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Bute Noir. Day 1

August 5, 2017

Bless my socks if Bute Noir isn't the cheeriest and cheapest crime festival anywhere.

Where else would you get three great crime novelists, home made cakes and a glass of wine for the not too massive sum of £4.00???

The first day of Bute Noir was everything I could have wanted.

Bute Noir was opened by Craig Robertson in the Bute Museum with three great women on the first panel.Alex Gray, Myra Duffy and Caro Ramsay.

Caro is always a great turn, her wicked sense of humour endears her to audiences and the pane – this one entitled Dark Deeds at Bute Noir explored the veil between fact and fiction and discussed how authors research their books and the importance of character and location.

The second session Keeping It Real was chaired by Luca Veste with Denise Mina and Craig Robertson. This was a fascinating panel which took Denise's novel The Long Drop, based on the Peter Manuel trial and Craig's novel, Murderabilia, and looked at fictional stories based on real life events and the writer's responsibility to families and loved ones of those left behind.

The conversation roamed from the Sharon Tate murder to Edna O'Brien, Bible John and Peter Tobin.Denise had some fascinating thoughts on the women who queued for the Manuel trial and Craig confessed to having purchased some murderabilia himself (in the name of research). That drew some gasps from the crowd when he said what he'd bought.
Denise revealed that she is writing a new book based on a woman who listens to a true crime podcast, so I'm really interested to read that when it comes out.

A fascinating panel discussion all round.

The two final sessions of Saturday were Mason Cross and Steve Cavanagh discussing all things Americana with Chair Susie Holliday. Steve and Mason's books are set in America and this panel discussed what prompted that decision – what is it about America that is so attractive for a crime writer?
In Steve's case, it was the scope offered by the legal system in the States. Not having to deal. With both solicitors and barristers freed him up to write about his character – con artist turned defence attorney – Eddie Flynn. He talked about the similarities between a con man and a lawyer – the skills of persuasion, mis-direction and deflection that when skilfully deployed make both successful.

Mason agreed that the attraction of a bigger canvas was a major draw for setting his Carter Blake novels. He revealed that he uses Scottish place names to populate his smaller fictional American towns.

Of course both Mason and Steve were great readers of American crime fiction as well as having been brought up in the era of Kojak, Starsky and Hutch and all the US T.V. series we know so well. It almost felt like they'd done their research after watching those!

Susie Holliday wearing a fetching Stars and Stripes top, reduced the house to laughter when she posed the old trope – where do you get your ideas from?
For interested readers, Steve gets his from a shop on the Kings Road!

The last panel of the day was Doug Johnston and Antti Tuomainen chaired by Alexandra Sokoloff. This panel discussed the meaning of Noir. Doug said that he thought that Noir was looking at the ripples of crime and considering the impact on ordinary people of being in extraordinary circumstances. Both discussed their admiration for writers like Chandler and Elmore Leonard as influences and how when. Writing you start with a person in a predicament and then spend the rest of the novel making that predicament worse! The protagonist is usually someone who is an outsider; perhaps someone with secrets.

Antti talked about the fact that writing doesn't get any easier – you get better at it, but it is still hard. So he gives himself small rewards; things to look forward to. So his next novel, The Man Who Died, will have a lot of humour in it. “What”, he says, “if death was funny?”

Doug reflected that his career as a journalist had been a great discipline for his life as a writer.

(Sorry about the photo!)

So that was four panels from 4.30 to 10pm and I have forgotten to eat. That's when you know you're having a great day!

Bute a Noir continues til Sunday 6th August.

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