Well, the Book Festival has closed its doors (or tent flaps!) for another year and what a great fortnight it’s been. I have been to 17 events and listened to 25 authors, more than ever before. That is just scratching the surface of all that has been on over the fortnight where there has been around 700 events and 800 authors. Quite a change from the first book festival in 1983 where there were only around 30 meet the author events. On Sunday evening I was with a friend as we went to hear some crime authors. Here is a little about those events.
First we went to hear Gunnar Staalesen and James Oswald discuss their latest books. Gunnar Staalesen is hugely popular in his native Bergen where he has been described as ‘the Godfather of Scandi crime’. He has written 17 books featuring his detective Varg Veum. The latest Where Roses Never Die was published earlier this year by Orenda Books and you can read my review here. James Oswald’s sixth book in his Inspector MacLean series The Damage Done was also published earlier this year and is set in Edinburgh.
Both authors spoke of the importance of place in their novels. Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen and said it was natural to set his books there. He described a city surrounded by mountains and set by a harbour and said it gets a lot of rain. With its narrow streets and dark skies it has a strong character of its own with a film noir feel. For this most recent book, he was writing about a part of the city he wasn’t familiar with so spent some time there to get a feel for the area and be able to describe the neighbourhood and the views. He must have done this very effectively as he said he was contacted by readers afterwards saying they knew exactly which houses featured in the book. James Oswald’s books have a hint of the supernatural in them and he said that Edinburgh is a fertile landscape for this kind of story. He mentioned its dark history with places such as Mary King’s Close, Gilmerton Cove, the Cowgate, Roslyn Chapel. There is so much slightly creepy history and so many conspiracy theories that he feels he just has to take advantage and incorporate this into his books.
Gunnar was asked about the adaptations of his Varg Veum books and whether he was much involved. He said that he had spoken with the producers and actors before filming but they had been quite freely adapted to the extent that they are almost unrecognisable. The characters are good but the plots are a bit different. Bergen residents are not very pleased that Varg Veum speaks with an Oslo accent – a bit like using a English actor for a Scottish part!
James Oswald spoke of the importance of reviews to an author. His first Inspector McLean novel, Natural Causes, was self-published as an e-book and has sold over 350,000 copies. He made this book free for Kindle when the second was about to come out. As reviews started to come in, this triggered some kind of Amazon algorithm. The more reviews a book gets, the more visible it becomes, appearing in Amazon recommendations. I’d just like to add that you don’t have to write a huge review for Amazon or even have bought your copy of the book from there. Just one or two lines saying why you liked it or what you enjoyed can make all the difference to a book being noticed.
The last event I went to featured Ragnar Jonasson and JM (Jeff) Gulvin. I have written about Ragnar in my review of Black Out yesterday so just a few words here about JM Gulvin. His latest novel, The Long Count, is the first in a planned series featuring Texas Ranger John Quarrie. It is set in the south eastern states of America and follows John Q as he investigates the apparent suicide of a war veteran. The man’s son, Isaac, has just returned from Vietnam and is convinced that his father has been murdered. His brother Ishmael, has disappeared and the book is a psychological thriller and race against time to uncover family secrets. Jeff Gulvin was really interesting to listen to as he spoke about the background to his writing. He said he doesn’t read many crime novels himself now as he doesn’t want to be influenced by or inadvertently plagiarise other people’s ideas. I was interested to hear that Jeff Gulvin had ghost written Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s Long Way Down and has since ghost-written further books charting Charley Boorman’s ‘By Any Means’ adventures.
I’d just like to finish by thanking Charlotte Gosling at the Edinburgh Book Festival for inviting me to be involved with the festival as a blogger. It has been a great experience and I hope I get the chance to do it all again next year.