Stirling 9th - 11th September 2016


Writing Orkney

Posted on 25th August

The latest blog from The Booktrail:

Mention Orkney and what do you think of?

Mysterious islands with an ethereal quality to them? A mist swirling around the bare trees and desolate landscape? Islands cut off from the rest of the world where the weather dictates your daily routine? A place where you are among some of the most diverse and fascinating landscapes in the world?

It’s also a good place for a crime scene or two – no one is going to hear you scream after all. There are more than one or two rocky outcrops where you can hide a body and with only animals as witnesses… crime fiction novelists can really let go.

Three writers who have brought their own brand of death and destruction to these windy isles therefore are the best guides to the landscape and people.


Lin Anderson – None But the Dead (on Booktrail)

Lin AndersonOur first visit to Orkney is remote even by Orkney standards. Sanday, one of Britain’s northernmost islands, is not the most hospitable of places nor one of the easiest to get to… and the weather is hardly welcoming either.

The ferry only runs if the wind and rain allow. The planes are also dependent on the weather conditions so that means any communication and of course police work is too.

A craggy, inhospitable landscape is therefore the ideal blank canvas for Rhoda Macleod to explore. Imagine being stranded here with people you don’t know or indeed a crime writer with a dastardly glint in their eye?

“After all, uncovering old bones on Sanday was almost as frequent an occurrence as high winds and rain.”

Gale force winds, the souls of dead children and a remote, claustrophobic place with no modern forensics, no quick and efficient soil sample analysis…

Lin Andersen’s palette is dark and brooding, lines blur and the picture is grim and chilling. It would be a booktrail like no other to go to Sanday with Rhoda Macleod.


Doug Johnstone – Crash Land (on Booktrail)

doug-j2-300x200Orkney’s history and mythical past are the main colours on Doug Johnstone’s canvas. He not so much paints than carves the landscape into his story.

He sets his story in Kirkwall and although he changes some of the village geographically, it’s undeniable the brutal unforgiving landscape that Doug just carves up with a very sharp knife.

As for the historical angle. The Tomb of Eagles mentioned in the novel is as mythical and as fascinating as it sounds. This is a real tomb which over the years has released more than its fair share of ancient bones and artefacts. The ideal tool for a crime writer really and a veritable cave of story ideas.

I laughed when Doug admits in the novel that he’s invented a bar inside Kirkwall airport. If the island doesn’t offer the crime writer exactly what he needs he can always invent it!


Louise Welsh – Death is a Welcome Guest (on Booktrail)

Louise WelshNow the third writer in the Orkney panel is the lovely Louise Welsh and her version of Orkney is beyond that which you will have ever encountered.

I know because I’ve spent time in her dystopian London and smelling the sulphur tinge in the air as I exited the Tube…for the smell of sulphur was the start of a horrific spread of disease and death in the first Plague novel….

Now, this fear has potentially spread all the way to Orkney. And if “the sweats” reach here there is no way out.

“Orkney was flat and almost treeless. You could see for miles, here roads took dark twists and turns, the high verges and hedgerows deadened sound and it was impossible to know what might lie around the next corner.”


So, if you really want a good look at Orkney and see why this stunning archipelago has enchanted so many writers and created so many myths, travel with any of these three writers and see the landscape through their eyes. It’s a great, if not chilling, view.

You won’t want to miss this visit to Orkney!

Get your tickets to Writing Orkney: September 11th, 1:30pm


booktrail-logoThis is the fifth post of the Booktrail blog takeover for a series of posts exploring where setting shapes a number of novels from authors attending Bloody Scotland this year.

Visit the booktrail for maps, travel guides and reviews for the books featuring in Bloody Scotland.

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The Caledonian Crime Writing Festival, Scottish Company No SC404578, Registered office: Caledonian Exchange, 19A Canning Street, Edinburgh EH3 8HE.
The Caledonian Crime Writing Festival is a Scottish Registered Charity, known as Bloody Scotland; Charity No SC042615