It’s been ten days since I returned from a crime writing festival called Bloody Scotland and what a bloody exciting experience it was! A kind of David Lodge -small world recaptured complete with writers, critics, literary enthusiasts and book agents along with thousands of men and women celebrating late summer sun in picturesque Stirling. And sampling delicious crime! Irreverent snatches of conversation as I tripped to and fro the Albert Halls and Allen Park Church included “I hate Josephine Tey-however did they call her a crime writer” and “the Scots are a bit of a nuisance but they do their detectives well”.
Fellow panelists Lin Anderson, Doug Johnstone and Abir Mukherjee remembered Calcutta including the frayed nerves, yellow taxis, College Street and much else that is this vast chaotic churning city I call home. We also remembered Calcutta’s Scottish connection, the jute, tea and indigo, the Dum Dum bullets, the 1857 encounter, Byomkesh Bakshi and real life crime at Lalbazar. Abir read out an excerpt from his first novel A Rising Man while I did a short piece from my first book F.I.R. For an hour, at least, there was some corner of a foreign field that was briefly Calcutta.
This was my first visit to the Scottish Highlands. As the train slid away from Edinburgh to Inverness I was struck by the change in landscape -hedges and homely looking pastures gradually shifting into bleak Northern scenery with a strangeness about the sweeping hills and still lochs as if they were frozen in time. So too were the sheep, motionless in the twilight, gathering themselves for the cold night, while bunches of woolly brown cows so different from our Indian ones fringed the meadows at what seemed like eight o clock at night in the long twilight of the Northern skies. Most of the stations we stopped at were deserted and looked like a detached almost surreal movie set, as in the 1970s series Sapphire and Steel with their flowers, benches, clocks and empty waiting rooms.
I can think of no better crime scene than Scotland. No wonder Douglas Henshall, who played DI Jimmy Perez in the television series Shetland drew a packed audience at his event with Ann Cleeves!