Friday, September 6, 2019


The past couple of years I've been privileged to be a judge of the McIlvanney Prize, the award for the best Scottish crime novel. This year, having served my stint, I had to wait along with everyone else to hear the judge's verdict. There was a really strong longlist this year - frankly, I believe it was deeper than either of the two years I was a judge, with a greater number of very good novels in contention.

This morning UK time (just now in New Zealand), the judging panel has announced the four finalists for the 2019 McIlvanney Prize, which will be presented at the opening reception of Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival at the Church of the Holy Rude, Stirling on Friday 20 September. The winner will help lead the torchlit parade down from the castle to the Albert Halls.

It's an interesting group of finalists, with one and a half past winners in contention, and a couple of strong other titles that could nab the trophy for themselves too. I'm very curious to see who wins.

Given the strength and depth of this year's longlist, and Scottish crime writing in general, it really is a great accolade to be shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize. So congratulations all!

Breakers - Doug Johnstone (Orenda)
A tightly written and compelling exploration of two sides of Edinburgh, touching on social topics rarely examined in crime fiction. A brilliant and moving portrait of family dynamics and loyalty as a young boy struggles to break out of his powerlessness.

A Treachery of Spies - Manda Scott (Bantam Press)
A powerful, complex and remarkable espionage thriller: a present-day murder links back to Resistance France. An intricately plotted novel which keeps the reader guessing right to the end.

Conviction - Denise Mina (Harvill Secker)
A highly original and timely rollercoaster of a read, a caper which takes the reader on an unforgettable journey from central Glasgow to the Highlands, France and Italy. The novel fizzes with energy and brims over with a love of storytelling.

The Way of All Flesh - Ambrose Parry (Canongate)
Intensely and brilliantly researched piece of writing, casting back to 19th century Edinburgh when the art of surgery was just emerging at the same time as body snatchers were at large on the streets. Vivid, original, compelling, playful.

This year’s judges were Alison Flood, books reporter for The Guardian and a former news reporter for The Bookseller (it's Alison's second year on the panel - she was a judge with myself and Susan Calman last year); James Crawford, chair of Publishing Scotland and presenter of BBC series, Scotland from the Sky and Stuart Cosgrove, writer and broadcaster who was formerly a senior executive at Channel 4.

Previous winners are Liam McIlvanney with The Quaker in 2018, Denise Mina with The Long Drop in 2017, Chris Brookmyre with Black Widow in 2016, Craig Russell with The Ghosts of Altona in 2015, 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 2019 winner will be kept under wraps until the ceremony itself.

Five authors are also shortlisted for the inaugural Bloody Scotland Debut Scottish Crime Book of the Year:

All the Hidden Truths, Claire Askew (Hodder)
From the Shadows, G R Halliday (Vintage)
Black Camp 21, Bill Jones (Polygon)
In the Silence, M R Mackenzie (Bloodhound)
The Peat Dead, Allan Martin (Thunderpoint)

The winner will be revealed on the opening night of the Festival.

For more information on Bloody Scotland, visit the website.

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