Friday, November 1, 2013

The Grand Grantown Book Fest

Just below Inverness two feet to the right of the middle of nowhere is a place called Grantown on Spey.  I was invited to appear at a inaugural book festival called Dark Deeds, Dark Nights. As Grantown sits in the Cairngorm National Park the drive up was pretty spectacular. The drive down was in the middle of a gale so we only saw the tail lights of the car in front.

Thanks to David Ross for picture

Here is Grantown on Spey in the rush hour....

It’s a marvellous wee place with a great sense of community. The residents know that if they don’t make things happen nothing ever would. Last year I did an event there “at the bookshop” one of the few bookshops mentioned on Tripadvisor.  I seriously thought the audience would consist of me, a dog and some old bloke who had popped in out the rain as the Aviemore bus was late.  I remember walking into the bookshop, which is slightly smaller than my linen cupboard and thinking that with me and the dog in the shop, there would be no room for the guy waiting for the Aviemore bus.
Here is the mighty atom (or Marjory as she was christened)
                                                        What a treasure trove.....


                                                  Look what we found.....

The event however took place in the local hotel where they have a special meet and greet room with comfy chairs, wine and Pringles. That room opens into a small informal lecture theatre with all kinds of fancy gizmos (laptops, laser pointers...stuff !!!). It functions to lecture coach parties of walkers/drinkers/ twitchers about the fantastic wildlife of the area and the local whisky trade… boy does this hotel specialise in whiskies. On the wall is a white board where the hotel residents mark what they have seen that day; wild cats, red squirrel, pine martens, the smaller crested goobly whatsit, the greater crested goobly whatsit.  It is quite amusing to read, a bit like a foot ball result table. Red deer 2 - otters 0. Roe deer 4 -  ospreys 2.
The roe deer /red deer play off could go either way.
There is a stuffed gorilla in the high street- that gets a few mentions on the sightings board as well.
That event was very well attended, sold a load of books and the dog in attendance was a guide dog called Bounty who sighed and broke wind all the way through my reading.
                                         The Grant Arms Hotel. Whiskies galore.

This year the mighty atom, all four feet eight of her, decided to run her small crime festival. Dark Nights.  No wonder she has been nominated for Book Shop Manager Of The Year. Two of the main authors called off at the last minute and one of the stand-ins did a fantastic talk on the highland whisky wars and just listening to that gave me plots for the next three books! And next week's blog! He did his talk in a top hat with a walking cane.

At my big event the blind lady turned up again and told me that Bounty had retired and here is a picture of her replacement.
                    He spent much of our talk lying on his back, wriggling with his legs in the air. 

The mighty atom did well organising a big dinner on the Friday night where the authors had to swap tables.
                                        Micheal, Alex and I, all clean and shiny.

                                                   There was an awful lot of wine....

A workshop with Michael Malone on the Saturday morning, where Aline Templeton and I went along to give moral support in case nobody turned up.  Of course it was crowded and we caused a seating problem. 
                                               Michael preparing for his workshop

In the afternoon, I was on with Alex Gray and Aline again with lots of readings while trying not to be distracted by aforesaid paw pedalling.
In the evening the mighty atom had tried to have all the writers on stage at the same time but physical injury and an oncoming storm reduced us to five. The audience were well oiled by this time, most of them having been to every single event.  I did start off that event by saying that we were happy to be 'buzzed for repetition'. 

The hotel we stayed in was a fairly typical highland hotel trying to do its best in the economic downturn. Fabulous open fires, stag antlers, etc. I always like hotels where you get the sensation of either walking up or down hill  as the floors are so uneven. The breakfast menu was magnificent, just reading it took about an hour and everything liberally dressed with smoked salmon.

                                          The Grant Hotel

I did have an interesting chat with a gentleman who had something to do with the displays in the local museum.  They had tried to mock up a crime scene.  But because everybody was elsewhere there was nobody to open up the museum for the Friday or Saturday of the festival but I believe the four persons at the crime scene were as follows.
1.       A mannequin slapper in a black dress with long blonde hair. He told me this as I stood in front of him looking like a slapper! She had a noose round her neck, an empty bottle of whisky in her hand and an invisible stab wound somewhere.  I said I would move her head to see if she had been strangled or if her neck had been broken.  'Oh,' he said, 'definitely broken. It's not actually her head.' It turns out she had no left arm either.
2.       The scene of crime officer was a child’s dummy in an over large CSI protection suit which gave her the appearance of a crew member of Apollo 13.
3.       Chief investigating officer was a police officer dressed circa (I’m guessing now 1920s, 30s when it was fashion to have long hair and a beard) although I understand that the police officer mannequin doubles as Santa during the Christmas period. Police Scotland had been less than helpful with updating a uniform for him.
4.     The other gentleman present had borrowed the dead person’s left arm to hold his rifle dressed as a gamekeeper circa turn of the century … by that I mean early 1900s as I don’t think Grantown Museum has yet wandered into the 00s!

                                                       Aline, Myself and Michael

But the greatest things about the place are the clean air, the friendly locals and the total lack of mobile phone signal!!  And quiet places like this to read....
Oh, in the end we decided that the lifesize statue of the gorilla in the High Street had something to do with the murder of the slapper in the museum.  After a few drams anything is possible....

Caro   Scotland 01/11/13 


  1. Caro, I'm not going for a cheap attempt at humor by somehow suggesting a poor dog putting on airs might have led to the mutiny on Bounty. I'm not because I was so utterly taken with your description of Dark Deeds, Dark Nights that I just want to go to Grantown on Spey, stroll about the town, and sit in the audience listening to your nonpariel hurmor. Upwind side please.

    PS. Maybe Bounty was nervous, confusing a trip to Spey with a trip to spay?

    PPS. I'm crazed with packing up and moving off Mykonos later today for the winter, which might explain this manic episode. Or might not.:)

  2. Had to look up 'slapper', as I'd never heard the term before. Sheltered life, you know. Great story, Caro, laughed out loud several times (that's "breaking wind from the other end," Jeff). Sounds like a lot of fun was had by many!

  3. Thank you for this funny,interesting post, Caro. Oh how I want to come to next year's conference. Do you think they would like to hear about my mystery set at the Scottish Mission outside Nairobi in 1911? It will be out next June! The place and the people you describe sound just wonderful.

  4. These are the occasions when you want your guests to feel at home and enjoy the evenings in revelries...
    Murder mysteries Red Deer
    Thanks for sharing...!!!