GOING back to Cromarty for its second Crime and Thrillers weekend is no hardship for Glasgow writer Alex Gray.
The town played an important part in her progression from fledging novelist to one of Scotland’s most successful crime writers.
Invited to Cromarty’s Black Isle Words festival by local author Anne MacLeod, Gray came to the book festival soon after the publication of her debut novel Never Somewhere Else.
"Cromarty was great," Gray added.
"It gave me a lot of confidence as a writer. A lot of people came to see me, the first time that people came along to hear me talk about my little book."
A dozen years on and with 11 novels featuring Glasgow detective Chief Inspector Bill Lorimer and psychological profiler Solly Brightman to her credit, she fits easily into this year’s selection of crime writing heavy hitters Ian Rankin, Lin Anderson, Stuart MacBride and English-born writer Ann Cleeves who, having seen the BBC1 adaptation of her Shetland novels come to an end last week, can look forward to the resumption of ITV’s series Vera this weekend with Brenda Blethyn as Northumbrian detective Vera Stanhope.
She also comes to Cromarty’s relatively modest celebration of crime writing as one of the founders of the country’s premier crime writing festivals, Bloody Scotland, which returns to Scotland for a third year this September.
"I think we are in another Golden Age of crime writing — a platinum age," Gray declared.
"People will look back at the late 20th and early 21st century and see this tremendous upsurge in crime fiction. Crime writing is more popular than any other genre."
The reason for this success, is not just down to readers’ taste for an exciting story.
"Crime fiction is a very moral type of writing. We are dealing with good and evil," Gray stated.
"People want justice. They want the truth. You don’t always get those in real life, but in a crime novel they get both."
The one time folk singer — and Scotland’s traditional folk songs also have their share of crime and bloodshed — sees herself as following in a long established line.
"People would gather together and tell each other stories. People wanted to be frightened," Gray said.
"They want that frisson of terror. In Scotland we have a tremendous history of tales of beasties and bogies. Then you have the crossover from the supernatural into the criminal with James Hogg and Robert Louis Stevenson and the horror is no longer outside. It’s within the human psyche."
• Alex Gray’s latest DCI Lorimer thriller, The Bird That Did Not Sing, is published by Little Brown.
The second Cromarty Crime and Thrillers Weekend begins on Friday 25th April with a murder mystery dinner and continues with talks and workshops at various locations around the town on Saturday and Sunday. See www.cromartyartstrust.org.uk/crime-and-thrillers.asp for further details.
Cromarty Crime and Thrillers Weekend
Murder Mystery Dinner at the Royal Hotel, Cromarty (sold out).
10am, the Stables: Stuart MacBride — "Hypocraty".
Noon, the Stables: Lin Anderson — "Movies, Jewels and Murder on the Cote d’Azur".
Noon, the Courthouse: Ann Cleeves — "Vera, Jimmy Perez and me".
2.45pm, the Stables: Ian Rankin, Alex Gray, Lin Anderson — "Telling lies to tell the truth: How crime fiction uses the real world".
2.45pm, the Courthouse: Forensic Talk with Inverness born Professor Sue Black from Dundee University.
10am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm, the Old Brewery: Workshop for writers with tutor.
6.30pm, Victoria Hall: Supper Concert with The Shee and Shine.
10am, the Stables: Ian Rankin — "The Two Secrets of the Successful Crime Writer".
Noon, the Stables: Stuart MacBride and Ann Cleeves — "Your place or mine?"
Noon, the Courthouse: Alex Gray — "What is it about the genre that attracts so many readers and writers?’
2.45pm, the Stables: Panel Discussion with Ian Rankin, Lin Anderson, Ann Cleeves, Alex Gray and Stuart MacBride.