbes in daylight next time! Also, I picked up a couple of classic Chandler novels for 50p a pop in the wee shop in Weymss Bay train station on the way home. Bargain.
25th November, Portobello Library, Edinburgh
This is five minutes walk down the road from my house. Did some geographically specific readings from Gone Again and a short story called There Are Easier Ways to Kill Yourself, both set in Porty. Also played I Did It Deliberately, a song based on the short story. I talked about being obsessed with missing persons statistics while writing Gone Again. Cheery stuff!
24th November, Penicuik Library
A lovely way to start the week. A healthy sized audience came along and asked loads of questions. Someone spilt wine all over the carpet before we even started – rowdy! I read from The Dead Beat, talked about mental health issues, and played a couple of songs. A feisty old dear in the front row asked if I wasn’t gigging so much because I couldn’t get the bookings. Cheeky. Someone who had read all the books said I put my characters through too much to ever write a series, they’d be basket cases. He could be right.
1st November, Linlithgow Book Festival, 3.45pm Always great to catch up with my writing amigo Helen FitzGerald, and we had a good chat on stage chaired by festival organiser Roy Dalgleish, who had really done his homework. Helen outed me onstage as a purveyor of ‘domestic noir’, which I’m more than happy with, and we had some wonderful feedback from a former Yugoslav lady in the audience, who bought both our books. I got to wheel out my Kurt Cobain anecdote one more time, to the envy of one particular guy in the crowd. Thanks, Linlithgow!
28th October, Encounters Festival, Coatbridge Library, 7pm A great wee event. A former creative writing student from Strathclyde turned up with some of her writing group, who had read the book, which was lovely. I blethered too long about what I do, then they asked concise questions, then I strummed a couple of songs, despite the broken hand. Not sure the old lady at the front got the Teenage Fanclub cover (they are from Bellshill, just a couple of miles from Coatbridge), but ho hum, it’s all good.
27th September, Loopallu Festival, Ullapool Well this was fun. For the first time in ten years, this music festival had a literature tent, run by the inimitable Joan Michael who also runs the fantastic Ullapool Book Festival. I took the wife and kids for the weekend and we had an amazing time, catching some bands, eating fish suppers at the harbour, making some arty crafty stuff and generally loving the vibe. I chaired events by Vic Galloway and Chris Brookmyre, and also did my own event on The Dead Beat, chaired by Vic, where we rehashed old times from bands way, way back. I also played a few tunes and read a short story at the end of the night. Really a terrific weekend from start to finish, and well done to all involved in its organisation.
21st September, Bloody Scotland, Stirling This was a joint event with Robert Ryan, Tony Black and Douglas Skelton, all of us former or current journalists. So that’s what we talked about, how we went from journalism to writing crime, how the one influenced the other, all that guff. Also told a few stories about famous people we’d met. Hopefully the audience were entertained anyway. I was bursting for a pish from about halfway through, which kind of distracted me. But that’s my problem, right?
20th September, The Bloody Scotland Football Match, Stirling Well, this was fun. Scotland v England crime writers at five-a-side football, the teams led by captains Ian Rankin and Mark Billingham. You can hear full commentary on the match here. Not to put too fine a point on it, we annihilated them 13-1. I scored six. The sun came out. We went to the pub after. Good times.
17th September, Off the Page Festival, Stirling A great, informal library event where I blethered on about how I got into writing, then read a bit from The Dead Beat and discussed it with the audience. Some very cool questions about the publishing business and film and TV adaptations. Then I played a couple of tunes, despite having a stinking head cold.
13th September, Scotland Writers v England Writers Football Match Afterparty, Glasgow At the match earlier we drew with England 2-2, but they went on to win the penalty shoot out to retain the Hamilton Crescent Cup. This was a truly brilliant evening in SWG3, with readings, music and film. The English guys all read tributes to Graham Joyce, their former keeper who sadly passed away recently from cancer. On our side, Karyn Dougan, Cameron Steel and Craig Robertson all did brilliant football readings, and we watched one of Doug King’s short films. I played a few tunes at the start, including Ally’s Tartan Army and, for the sake of balance, World in Motion by New Order, including the John Barnes rap. A really great and memorable evening all round.
5th September, Elgin Academy This was a lovely brace of schools events, talking to Higher and Advanced Higher students about how I got into writing, all that jazz. Read a little bit from The Ossians (a blast from the past) and played a song or two. Before my events, the librarian played footage of me reading the brain bit from Smokeheads. Two girls fainted. Happily, I didn’t make anyone faint when I was there. Yay, me!
19th August, Inverness Literary Festival, Eden Court Had a great time in Inverness, despite a hacking cough which turned out to be a chest infection. Chaired by inimitable author Michael Malone, we had a rare old time, then I played a few tunes. Had some great questions from the audience too, including one about being published by a London publisher and if that had any impact on the ‘Scottishness’ of the books or not. Interesting. Simple answer: it doesn’t at all in my case. Afterwards Michael and I adjourned to the pub with fellow writers Louise Welsh, Zoe Strachan and Lesley McDowell, where we successfully put the world to rights. Like you do.
14th August, Edinburgh International Book Festival with Tom Benn Had a rare old time up at Charlotte Square with Mancunian writers Tom Benn. I slagged off The Scotsman and Sony, only to discover there was someone from Sony in the audience. What are the chances? Very good banter on stage, ably marshalled by fellow crime author Russel McLean.
14th August, Neu! Reekie! at Unbound, part of Edinburgh International Book Festival Quality night of literary cabaret alongside Jock Scot, Aidan Moffat, Panda Su and many more. I played four tunes and rambled on a bit about Roy of the Rovers, which surprised me. Great audience in the Spiegeltent were well oiled, shall we say. My highlights were Kev Williamson’s sweary poem about Edinburgh, and Aidan Moffat’s modern day folk troubadour thing that he does so well. Top feelgood evening all round!
18th-21st July, Authors’ Reading Month, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland Four gigs in four different cities on four consecutive nights in three different countries in the company of local writers. I was in Brno, Kosice, Ostrava and Wroclaw reading short stories which were also translated, and playing a few tunes into the bargain. The whole experience was remarkable and eye-opening, with very different evenings on all four nights. All four cities were beautiful, and the weather was consistently scorching. Crowds varied from rammed to half empty, but they were always inquisitive and attentive. Spent a lot of time talking about mental health and suicide, because of the stories I read, as well as Scottish independence and physics, randomly. The whole thing was put together brilliantly, and I was so well looked after in each city, as well as in between. Prague writer Ivana Myskova accompanied me for some of the gigs, and travelled with me too, which helped me negotiate things, what with my lack of any Czech, Slovak or Polish. All in all, this was a crazy, amazing few days, and I’m so glad I did it. Huge thanks to all the organisers, all the staff and especially the hard-working translators, who not only translated the stories, then the Q&As at the event, but also the pub chats afterwards!
26th June, Crime in the City, Waterstones Argyle Street, Glasgow This was total fucking nonsense, but a great laugh to boot. It was set up as some kind of West Coast v East Coast crime writers thing, which was frankly ludicrous but there was wine and plenty of good banter so, you know, not all bad. A ton of writers appeared – Caro Ramsay, Douglas Skelton, Matt Bendoris for the West with myself, Neil Broadfoot and Frank Muir for the East. Craig Robertson judged proceedings in completely biased fashion. Then we went to the pub to watch World Cup football.
19th June, Anneliese Mackintosh Book Launch, Mono, Glasgow I was delighted to be invited along to the launch of Anneliese’s terrific debut collection of stories Any Other Mouth. I read my own obituary and played a couple of songs. The PA couldnae handle it and conked out. Rock n roll. Anneliese read brilliantly then answered questions and signed books, Ewan Morrison read one of Anneliese’s stories, and Now Wakes The Sea provided some real music. It was great to catch up with loads of Glasgow mates who I hadn’t seen in ages. Good times.
10th June, Blairgowrie Library Blairgowrie’s a lovely place, eh? Its citizens are lovely too, as a small but appreciative audience came along to the library on a sunny evening to listen to me blether on about myself and my books for ages. I also played a couple of tunes which went down well enough, though I’m guessing the more elderly audience members didn’t really ‘get’ the Teenage Fanclub cover. Ho hum. Onwards!
7th June, Kilmarnock Readers’ Day A cracking day at the Burns Monument Centre, organised by Zoe Strachan and the Kilmarnock library staff, appearing alongside poet Richard Price and novelist Helen FitzGerald. We talked about books that we loved, our own work, anything and everything basically. The whole thing was ultra-relaxed and friendly, the audience were very astute and engaged, and we got a free lunch into the bargain. Sweet!
16th May, Crimefest, Bristol This was my first ever time at Crimefest and it was awesome! I was ‘participating moderator’ on a panel on modern thrillers with Belinda Bauer, Simon Kernick, Helen FitzGerald and Chris Ewan. All great writers and cool people. Good banter on stage, very relaxed. Then I spent a lovely day sitting in the sunshine drinking beer. Sometimes it’s tough being a writer. Two thoughts from this weekend – crime writers are lovely people, and Bristolians are lovely people. Definitely going back again, if they’ll have me.
7th May, Waterstones Livingston A cracking panel of crime writers, myself, Lin Anderson, Louise Welsh and Russel D Maclean. Despite a torrential downpour and the maze-like nature of Livingston’s road network, this was very well attended. Lovely shop, cool staff, very engaged punters. We each blethered then read, took some questions, signed some books, it’s all good. Russel was late as he got lost. Then I had to drive home in a storm, getting lost all over again thanks to those stupid roads around there.
1st May, THE DEAD BEAT Launch, Looking Glass Books We let book number six fly the nest in style. I had a chat with Allan Guthrie, read the first chapter, then played a couple of 90s grunge tunes quite badly, followed by one of my own. It was a packed out full house, there was wine and beer, I signed a shitload of books and had some great banter with folk, before, during and after the event. Gerard Butler came in for a slagging. Then we went to The Southern Bar and re-enacted the infamous Kurt Cobain-Benylin incident. Good times. Thanks to Gillian and all the terrific staff at Looking Glass Books, and everyone who came along. Top night!
14th March, Dunbar Book Festival Another ‘small but appreciative audience’. In other words it was almost empty. Still at least the audience outnumbered the authors. Just. I appeared alongside crime writers Allan Guthrie, Ed James and Nigel Bird, and we had a relaxed blether about the book industry, putting the world to rights, all that jazz. Ed made everyone sick with envy at the fact he writes a first draft of a novel in three days. Bastard.
11th March, The Speakeasy, Edinburgh For some reason they decided I should go on last at this cabaret night. The fact that all seven of the performers before me were fucking awesome was not intimidating at all, oh no. Hats off to host Miko Berry and fellow entertainers Julie McDowall, Rachel McCrum, Jojo Sutherland et al. I had a bit to drink by 9:50pm, so started off sweary, read a bit, then played a touching song to leave folk with a tear in their eyes. Kind of. A great night all round. And I’ll never look at Bohemian Rhapsody the same way again (you had to be there).
28th November, Motherwell Library Part of Book Week Scotland. A ‘small but appreciative audience’ as they say, this was a really intimate and informal event in the end, felt more like a blether with mates than anything. Got chummed on the train home by Sasha from the Scottish Book Trust, whose enthusiasm for all things bookish was thoroughly infectious. All good!
28th November, Morningside Reading Group Rocked up to a swanky reading group in Morningside, full of ladies-who-lunch. The ladies cracked open the sauvignon blanc at half past noon, but I resisted. They were all really engaged with Gone Again having just read it, and were fascinated about lots of the locations, since it turned out several of them lived in some of the streets mentioned. What are the chances, eh?
27th November, Dalmuir Library with Chris Brookmyre Part of Book Week Scotland. Always guaranteed a good time at a Brookmyre event, so I was pretty much riding Chris’s coat tails on this one. A pretty big audience had some great questions, including some chatter about writing for film and television, lots of football chat, and someone asking ‘Are you rich?’ Me: ‘I’ll handle this one, Chris. No.’
26th November, Johnstone Library Part of Book Week Scotland. Due to shit traffic I was almost late, and in a bit of a fluster I ploughed on with some blether about my writing, career, all that jazz, then played some songs. I read from Smokeheads for the first time in ages, which was refreshing, and a wee bit of Gone Again. A very laid back event and a good sized crowd.
26th November, HMP Shotts A cheeky little trip to a high security prison. After getting buzzed through about twenty doors, I did a wee freestyle event in the prison library, and got some great questions from the prisoners. I read from Hit and Run, then realised halfway through that it was a bit where characters were arguing about possibly going to prison. Erm. Anyway, it went down really well, I gave em a few books for the library and I got a lovely email from the librarian next day saying they’d all been booked out, which is nice.
2nd November, Linlithgow Book Festival This was a night of music and words put together by Gutter magazine, where I somehow ended up alongside three poets! Shit, had to raise my game, people. Andrew Philip, Patricia Ace and Kona Macphee all brought their muses, I read a nasty story in which a deer gets killed, then played a couple of songs including a vaguely connected Wilco cover. There was also fantastic music from local duo Holm, kind of dark folky madness. Great night, lovely crowd, and cheap beer in the Masonic Halls. Bonus!
26th October, North Ayrshire Libraries Readers’ Day This was terrific. Four writers – myself, Shari Low, Douglas Jackson and Marianne Wheelaghan – spent the day doing events, hosting reading groups and more with a large gang of readers. We each got to pick a classic book, I went for James M Cain’s Double Indemnity, and my reading group were blown away by it, excellent! Such a perceptive and engaged crowd, was a real privilege to be involved.
25th October, Dundee Literary Festival Sharing a stage with Denise Mina is always a hoot, and so it transpired here, as we blethered on about crime writing, literary prizes, all the guff of publishing. A very busy event too. Chaired in relaxed style by fellow writer Russel McLean, the evening whizzed by. Went out for dinner after with my folks, which was nice.
14th September, Bloody Scotland This was a joint event at the amazingly fun Bloody Scotland crime writing festival alongside two very fine writers, Gordon Ferris and Gordon Brown. Not that Gordon Brown. Our three books were very different, but there was plenty to gab about, and we all seemed to have a similar outlook to writing, which is always cool. I spluttered a bit with a chest infection and DIDN’T EVEN HAVE A DRINK. Shocking, I know.
28th August, University of Otago, Dunedin Big blog write-up here.
23rd – 26th August, Melbourne Writers Festival Had a total blast on the other side of the world. Read my diary of the week here.
15th August, Edinburgh International Book Festival A joint event with the amazing Laura Lippman, this was a doozy! She was a classy lady as well as a fantastic writer, and there were a lot of similarities between our outlooks on the world. Went for dinner afterwards and chewed the thriller-writing fat. Not literally, the food was ace. Great night out.
1st August, Blackwell’s Writers at the Fringe Fantastic event where I read a wee bit of Gone Again and played a couple of tunes. As ever with these Blackwell’s things, it was really well attended and a really diverse spread of writers – Helen Grant, Catherine Deveney, Regi Claire and Peter Kerr as well as little old me. Huge props to Ann Landmann who organised the whole thing.
22nd May, Booked Festival, Clydebank Library Part of West Dunbartonshire’s Booked Festival. A cracking night in Clydebank Library, nestled in the kiddies corner, I blethered like a daftie about life, the universe and everything, then played a couple of tunes. The audience were great, loads of interested questions, very engaging evening, then we all got a cuppa and some biccies afterwards. Good stuff.
20th April, Falkirk Library with Denise Mina What a fuckwit I am. I left my guitar on the train. Thankfully the lovely people of Scotrail got it back to me after a fretful hour, while I was ‘entertained’ by drunk Partick Thistle fans at the station. Anyway, panic over, we had a great night – Denise was her usual entertaining force-of-nature self, and talked wonderfully about all aspects of the writing life, then I did a wee turn, including a couple of tunes, then together we put the world to rights in a feisty Q&A session. Brilliant organisation by Falkirk Libraries, and a really engaged and enthusiastic crowd – hurrah!
11th April, On the Rocks Festival, St Andrews Library This was great! Really well attended, lots of fascinating questions and genuine interest in the writing process, all that jazz. I waffled on as per usual, read a bit, tried to do it slower, as my dad always tells me I read too fast, then played a couple of tunes and hit the road leaving them begging for more. Well, not quite, but you get the picture.
7th March, GONE AGAIN Launch, Blackwell’s, South Bridge, Edinburgh What a great night. My editor came up from London, it was standing room only, and I blethered for the first time about my ‘difficult’ fifth novel. Read a couple of bits, probably too fast from excitement, then played a few old Northern Alliance tunes, then signed loads of books, then we all went to the pub. If the world was fuelled by good vibes, and it should be, then it span twice as fast on this night. Huge thanks to all who came and listened and bought books and generally spread the word.
29th November, Port Glasgow Library An Evening with Cargo Publishing, this had me on a panel with Kirstin Innes and Alan Bissett. Both of them were jetlagged after just flying back from Goa, but were entertaining and enlightening as usual. I slagged off various things and had a great laugh. Couldn’t hang around for the wine after as I was driving. Sad face. Still, a great way to end a year of fantastic live events.
27th November, St Ninians Library, Stirling This was a brilliant event, thanks to the relentless enthusiasm of the library staff and the many, many punters who turned up. Great questions, a well received reading and we even managed to squeeze in a couple of tunes into the bargain. How much fun can you have in a library? This much.
26th November, Newington Library, Edinburgh A home gig, more or less. This is probably the closest library to the events in Hit and Run, and we had a nice we chat about the locations in the book, and the feeling of claustrophobia that compact setting creates. Very attentive audience, who even put up with my chat about suicides. Onwards!
24th November, Fife Libraries Readers’ Day, Rothes Hall, Glenrothes Seven Scottish authors, including yours truly, read and blethered with reading groups about our work, and some other much more interesting stuff. I got the usual old lady complaining about the bad language, c’est la vie. Incredibly well treated by the Fife Library staff as always, and me and Tony Black put the publishing world to rights in the car on the way there and back.
27th October, St Andrews Literature Live This was part of a weekend of book events at The Byre Theatre, featuring such luminaries as Iain Banks, John Burnside and Stuart MacBride. And me, rocking up with my novel, banter and guitar. A small but perfectly-formed audience asked a lot of pertinent questions and paid close attention to my inane, rambling answers. All good.
15th September, Bloody Scotland, Stirling I was very chuffed to be doing this event at the inaugural Bloody Scotland festival. Apparently I’m a ‘bad boy’, at least that’s how my panel with Craig Robertson and Gary Moffat was billed. We did not re-enact the Will Smith movie of the same name, though. But we did talk about torturing dogs. What fun. This was a fantastic weekend all round, featuring much schmoozing with fellow writers and such. Looking forward to next year already.
17th August, Edinburgh International Book Festival What a great night. I appeared with Jens Lapidus, a million-selling Swede whose novel Easy Money totally blew me away. Very honoured to be sharing a stage. He was such a cool guy, and we both seemed to have a similar mindset when it came to most things, especially not being interested in writing police procedurals. We hung around and had a few drinks in Charlotte Square with our respective better halves as the fireworks went off at the castle round the corner. Good times.
21st July, Harrogate Crime Writing Festival My God, this was drunken. Stayed in Harrogate for the weekend, caught up with a bunch of fellow crime writers at the bar, talked an immense amount of shite. My event was really just me sitting at a table for dinner talking drunken shite, which was handy, as I’m an expert at that. Took part in a quiz later on with some Faber folks and others. Then more booze, blether, God it never ended. Great weekend, in summary. If you missed it, you missed out.
14th June, Crime in the City, Glasgow Waterstones, Argyle Street, Glasgow. A weird one, to be honest. Sadly Helen FitzGerald had to pull out, as did the other person supposed to take part, so it was left to me and some other bloke I didn’t know to tell people how to get published. Like, as if we knew anything. Very nice audience, though, with plenty of questions. Cheekiest question: ‘Were you expecting more people here tonight?’ No, mate, were you? Had beers with pals afterwards, so the evening was saved in the end.
14th May, Faber Social: A Night of Crime The Social, London. Wow, it’s at events like this that I realise how many pals I have in London, having previously presumed I had none. Had a fantastic night of crime writing and reading alongside Cathi Unsworth, Stav Sherez, Erin Kelly and Claire McGowan. The Faber posse were out in force and drinking proudly. As was I. I met a film producer beforehand, had some pints. Then met my editor. More pints. And the Faber press folks. Pints. And pal Jane Harris. Pints. And other folks. Pints. Very fuzzy on the train home next morning. Great night though – I read a tiny 5-minute job then played that Bjork car crash song that everyone seems to dig. All good!
12th April, Waterstones Dundee event with Tony Black and Caro Ramsay Steps Theatre, Dundee. A fine array of crime writing talent, chaired by fellow crime writer Russel Maclean. Russel tried to wind us up, talking about differences between Glasgow and Edinburgh, men and women, but the three of us weren’t biting. There was no wine, but we made our own fun, and you couldn’t shut us up at the end when a young woman asked for tips on how to get published. If that woman doesn’t get published, it’s not for a lack of dumb-assed advice, I tell ya!
15th March, Hit & Run Launch Party Blackwell’s, Edinburgh, 6.30pm, free entry. There was wine. It was free. I thanked people, then I read some. Then I blethered and answered questions. Including one from my dad about crashing his car when I was a teenager. And another about our epileptic dog. Then I played a song or two. Specifically two. One of which was a Sparklehorse song. Then we all went to the pub after and drank some more and blethered and had fun. The book was launched. Thanks to all for coming.
25th February, Margins Festival with Helen FitzGerald The Arches, Glasgow. I met Helen at 12.30pm. She was drinking. So I bought a drink. Then another. We didn’t eat. Our host Anneliese turned up and sensibly had a coffee. Helen and I drank some more. Then suddenly we had an event! With an audience! We read, we talked, we agreed. It went well. Afterwards, Anneliese joined in the drinking. It went on for hours. What a great event. I swore a lot, which is always a sign I’m enjoying myself.
27th November, Newcastle Winter Book Festival This was very cool. The Star and Shadow Cinema is a weird, volunteer-run place, and a lovely space. Me and Hugh Cornwell (from The Stranglers, people!) both read and played a few tunes. And drank beer. And ate sandwiches. Hugh’s guitar wouldn’t tune up, so he borrowed mine. Played ‘Golden Brown’ on it. How about them apples? I read from Smokeheads, probably for the last time for a long while. No tears were shed.
14th October Dundee Cabinet The launch of a new literary cabaret event in Dundee, in The Burgh Coffeehouse, with a cracking mix of young and old writers. I read my Gutter magazine story ‘Bloodier Than Blood’ for the first time, which had folks squirming, then played a couple of tunes, continuing the car crash theme. Quality.
7th & 8th October, Portobello Book Festival Played some tunes at a really fascinating night in the town hall, then did a reading and a Q&A with fellow Porty resident Allan Guthrie, during which I gave away all the secrets of the publishing world and slagged off loads of people, myself included. Great attentive audiences both nights, free whisky on the Saturday, although the drams were rationed, dammit!
12th September, Off the Page Stirling
Another quality night full of Cargo writers, and a small but appreciative audience who had braved a fucking hurricane to come out and be entertained. Allan Wilson read a mucky story about tits, Andrew Drennan read a brilliant non-fiction piece about alcoholism and depression, RM Hubbert communicated amazingly through his fingers and Tom Leonard was frankly sublime. I read ‘Playground Rules’. One pint only, driving.
6th September, Literary Death Match Edinburgh
This was a cracking night at the Voodoo Rooms hosted by the irrepressible Todd Zuniga. I appeared alongside Sophie Cooke, Hal Duncan and Katerina Vasiliou, and we were paired off in heats, reading for no more than seven minutes, then judged by Lee Randall, Sian Bevan and Peggy Hughes. Emphasis on daftness throughout. I lost out to Katerina in my heat, but was happy enough to have repulsed the whole room. Katerina was then beaten at scrunched-up-paper basketball by Hal Duncan, who had earlier recited some cracking gay porn sonnets. Afterwards, we all drank heavily and talked shite. Top night.
26th August, Edinburgh International Book Festival
With Alan Bissett, chaired by Peggy Hughes. We ditched early plans to play that Bono thing, instead concentrating on talking shite about our books for an hour. I gave the audience the choice again, this time they opted for nice over nasty – fair enough. Surprisingly little argument on stage, must not have been drunk enough. Great event, though, really brilliant audience and long signing queue after. Best audience question ever: ‘What’s the most illegal thing you’ve done?’ Me: drugs. Alan: Four weetabix at once. Ha!
14th August Word Power, Edinburgh
With Helen FitzGerald and D.D. Johnston as part of the Edinburgh Book Fringe. Feeling slightly fragile from the night before, I gave the audience the vote, and they asked for nasty over nice. I read the brain surgery bit, then played a couple of love songs. Sweet. Very nice wee crowd. Then me and Helen fucked off across the road to The Pear Tree and got a bit pished in the sunshine and wasps.
13th August Forest Cafe, Edinburgh
Part of the Inky Fingers mini-fest, the night was curated by Cargo Publishing. Also appearing on the night were Allan Wilson, Andrew Drennan, Tracey Rosenberg, and a whole bunch of really very excellent writers at an open mic night. Sweaty, messy and drunken as all nights at the Forest are, this was quality, then we all fucked off down to Charlotte Square and drank some more at the EIBF launch party.
4th August Blackwell’s, Edinburgh
This was the first of Blackwell’s Writers on the Fringe series of literary nights that runs throughout August. A great and diverse line up included Lin Anderson, Fiona Thackeray, Shirley McKay, Ewan Wilkinson, who between them delivered crime fiction, historical fiction, folk music and tender Brazilian short fiction. I trotted out the hat and named shirt combo again, read the car crash bit from Smokeheads, then played the Bjork car crash song. Kind of a theme there. Place was full, very appreciative, and very nice all round. No booze though. Sad times.
27th July, The Arches, Glasgow
The Year of Open Doors paperback successfully launched, alongside Aidan Moffat, RM Hubbert, Alan Bissett, Anneliese Mackintosh and Taggart star Colin McCredie. Quality night. I wore a hat that cost £2.78! And talked about it a lot on stage. Hubby played some awesome guitar. Aidan was awesome. Alan and Anneliese were fucking amazing. Colin was also amazing. Amazing. There was a bar tab. We used it well. Lovely.
22nd June, Golden Hour, Forest Cafe, Edinburgh
Hosted as ever by the inimitable Ryan van Winkle, a great night of music and poetry, I played a handful of solo tunes and rambled on about Bon Jovi. Who were playing at Murrayfield the same night, it wasn’t just my usual random shit.
18th June, Dundee Westfest
In Benjamin Barker Barber Shop, I read a short story ‘Playground Rules’ and played a few songs, preceded by great readings from local rising literary stars Ana Stewart, Zoe Venditozzi, Sam Longden and Josephine Jules Andrews. Audience were very cool. We all went to the Art Bar after and had a few wheat beers. Nice.
8th May, Fence Homegame
A small but uber-appreciative crowd in the Rugby Club in Anstruther were subjected to the nastiest bit of Smokeheads, then a few songs to cheer them up. Cheap bar, lovely barman.
7th May, Ullapool Book Festival
Myself and Aidan Moffat read our stories from The Year of Open Doors, then played a few tunes each. I had a crippling hangover. Aidan was better behaved and charmed all the old dears with his beard/shorts combo. I couldn’t even drink the free Laphroaig. Ouch.
29th Apr, Word Power, Edinburgh
We, ahem, ‘celebrated’ the royal wedding by generally ignoring it. Small but appreciative audience listened while I prattled on, then got some quality poetry courtesy of Paul Kingsnorth and Anita Govan, then some random punter hijacked the mic at the end until we slow-handclapped him off. Strange.
28th Apr, Dundee Literary Salon, The DCA, Dundee
Brilliant evening with a fantastic audience of readers and writers, free wine, loads of fine blether and the chance to buy my EP before it’s even out. Oof. Thanks to Zoe Venditozzi and everyone else for coming out.
10th Apr, Words Per Minute, The Arches, Glasgow
Read the nastiest bit of the book for the first time. Seemed to go down well. Gave away a handful of whisky miniatures and some badges. Drank some beer. Listened to a whole bunch of other great writers and musicians. Very decent turn out, given that it was Glasgow’s first sunny afternoon in a decade.
16th March, Weegie Wednesday, The Universal Bar, Glasgow
Free beer for me. Lots of friendly Glaswegians for company. I talked bullshit for 10 minutes, they all listened very kindly. A really very nice evening all round. Thanks to all who came and were nice, and to the Weegie Wednesday crew for the invitation.
10th March, Blackwell’s, Edinburgh
Free wine helped things along, as I blethered uncontrollably for a while, read, answered some very astute questions about whisky and writing, then played a couple of tunes. Everyone went home happy, despite the hailstorms.
8th March, Gutter Magazine Showcase at Aye Write Festival
A quality night, I drank a tumblerful of whisky as I read and swore at host Adrian Searle. Fellow writer Elaine di Rollo did an excellent turn, and we all learned about The Douchemaster and his adjustable douche. Good times.
5th March, University of Strathclyde Showcase at Aye Write Festival
Three brilliant readings from our star students Bryony Stocker, Matthew Lynas and Sam Best – and I did a crappy wee turn as well. Very attentive audience, Strathclyde Uni successfully showcased.
5th March, William Patrick Library, Kirkintilloch
A piper, free books, a brilliant soprano, a jazz band, a cake – and me, swearing, playing songs and talking about whisky and violence. A lovely afternoon in the library.
5th March, Larbert Library
More free books, refreshments, a book quiz, then me blethering like a bastard to a very nice audience about all sorts of shit. I also played the Postman Pat theme tune, for reasons too complicated to go into.
3rd March, Smokeheads Launch Party, The Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh
A pretty fucking special night. Free whisky helped, but the general air of goodwill and camaraderie was at the heart of it all. Quite freaky seeing everyone you know in a room together at the same time.
27th Feb, A Lyrical Death Match: Cargo vs Chemikal, The Caves, Edinburgh
Alan Bissett, Rodge Glass, Doug Johnstone, Ryan Van Winkle, Kirstin Innes, A.L. Kennedy, Emma Pollock and Lord Cutglass all did a turn. Fun was had. Beer was drunk. Times were good.
19th Feb, Margins Festival, Stereo, Glasgow
Ahem, a mix up with schedules meant I didn’t get to play/read, but did bash out a daft song as people were leaving, technically making me a busker.