Featurette: McIlvanney shortlist

1 September, 2020 – The McIlvanney Prize shortlist is announced

Today Bloody Scotland unveils the shortlisted authors in contention for the 2020 McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year, sponsored by the Glencairn Glass.

The shortlist for the 2020 McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year:
Andrew James Greig, Whirligig (Fledgling)
Doug Johnstone, A Dark Matter (Orenda)
Ambrose Parry, The Art of Dying (Canongate)
Francine Toon, Pine (Doubleday)

Previous winners include Manda Scott with A Treachery Of Spies in 2019 (she shared the prize with fellow finalists Doug Johnstone, Denise Mina and Ambrose Parry), Liam McIlvanney, Chris Brookmyre, Craig Russell and Peter May.

The judges are Stuart Cosgrove, writer, broadcaster and former senior executive at Channel 4; James Crawford, chairman of Publishing Scotland and presenter of BBC series Scotland from the Sky, and Karen Robinson, editor of the Times Crime Club. The winner will be revealed on 18 September. The festival was due to take place in Stirling from 18-20 September, but due to the coronavirus crisis it will now take place online

Andrew James Greig worked behind the scenes on the first Bloody Scotland festivals and only started writing three years ago. He said: “As a sound engineer I pinned a lapel mic on William McIlvanney at what was to be his last appearance at Bloody Scotland in 2014. I never imagined that in six years’ time I’d become a writer myself and be a finalist for the prize that bears his name.” The judges praised Whirligig for an “ambitious, innovative concept and the most intricate modus operandi for killing the victims of any book this year… a real page turner”.

It’s the third time in five years that Doug Johnstone has been a McIlvanney Prize finalist (he was previously shortlisted for Breakers and The Jump). A Dark Matter was described by the judges as “a brilliant idea, a heartwarming portrait of a family with three generations of women set in an undertakers. A confident, entertaining novel with dark humour, pace and energy.”

The Art of Dying is the second collaboration by husband and wife team, Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman. Chris won the McIlvanney Prize in 2016 with Black Widow and as Ambrose Parry they were shortlisted last year. The judges loved the original setting in Victorian Edinburgh and praised the “fascinating medical research” and the “implicit love affair building between the two main characters – the medically trained man, and the untrained women (who is clearly the smarter of the two)”. Haetzman said: “It’s little surprise to say that this is the best news we’ve had all year.”

And the judges described Pine by Francine Toon as “an impressive and atmospheric novel, with a portrait of remote rural Scotland, bringing in issues of school bullying, mental health and alcoholism. Very readable and engaging, It’s also beautifully written.”

The McIlvanney Prize is awarded annually in memory of novelist William McIlvanney, known as “The Godfather of Tartan Noir”, and recognises excellence in Scottish crime writing. The winner receives a prize of £1,000, a Glencairn crystal decanter and nationwide promotion in Waterstones stores. The Glencairn Glass is sponsoring both prizes for the first time this year. Culture & Business Fund Scotland have generously given matched funding.

Keep up to date with the festival here, including details of all the virtual events and how to book your free tickets: Twitter: @BloodyScotland #BloodyScotland Facebook: www.facebook.com/bloodyscotland/ Website: www.bloodyscotland.com/

See the news page for the full longlist.

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