Bloody Scotland Crime Book of the Year Award Shortlist

27 Jul


Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival has announced the shortlist for the annual Bloody Scotland Crime Book of the Year Award.

The award recognises excellence in Scottish crime writing. Previous winners are Peter May with Entry Island in 2014, Malcolm Mackay with How A Gunman Says Goodbye in 2013 and Charles Cumming with A Foreign Country in 2012.

The nominees are:

Paths of the Dead, Lin Anderson

DM For Murder, Matt Bendoris

Dead Girl Walking, Chris Brookmyre

Thin Air, Ann Cleeves

The Ghosts of Altona, Craig Russell

Death Is A Welcome Guest, Louise Welsh

The winner will be announced at the Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival (11-13 September).

Dom Hastings, Director of Blood Scotland said ‘The Bloody Scotland Crime Book of the Year is increasingly prestigious, and this year’s shortlist, replete with a number of very successful authors, is testament to the the strength, variety and diversity of crime writing in Scotland. Reading these books, you can travel from a misty midsummer night in Shetland to a high-security prison in the middle of an outbreak; experience the mysteries of a Druidic stone circle and the cut-throat anonymities of cyberspace, go on tour with a famous rock band or track down a long-lost killer. It’s a bit of a spooky list this year, with several of the novels flirting with the supernatural; also, interestingly, four of the titles are anchored by long-standing protagonists, proving that innovation and excellence still flourish in ongoing series fiction. All in all, it’s a phenomenally strong showing, demonstrating that crime fiction in Scotland is still in rude, bloody health.’

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Competition: The Maggie

22 Jul


Heart warming Scottish set Ealing comedy is released on digitally restored Blu-ray, DVD, and digital download.

“A wicked little satire on the mutual contempt that underlies Euro-American relations, and few could have handled it with such incisive insight as American-born Scot Alexander Mackendrick.” Radio Times

THE MAGGIE is the 1955 BAFTA award nominated, Ealing comedy, by Scottish director Alexander Mackendrick (Whisky Galore!, The Man in the White Suit,  The Ladykillers), nominated for Best British Film, Best British Screenplay and Best Film From Any Source.

the maggie

Written by William Rose, The Maggie is a decrepit puffer boat. Its captain, the canny Mactaggart (Alex Mackenzie), is in desperate need of £300 to renew his license. A chance meeting at a shipping firm office with the American magnate Calvin B Marshall (Paul Douglas) leads to a mistaken commission to transport furniture to his new property as he plans to surprise his wife with a summer residence in the British Isles. On learning of the reality of how his goods were being transported, Marshall realises he’s been conned by the crew but will he be able to stop them?


THE MAGGIE was set in and shot around the River Clyde, the Crinan Canal and the Isle of Islay in Scotland. Through their work on THE MAGGIE, director Alexander Mackendrick and writer William Rose went onto write The Ladykillers together.

The re-release includes world exclusive, new extras including an Introduction from Charles Barr, Puffer Ships Featurette and the Trailer – THE MAGGIE is released on Blu-ray, DVD & digital download on 24th August, 2015.

To win a copy of The Maggie on DVD answer the following question and send your entry to

What was the title of Alexander Mackendrick’s 1949 Scottish set Ealing comedy?

The Maggie can be pre-ordered from Amazon:

DVD Review: Out of the Clouds

14 Jul


 Lives of passengers and crew intertwine at London Airport when fog causes delays.

Offering a snapshot of an era when air travel was for many an unaffordable luxury and airports were glamorous places, Out of the Clouds is a portmanteau drama from Ealing Studios that follows the lives of people who visit and work in London (now Heathrow) Airport over a period of 24 hours.

A sedate adaptation of a novel by John Fores, the film interweaves several stories. Pilot Gus Randall (Anthony Steel) has a gambling addiction and gets involved with a smuggling ring. Duty officer Nick Milbourne (Robert Beatty) is waiting for the opportunity to become a pilot. Captain Brent (James Robertson Justice) suspects his plane has mechanical problems. Hostess Penny Henson (Eunice Gayson – Dr No, From Russia with Love) is the centre of a love triangle involving Nick and Gus.

Best known for co-directing the classic British horror film Dead of Night, Basil Dearden helmed this hymn to post-war aviation culture. Noteable for its recreation of an airport terminal on one of Ealing’s largest sound stages, to a 1950s cinema going public the setting was the film’s real star.

Fans of 1950s and ’60s British films will enjoy spotting familiar faces in roles very different from those for which they became best known. Carry On legend Sid James’ cameo  nearly steals the entire film.

Restored for its sixtieth anniversary this charming period piece evokes a forevermore vanished age when passengers received personal attention and airports didn’t employ security scanners.

A lesser known Ealing film that should be regarded with the same esteem as Passport to Pimlico and The Tifield Thunderbolt.

Out of the Clouds can be ordered from Amazon:

Blu-ray Review: The Voices

13 Jul


A purr-fect black comedy

Ryan Reynolds plays a schizophrenic who takes orders from his cat and dog in a dark psychological comedic horror film from director Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis).

Satrapi’s off-kilter take on the serial killer genre plays against expectations and delivers a uniquely twisted view of midwest America that ventures into the realms of Lynchian weirdness via a Brothers Grimm fairytale. Paying homage to her influences, the director blends Hitchcock motifs with Amelie style visuals alongside nods to Joel and Ethan Cohen.

Soon to be seen playing the lead in Marvel’s X-Men spin-off Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds delivers a career defining performance as a factory worker who believes his pets are talking to him. A socially inept employee in an industrial town. Too eager to please his colleagues Jerry works on the floor assembling bathroom fixtures and is effusive when offered the opportunity to help organise the company’s annual barbecue.


An acute schizophrenic Jerry sees a court appointed psychiatrist on a regular basis and is required to take medication. Living alone he neglects to follow his care plan and has relapsed. At the end of each shift he returns to a low-rent apartment above a bowling alley and chats about the day’s events with his pets.

Without his daily medication Jerry starts to hear voices and is  convinced that his cat Mr. Whiskers and dog Bosco are talking to him. A morality play occurs each night in the front room as the two animals represent the fractured sides of his conscience. Scottish accented feline and a dim-witted canine appear to be influencing Jerry’s behaviour.

Attending a planning meeting for his workplace’s annual barbecue he meets Fiona (Gemma Arterton – Quantum of Solace) and is instantly smitten. Blissfully unaware that she is not interested Jerry invites her for a meal at his favourite Chinese restaurant.

A carefully planned evening turns sour when Fiona decides to join colleagues from the accounts department at a local karaoke bar. Jerry is left alone staring at congealing Oriental cuisine while Elvis and Bruce Lee impersonators perform for disinterested diners.

The night takes a darker turn when Jerry spots a rain-soaked Fiona. Offering her a lift they decide to visit an out of town burger bar. A collision with a wild animal sets in motion a chain of events that tears down Jerry’s tenuous grip on reality.


Filmed in Berlin, Director Marjane Satrapi’s first English language feature is a genre defying movie destined for immediate cult status. ,Absurd and provocative it delicately balances artifice with flashes of chilling realism. Occasionally taboo breaking, the film acknowledges preconceptions and then pulls the rug out from beneath the viewer’s feet.

The Voices is an ingenious tragi-comedy. Disturbing and hilarious, it’s uniqueness is rammed home in a musical sequence featuring Jesus driving a fork-lift truck.

An impressive collection of extras has been assembled for this disc including interviews, featurettes, and a prank  that has to be seen to be believed.

The Voices can be ordered from Amazon:

A limited edition Steelbook is available exclusively from

Book Review and Interview: In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward

30 Jun


A compelling début novel puts Derbyshire on the crime fiction map.

On a January morning in 1978 two schoolgirls walking to school are abducted. Rachel Jones manges to free herself from the captor’s clutches and is found a few hours later. Sophie Jenkins is never seen again.

Decades later the missing girl’s mother books into a Derbyshire hotel room and kills herself on the anniversary of the kidnapping. Yvonne Jenkins has spent thirty seven years mourning for the child who never returned home. Paralysed by grief and not knowing for certain what happened to her daughter on that fateful day in 1978 she has been incarcerated by a torment that can never be wiped away. A routine police enquiry establishing cause of death links the disappearance of Sophie Jenkins to her mother’s apparent suicide.

Matters of the past are never far from Rachel Jones’ mind. Now a genealogist she has forged a career digging into other family’s secrets while burying the memory of what happened on that fateful day. The mystery of what happened to her friend has dogged Rachel and events from 1978 are raked over once again as the police connect Yvonne’s death with the kidnapping.

Praised by some of the biggest names in contemporary crime fiction, Sarah Ward’s début is a page-turning police procedural filled with dark secrets and complex puzzles. Long-term blogger and Petrona Award judge she eats, sleeps, and breathes crime fiction. Her affection for the genre is written into every carefully constructed page.

Enthralling, intelligent, and profoundly moving, In Bitter Chill effectively combines a vivid picture of a now lost era when parents thought it was safe to let their children roam free in the countryside with a harder-edged age in which the risk of abduction and abuse is ever present.

Signalling the birth of Derbyshire Noir, Ward’s début is a searing mystery that will delight fans of Scandinavian crime fiction.

Entranced by In Bitter Chill we spoke to Sarah Ward about the influence of Nordic Noir and how she researched the book’s period sections.


As a Petrona judge how does the Scandianvian school of crime writing differ from its English equivalent?

I think that English crime writing is as diverse as its Scandinavian equivalent. There are crime authors writing hard-edged urban police procedurals, domestic and psychological thrillers and intricately plotted historical whodunits. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I also like to think that the quality of books coming out of this country is of an equally high standard of those from Scandinavia. There are some differences, of course. Writing duos, although not unheard of, are less prevalent here. Landscape is important but less a focus that books from, say, Iceland. But Britain has an excellent crime writing tradition and it’s still going strong.

Did exposure to Nordic novels influence choices you made while writing In Bitter Chill?

Not consciously when I first started writing. Rather, I wanted to work through various events from my past and write a book that followed in the tradition of classic crime writers. But I became interested in the role that landscape plays in a narrative and how certain events couldn’t really happen anywhere else. I also like the focus Scandi crime gives to the impact of traumas on the victim. It’s a powerful message that trauma doesn’t just disappear after a crime has been solved. And I think that some of the best Scandinavian crime writers: Johan Theorin, Yrsa Sigurdardottir and Henning Mankell recognise this.

In Bitter Chill’s narrative structure involves two timelines. For the 1970s sections did you rely on your memory of the decade?

I did very little research in relation to the 1970s as those passages are written from a child’s eyes and I was the same age in that decade. It feels like a time of innocence and yet some horrific child kidnappings took place in that period. So I relied on my own recollections as I wanted to evoke the period through memory and emotion than fact checking.

In addition to contrasting on two decade’s styles of policing, are the 1970s and 2015 sections a reflection on how crime fiction has evolved?

I think that crime fiction has changed substantially between these two periods. Plots have have become more complex with often two or three storylines sharing the narrative, books are generally longer and I think the writing has largely become more sophisticated. Crime fiction no longer easily fits into a ‘genre’ classification as writers reject some of the old truisms and extend the genre in exciting new ways. I’m not sure that this is reflected in my book. If it is, it’s unconscious!

If In Bitter Chill was adapted for TV or film what tracks would you like to be featured on the soundtrack?

That’s an excellent but really difficult question to answer. I find music to be a very personal preference and what I’d like to see featured, isn’t necessarily what would suit the medium. I’m happy to leave this sort of thing to the professionals. Writing fiction is my medium and I’ll happily admit to knowing very little about TV and film production. Can I sidestep the question by saying what I listened to while I was writing the book? Two works that predominated were Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Holst’s The Planets, in particular ‘Mars the Bringer of War’. I like the sense of impending doom in both of these pieces of music.

In Bitter Chill can be ordered from Amazon:

Film Review: Life in a Fishbowl

29 Jun


Three fractured lives criss-cross in Baldvin Zophoniasson’s second feature film.

Considered by Icelandic newspaper Fréttabladid to be “The best Icelandic film in history,” Zophoniasson’s sophomore cinematic outing was an Icelandic box office smash. Vanquishing high-profile American competition it was crowned the country’s most successful film of 2014.

Praised by American Director Darren Aronofsky, Life in a Fishbowl was selected as Iceland’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2015 Oscars. It has been the recipient of numerous domestic and international awards. Audience response to screenings at North American and European festivals has seen it rapidly earning a reputation as one the decade’s most significant Icelandic films.


Inspired by true stories, Baldvin Zophoniasson’s follow up to the coming of age drama Jitters is a is a supremely well directed multi-layered drama filled with complex and sensitively-drawn character portraits. An elegy to lost souls modelled on Robert Altman’s Short Cuts. A trio of frustrated and thwarted individuals weave in and out of each other’s lives with startling consequences in the years immediately prior to the financial crisis.

Noted writer Mori (Thorsteinn Bachmann – The Deep, The Press) has spent the past two decades lost in a haze of alcohol. The submission of an autobiographical novel to his publisher brings to an end a lengthy creative fallow period. Addressing his darkest demons, the book is a confessional tome. Praised by his editor as a return to form it’s a tale that has been waiting twenty years to be told.

Eik (Hera Hilmarsdottir – Da Vinci’s Demons) is a nursery school assistant struggling to single-handedly raise a diabetic child. Her salary doesn’t meet the cost of rent and food forcing Eik to moonlight as an escort.


Each day Mori drunkenly staggers to Eik’s workplace, stopping to gaze at the nearby lake and chats with her daughter. Mother and disgraced writer recognize that they are a  pair of damaged souls and strike up a friendship that will force each to exorcise long buried traumas.

Former footballer Solvi (Thor Kristjansson – Dracula Untold) works for a rapacious financial institution which recklessly pursues profit and is profligate with its expenses. Eager to scale the corporate ladder he manoeuvres around shady executives while attempting to complete a close property redevelopment deal. The seemingly committed family man is intoxicated by the wild abandon offered by a Florida junket and sleeps with Eik little suspecting that she works at his daughter’s nursery.


A mature and engaging snapshot of personal destinies stunted by painful memories, denial, and an uncaring society. Baldvin Zophoniasson and co-writer Birgir Örn Steinarsson’s screenplay is an intricately patterned mosaic that entwines complex characters with a commentary on the country’s recent economic hardships.

Life in a Fishbowl is the latest film to prove that the Iceland’s motion picture industry is currently enjoying a creative renaissance. Compelling and thought provoking, the movie deserves to be seen by a wider audience.

DVD Review: The Spider

15 Jun


A host of familiar faces star in an impressive post-war noir mystery series.

In 1949 Denmark was a traumatised nation unable to conceal the visible scars of a brutal occupation by Nazi forces that had killed over 3,000 people. Liberation ushered in an era of shortages and rationing. Struggling to rebuild its infrastructures, the fragile government appeared to be impotent when confronted with the black market economy.


Left-leaning journalist Bjarne Maden (Jakob Cedergren) is an idealist eager to forge a career as a crime reporter. Unwavering in his belief in the press’ power to effect significant social change he covers stories which highlight cracks in the battered country’s system. Son of a noted union leader he uses the printed word to continue his father’s work standing up for the marginalised and persecuted. Championing social justice, Bjarne is striving to craft a new Denmark untainted by criminality.

A tip-off about organised crime leads the intrepid reporter on a trail which uncovers a web corruption that infects the upper stratums of society. Ignoring cautionary advice from the newspaper’s senior crime writer, Bjarne embarks on a self-appointed crusade to expose the toxic tendrils of lawlessness contaminating Copenhagen and bring the criminals to task.

Although the process of rebuilding Denmark is underway, the country remains divided along lines fought during the war. Bjarne’s brother Ole (Lars Mikkelsen) returns to Copenhagen. after several years in America. Enthused by time spent living in New York and flush with dollars he plans to open a jazz club. Ole’s reinvention is viewed with suspicion by those who are unable to forgive him for being a Nazi sympathiser during the occupation.


First broadcast in 2000, The Spider is loosely based on the true story of journalists Anders B. Norgaard and Poul Dalgaard’s dogged attempts to expose a criminal network and highlight the police’s complicity in a black market economy built on smuggling, stolen goods, drugs, and prostitution.

Bjarne Henriksen is perfectly cast as an ice-cool racketeer who controls the crime syndicate with an iron glove. A Danish Al Capone type figure based on the real-life criminal Svend Aage Hasselstrøm who rose to prominence during World War Two and maintained a vice-like grip on Copenhagen’s underworld for eight years.


An era of lawlessness and crushed hopes is meticulously recreated in a multi-layered and engrossing high-quality series that traces Denmark’s attempts to expunge the corruption which threatened to strangle the post-war administration.

Director Ole Christan Madsen’s affection for Film Noirs shines through in an exemplary production which doffs a fedora to classic crime films of the 1940s and ’50s. Cinematography, costuming, and set design work in tandem to create the sense of a time when gangsters held entire cities under their command.

Complex and engaging, The Spider is an arresting drama packed with an array of now well-known Scandinavian actors at the top of their game.

The Spider can be ordered from Amazon:


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