Haste ye back!

Haste ye back!

Before I begin let me make one thing absolutely clear: I love Scotland! With its rolling Lowlands and rugged coastline, to its breathtaking Highlands (not to mention its magnificent cities steeped in culture and history) you could go on holiday there every year and still never experience all of its beauty.

In fact what prompted this latest blog was a recent trip to one of my favourite places. I was lucky enough to spend a few days on the Galloway Coast, drinking in the stunning scenery, the beautiful wildlife and magnificent food (and if you want your particular delicacy deep-fried in batter, you can have that too - what more do you want?)

Perhaps naturally enough for my literary fix, I leant on three Scottish writers I was lucky enough to meet a few years ago. And therefore, after being suitably amused and horrified in equal measure by Messrs McKay, Guthrie and McBride, I thought I'd give a shout out (if one were needed) for that ever-popular sub-genre, Tartan Noir.

I'm never quite sure what the Scottish Tourist Board makes of how Tartan Noir presents the country. After all these skilled artists would have us believe that once the sun goes down (yes, they sometimes have sun in Scotland), its great cities become hotbeds of drugs, vice and above all else, murrdrrrr!

(I suppose if the STB do have any reservations about how Scotland is portrayed, they will console themselves with the millions of pounds in income these, and other skilled exponents of the sub-genre generate for the country throughout the year.)

Mind you, I should voice a word of warning for anyone in the English-speaking world about to dip their toe into this icy loch of crime writing for the first time: before you begin you must first familiarise yourself with phrases like "Ah'll stove yer heid in!", "You keep edgy fur the polis, while ah pan the windaes in!", and "These pieces're mingin'" (well okay, that last one was Rab C Nesbitt but you get the idea).

It's suggested by some that the sub-genre takes its inspiration from the hardboiled traditional American crime novel; and it is further suggested that it was one of its great exponents James Elroy who gave it the heading 'Tartan Noir'. Personally I'm not that bothered about labels; I'm more interested in great writing and good plot lines. If the writer who delivers them is categorised under a certain heading, well, so be it. Regardless, thanks to the three guys named and many more besides, for inspiring the rest of us with our scribblings.

Perhaps I should end with a couple of pieces of advice. First, if there is anyone out there who fancies taking up a career as a prison officer in Scotland, I would suggest Allan Guthrie's Slammer probably isn't for you.

And my final tip - in this dark Scottish underworld, if one insists upon using words like 'noir' and 'sub-genre' , or even if one continually refers to oneself as 'one', one is likely to risk having one's heid stoved in.

Other than that, you'll love it.


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