Saturday, July 24, 2010

Guest of the Week - Caro Ramsay

Please meet Caro, a real Glaswegian lass, who's guest posting today. We met last year at Bristol CrimeFest on a panel.
After she told me she'd consulted on the long running Scottish TV police procedural Taggart, one of my favorites, was a working osteopath and devoured crime novels I knew we had a lot in common.
She's written three police procedurals set in Glasgow: Absolution, Singing to the Dead and

 Dark Water, her latest, which takes us to the gritty side of Glasgow.

Hi All. Cara and Stanley were chatting to me about this fab blog site and I thought I might lend a Scottish perspective on all things of a crime novel nature
. and then I read Dan Waddells blog re sport that contained the phrase truculent Scot‘… and I thought.. Well theres a tautology if ever there was one!
We are all preparing for the Harrogate Crime Festival and as usual I'm not offered the panels on counter pointing metaphors and the inverse narrative. I get the panels about sex, violence, swearing and drugs. The Harrogate panel this year is A Scotsman, Englishman, Irishman and a Welshman walk into a pub and write a crime novel! Discuss! Apart for being a basis for lots of rampant nationalism I.e. the other three berating the English guy and not mentioning the football too often. Just in case it all kicks off, there is an American in charge who will be forced to remain neutral… as long as he is on my side.
I think the serious point of the panel is - we are four nations so close geographically, do we really dislike each other? Do we play to the stereotypes of our respective countries? Do we struggle for our identity? Does our sheer nationalism make us write differently? Is our crime fiction different? And why?
My views? Its all to do with the landscape. Basically, England is sunny and shiny with lots of nice grass. The bit at the bottom of the country, to the left is Wales low clouds, close harmony singing, brooding dark passion, Tom Jones, Catherine Zeta Jones, you can see the Breton influence in them. Further to the left across the water is Ireland. Where the citizens are passionate and just a bit crazy in a lyrical, charismatic (drunk) kind of way.
Scottish history, according to some, says that one day a few Irish folk were standing at the north end of their country and looked across the sea to a land that was colder, wetter and windier. They looked at the Rottweiller mountains, the huge waves and thistles that stood higher than their trousers and they thought
Lets go and live there! 
Follow that by a few Nordic invasions and so the Scots were born.
I like to think that we have deep in our DNA, the lyricism (and drinking) of the Irish with the great story telling tradition (and drinking) of the Scandinavians
And if you look at Scottish fiction, from Robert Louis Stevenson to John Buchan and the present day and whathisname- oh yeah that Rankin bloke.
Dark, bleak, chilling, not exactly action packed but deep and brooding, like the landscape. 
We dont do cosy (apart from the two sisters in Edinburgh but they have a nice front room, posh china and they wear cashmere cardis so are nearly English). Cosy as a genre belongs to the south of England, (re Agatha). The further north we go, things get gritty, (re McDermid), Glasgow (me), Aberdeen (Stuart McBride, McBeard to his fans). Keep going north you end up with Yrsa!
There was an interesting thing on the TV last night
One of the most distressful episodes in Scottish history was the battle of Culloden in 1745... The English came up and brutally slaughtered the Scottish clans that stood against them in honor and defense of their homeland. After the battle the English soldiers murdered, raped and burned their enemy, the tartan was banned, the bagpipes were banned, the language was banned, the clan system was banned the identity of the Scottish nation was broken in that one afternoon.
Or so we get taught at school
its not actually true, it was much more complicated than that - Scot against Scot, highlander against lowlander, clan against clan, the French were there in the mix but it was a turning pointBut the interesting thing is that twenty years later Glasgow and Edinburgh had become known as cradles of genius the destruction of the clan system brought about a huge intellectual advance on what was previously a disparate nation of clan rivalry. All that passion still has to be directed somewhere, in our music and our writing and it has never stopped.
Alliteratively, the view out the window of my turret where my writing room is, I
m looking across the top of the bluebell wood. Its early July, the rain is being caught by the wind and hitting the window horizontally, dark purple clouds are blustering across the sky and senior dog, the husky, is tucked under the radiator and refusing to move.
So the idea of sitting here, in the warm turret and not going out until Ive killed off a few more folk in the next book is very appealing indeed.
Maybe thats why so many of us do it!!! 

Cara for Caro - Saturday


  1. I love some Val McDermid...And I'm glad to here of another Scottish author to read! Funnily, I was just reading about the battle at Culloden. Trying to bring in Prince Charles and King James and all that...At least I now know some good came of the blood spilled.

    Looking forward to checking out your books...And I am extremely jealous that you write from a turret!


  2. Welcome, Caro, and what a fascinating post. The influence of the writer's environment on their work is one that's not raised often enough. I'm invariably put on the panel about exotic locations, and I long ago said everything interesting I could think of about that. But what is it about, say, Los Angeles or London or Edinburgh that comes out in the writing of those who write there, no matter where they're writing about? (If that makes sense.)

    I'm going to start suggesting it for conferences. If nothing else, it might get me off the exotic locations panel.

  3. Hi Caro, Great post - too right about the tautology, but I have to say, I was talking about what the British middle classes' attitude to Andy Murray is. If he wins, he's our Andy. Lose and he's a gobby Scot (another tautology!) You won't hear me dismiss the Scots - other than big old belly laugh at their football fortunes, bring back Berti Vogts! - with a surname like Waddell...

    Maybe a post about AbbaWorld next maybe?