Friday, June 7, 2013

Guest Blog Gordon Brown; Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival

All together now,

"B.  A.  Y.   B. A. Y.    B. A. Y . C. I. T. Y
R. O. L. L. E. R. S.
The Bay City Rollers are the best." 

That's how the tune goes!

Due to bad timing, Crimefest finished on Sunday and Scottish Crime Fiction Week started on Monday. So I am here, there and occasionally everywhere at once.

Those Crimefest dudes,  Adrian and Myles must have sat down and had an idea about a  festival of Crime Fiction in a pub at some point in time and  the rest is history. My guest blogger was caught up in a similar train of thought in  2011. All will be revealed as I introduce the rather marvelous super being that is Gordon Brown

 ( no not that one!)
This one.....tall bloke, looking like he's been up to something!

 He is one third of the brains behind Scotland's own crime festival. Basically two blonde crime writers came up with an idea, but this is the blog from the redhead who got it all going.

Like me, Gordon has his own business and that can make finding the time for writing problematic. He is blessed in that he can  write in ten minute bursts - Martini style (anytime, anywhere, anyplace!). Also he is a Glaswegian,  and his marketing company deal with everything from alcohol to global charities and from TV to lingerie.

His debut  novel, the thriller ‘Falling’, was published in 2009- think James Bond - if James Bond had been written by Willie MacIlvanney and you won't be far wrong. The new book , ‘The Catalyst’,  is next on my  'to read' list once crime week is over. As I have not read it yet, here's  a review from the Sunday Mail.
Cracking premise, blistering action and swarms of dodgy bad guys in suits- The Catalyst is an explosive riot that keeps the suspense dial turned to high from beginning to end.

  So if you ever see a six foot five redheaded bloke at the bar at a crime festival doing the Bay City Roller dance  you can now join him  as you know the words..... Oh Sorry  Gordon, did you ask me not to mention that.....

Not The Day Job
(or being at the birth of a new crime writing festival)
by Gordon Brown


I’m sitting at the Crime Writers lunch a few years back enjoying great company, food and a lack of wine – driving does that to lunches. I was fresh back from the Harrogate Crime Festival and I commented to fellow authors - Lin Anderson and Alex Gray about the number and quality of Scottish Crime Writers in attendance. Lin and Alex then regaled me with a story of Prosecco and frustration - the idea of a festival to celebrate Scottish Crime Writing that had been born over a glass of the white stuff but was, as yet, still some way in the future. My mouth, never one to wait for my brain to engage, decides that five words are appropriate at this juncture. ‘How hard can it be?’ I’m heard to say.

How hard can it be? I’ll tell you now - a damn site harder than it appeared to be on that sunny, Friday afternoon. Why? Well hands up to those who happen to have the spare time - that is, unpaid spare time - to organize what would turn out to be thirty events over three days involving some 40 authors. Oh and it needed to be profitable and professionally run.

So off we go.

First up we need a team. Contact books, friends and relations get us off the ground and the first chapter of the new venture is written. Everybody is allocated tasks from contacting authors, to raising cash, to the marketing of the event. Things look good. We’re over a year out from the proposed date but time is a devil with quick feet. We need a location. We need finance. We need more help. We need a website. We need venues. We need a name. We need, we need, we need. (Oh and ‘Bloody Scotland’ is such a good name – well done Lin).

Meanwhile we’re all trying to do our day jobs. I’m a creativity trainer and marketing strategist – honestly I’m not making it up – that’s what I do. I also write. I’ve had three novels published to date – Falling, 59 Minutes and The Catalyst. To add to my life I’m a DJ at the local radio station – ‘Laid Back with Gordon and Scott’ is Pulse 98.4FM’s most horizontal show. On top of that I have two kids ploughing through school and university whilst my lovely wife, Lesley, is doing a postgraduate degree. Also, at the time we started the whole ‘Bloody Scotland’ thing, I had clients who were inconveniently located in ‘Englandshire’ so overnights were the norm and to top it all my new book was being crafted. All in all I couldn’t find two seconds to take a deep breath. And to be fair that’s when stuff works. I’m of the opinion that the mantra – ‘if you want something done give it to a busy person’ – is up there with ‘If you don’t ask you don’t get’ as the sagest of advice.

Did we make mistakes along the way? – hell yes! Underestimating the workload was one. Considering a hotel that wasn’t even built was another. But we had our share of wins. Getting Val McDermid and Ian Rankin onside from the outset gave us kudos. An ever expanding committee with just the right magic mix helped and picking Stirling as the location was wonderful – thanks to Stirling Council for all their help.
So the Bloody Scotland express train was heading for the 14th of September 2012 – three days of literary fun over one long weekend. We had a wonderful launch in the June to announce the festival. Meanwhile I’m door knocking for commercial partners and, through Sandra and her husband Donnie, we gain a main sponsor. Our wonderful chair, Jenny Brown, and a ton of work from the team provide some great funding from Creative Scotland and Visit Scotland – along with support from Stirling University and others to numerous to mention.

We have monthly meetings that turn into daily meetings. Suddenly the whole thing is real.

Over the weekend it’s all hands to the pumps. We recruit a front of house manager who has now been kidnapped to be the main man for the 2013 event (hard lines Dom). At the festival I’m down to chair a panel of four authors and among my many other tasks I need to read the latest book from each to prepare for my session. The weekend finishes with a Sherlock Holmes play - ‘The Red Headed League.’ Many of our star authors (including me) are on stage - well as a red head it was compulsory I took part. The curtain comes down and we all collapse to the ground.
Was it a success – absolutely? We targeted 2,500 ticket sales and exceeded 4,000 in the end. We got some wonderful media coverage and the feedback from visitors was brilliant. Oh and we made a profit but as a charitable business it all goes back into this years event.

Did we learn any lessons? The fact that 2013 is about to happen maybe suggests that we have forgotten the pain of birth and in a rosy (or should that be Prosecco) light we’re really keen sado-masochists at heart. On the other side of the coin the line up for this year is stunning. Bloody Scotland 2013 will take place on the 13th to 15th of September – Lee Child and Jo Nesbo headlining with many others – tickets on sale at (Advertisement over)

Is life any quieter for any of us? No. So why do it again? Love! What did I get out of it? Well a pride in being at the start of something great comes to mind. Immersion in the world of writing is another. But mainly it wasn’t my day job. It was (still is) fresh, exciting and an adventure. Is it the best thing I’ve done in the last few years? Maybe, and I only say maybe because I’m very proud of my new book and I’m also amazed that I was given the role of master of ceremonies on the main stage of a two day music festival with my fellow radio DJ – so rock’n’roll and a story for another day.

I’m not sure what this blog is about. I think I started off to tell you about Bloody Scotland but I think it’s more about trying stuff in life that makes you a bit nervous. Stuff that isn’t the day job.

GB for GB  07/06/13
Guesting for Caro.


  1. Gordon, it appears you've taken another adage, "Write standing on your toes," to a new height...and not just because of the obvious towering advantage you have over most mortals. How in one season you managed to turn Bloody Scotland into such a well-received and talked about festival is a tribute to you, Lin, Alex, and your most loyal fan, Caro.

    Personally I'd be there in a heart beat, false Scottish mystery writer credentials and all, were it not for a conflict with Bouchercon:((.

    Maybe next year. Congratulations and a big thank you for all that you and your colleagues are doing for our genre.

  2. Well, the new programme is out. Bloody Scotland is now officially bigger than Crimefest or Harrogate with regard to tickets sold and events held....and bar takings no doubt!