Friday, September 2, 2022

The Bloody Scotland Book Club


Sometime in the deep, dark past -  January I think -  I agreed to do two events in December. Within the last 2 weeks, the organisers of those events have been in touch and said that the August 'person' had realised they are going on holiday and could I step in at the last minute, do their slot in August and they would do mine in December. Because I was busy at the time, and paying no attention, I said yes. What I should have said was, 'are you crazy, that’s the week before Bouchercon. And everything is a bit hectic, verging on insane.' That’s the polite word I’ll use.

The first event was a straightforward talk on crime fiction to a gathering of men average age 76. But they did give me a big dinner and at some points in turned into a Carry On film with lots of nudge nudge wink wink smut, that was not instigated by me. ( for once).

 Then I was asked to chair the Bloody Scotland Book Club event which was on Wednesday night. The idea is that a writer hosts 3 bloggers/ superfans/ crime writing experts and we discuss three books that have been selected for discussion. I think technically the panel is supposed to choose a book each but the panellists are persuaded to have some certain caveats – one debut, one long running series and at least one that is not Scottish. And at this time of year the organisers really like it if the authors choosen are appearing at The Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival (which they have strategically arranged to take place while I’m at Bouchercon.)

There’s a wonderful tech person called Dawn Geddes who looks after the links and introduces the little bits of pre recorded film of each author either doing a reading or a wee bit of publicity film of some kind. 

It was my job of course to remember to introduce them before we start talking about the book. I’ve never been in that situation before where I’m interviewing people on screen but there’s instant message stream floating up the side that tells you, 'Stan from Minnieapolis can’t understand a word you’re saying' , 'Gordon from Barrhead wants to know where you got the wallpaper on the wall which he can see behind you', 'Bob from Paisley is outraged as there's a spelling mistake in this book on page 231.'. And you’re doing that while keeping the chat going and making sure that everybody has their say. 

I think the Bloody Scotland Book Club has been going for about a year and from what was subtley said yesterday,  they have had issues of everybody being 'wonderfully nice' and it maybe would be good if we perhaps gave the books more of a critique. 

This worked for me.

The books we were talking about were The Khan by Saima Mir, Douglas Johnston’s Dark Matter and the 32 book in Donna Leon’s inspector Brunnetti series set in Venice. There was a lot of love for Brunnetti on the chat. Not the books, the character himself.

Donna’s book provoked some chat about books set in Venice,  in this book Venice's just coming out of the pandemic. And how Brunnetti doesn’t age as the books age. He first appeared in 1992 so he should have retired a long time ago. Of all the books this was the slow burn.

Douglas Johnston, as you may know,  has a PhD in Nuclear Physics as well as a wicked sense of humour. The book is the first in the series about the Skelf family who are both undertakers and private detectives. Interesting thing about this book is that the Skelfs, due to death in the family, are now 3 generations of women, the grandma, the funeral director and the student. And interwoven into the crime adventure (that is both hilarious and quite sad), is that idea of all humanity are just particles floating into a universe that is just itself just particles. 

The last book, The Khan, is a debut novel and a Times best seller. I thought it was very like The Godfather rewritten as a Muslim family living in Bradford. The Don Corleane character, the Khan  passes away and his daughter - who’s about to become a Judge in the legitimate world - gets dragged back in to the criminal fraternity to keep the family together. So she has the double problem of being a woman in a man’s world both professionally and ethnically. She turns out to be a very cold character indeed and  the panel agreed that while we didn’t like her, we did admire her.

Three books that I don’t think I would have read if it wasn’t for the book club. Three books that have kept me off my Bouchercon reading –  see  I'm getting my excuses in early. But an interesting exercise nonetheless and I think after about 5 minutes of being on the live feed, I forgot about the invisible audience out there and all the people who are going to watch the link on Facebook.  

It's worth watching just for my Julius Ceasar joke. 

To tell the truth, maybe not,


1 comment:

  1. Or, as Shakespeare might have said: To tell the truth, or not to tell the truth, that is the question...

    I'd watch the video but, alas, I killed my Facebook account a year ago. Somehow, I've managed to survive without it. So far...