The Cannes Film Festival may be nearly over but look out next week for a review of The Case Of The Black Pearl which is set in the glamorous French location and is discussed below by the writer Lin Anderson at the recent Cromarty Crime And Thrillers Weekend
Cromarty Crime And Thrillers Weekend
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Lin Anderson: Movies, Jewels and Murder on the Cote d’Azur
Lin Anderson, Alex Gray and Ian Rankin: Telling Lies To Tell The Truth (How Crime Fiction Uses The Real World)
THERE was a lot of the real world – and how it becomes fiction, then bites back – in two of the Cromarty Crime And Thrillers Weekend events in the Stables on the second day.
Lin Anderson – while temporarily taking a holiday from the books of her forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod and working on a rock opera – has begun a new series set in Cannes.
"You will be the first people to hear me talk about the new series," Lin told the audience.
Lin – who is also a screenwriter – had first visited the glamorous town during the famous film festival and became curious to see what the place would be like when the movie circus had gone. She vowed to return – and did, was charmed and has put it at the heart of her new book, first of a series.
Complete with slide show photos of the places and people, Lin revealed that much of the real town has gone into the opening tale of her "fixer" hero, Patrick de Courvoisier.
Lin confessed that her idea for the book was triggered by an unusual item aboard an old German gunboat moored in the harbour – a sunken mahogany bath.
Sure enough it appears early in The Case Of The Black Pearl.
And with real locations and characters inspiring Lin’s fictional world, readers will have a severe case of deja vu should they spend much time in Le Suquet – the old part of Cannes where the hotel, restaurants and residents are often little changed in Lin’s novel.
But life also imitates art, Lin proved. Patrick’s hotel-keeper friend Pascal- who often looks after Patrick's French bulldog Oscar - is based on real life hotel-keeper Pascal.
And after reading Lin’s book, the real Pascal informed her: "I have ordered a French bulldog. I am going to call it Oscar."
IT wasn’t dogs but cats that had been causing real problems for writers Alex Gray and Ian Rankin who – with Lin Anderson – got together for the "telling lies to tell the truth" session at the Stables on Saturday.
A cat had died in one of Ian’s books and the writer had been given a hard time about it.
"I didn’t do it, REBUS did it," he protested.
But Lin Anderson too had killed off a cat called Chance.
"I got an irate Alex complaining to me," said Lin, turning to fellow writer Alex Gray. "But she resuscitates it in one of her books!"
Gray fans might have noticed a cat appearing – set to be called Second Chance, before it’s swiftly renamed Chancer.
But Alex had a confession of her own.
"I still apologise for killing the robin!" she said, revealing that reluctantly – as a bird-lover herself – she hadn’t felt comfortable about the fictional murder of a cute redbreast.
But as the writers moved on to discuss the eerie feeling when something they’ve written, happens in real life, Alex had a bigger fear.
In her latest book The Bird That Did Not Sing, featuring her hero of 11 books, Detective Chief Inspector Lorimer, Alex opens with a massive explosion at the start of this summer’s Commonwealth Games opening ceremony.
So Alex told the Cromarty crowd that initially she had seen the suggestion to demolish the Red Road flats in Glasgow as part of the ceremony as a "gift".
But now she is worried that life might follow fiction and something will happen at the games.
The three writers began to talk about their words had seemed premonitions.
"Don’t tell me that! I don’t want the Games blown up!" worried Alex.
"Have you ever been rung up by the police?" Lin quizzed Alex and Ian. Lin told how she had echoed the real-life story of a torso being found in the the Thames in London by writing about a fictional torso in the Clyde. Her publisher had then got an email from the police asking where Lin had got her information after they’d discovered a Glasgow link to the Thames case...
"That was a scary few days," she grinned wryly, reminding the audience that a Russian author writing about a real killing had found himself banged up for the murder.
Lin told the crime book fans she felt slightly strange when she discovered there was a real man called Patrick, as her hero is named, who overwintered in Cannes’ Le Chanteclaire hotel, just like her fictional Patrick.
But real life constantly gets the writers’ creative juices flowing, it emerged. Ian said that hearing about a fire in an airport car park was the kind of thing that made him start thinking – how would you get rid of a car.
"So you cut the story out and put it in a folder."
Her heroine Rhona had been inspired from Lin’s days as a maths teacher and a Grantown pupil who went on to become a forensic scientist.
For Alex, an earlier trip to the Highlands had triggered her whole writing career.
Years back she had gone to A Crime Event in Fortrose to see crime writer PD James appear and then also happened to pop along to another event looking at a murder case that had happened in a small Highland town, discussed by a forensic scientist and procurator fiscal.
"It got me started thinking how I would transpose it into a fictional account and it became the plot of my third book," she said.
Going along to the Edinburgh Book Festival in 1983 to hear William McIlvanney – creator of Docherty which has been voted one of the best 50 Scottish books and credited with creating the genre of tartan noir – had inspired Ian Rankin to think about doing with Edinburgh what McIlvanney done with his hero Laidlaw and Glasgow, he told us.
But he laughed that he was slightly appalled when he discovered his first Inspector Rebus book had been filed on the crime bookshelves, rather than with the mainstream fiction.
An Edinburgh post-graduate literature student at the time, he visited the university’s writer in residence Allan Massie and confessed: "I’ve become a crime writer by accident."
Massie had replied: "As a crime writer, you might not get the kudos, but you’ll certainly get the cash!"
Creating a character in one of his books – based on the name of a real person who paid cash to a charity for the honour – had backfired when Ian grew fond of the colourfully-named Peacock Johnson who had been written up as a gangster – and fancied keeping him alive to appear in more of his fiction.
It turned out to be an elaborate joke by Stuart David of Scottish band Belle & Sebastian – who went on to write his own book featuring Peacock.
Experts they might be at creating crime for their books, but both Alex and Ian revealed had had recent close encounters with real criminals not long before their Cromarty appearance.
Alex had seen a figure running through her garden and though police apprehended a second man, there was no trace of the first.
"The next day I was out in my garden looking at some plants I have at the door and found a machete on the grass under my yew tree!" Alex said, bringing a chill to the room.
Ian’s close call on his drive had involved filming on his phone two masked men checking out their holdall full of apparently burgled swag.
"I shouted at them ‘You nicked that!’ and they said no they hadn’t – so I even had their voices on my phone," he said.
"They went off and I phoned the police and told them I’d got it all filmed – they just said ‘Can you email it?’."
But it was fiction that triumphed when Ian returned to his beloved Oxford Bar in Edinburgh after a few days away in Kracow.
"Look who you missed!" the excited staff crowed, showing Ian a picture of Rebus himself in the writer’s beloved back bar. Well, one of the flesh and blood TV Rebuses, actor Ken Stott.