Scottish crime fiction: writers to watch

3 Mins read

There seems to be a rumbling in the north, a growing presence of criminal writing from Scotland. Following in the footsteps of two of the UK’s most successful writers – Ian Rankin and Val McDermid – Scottish crime authors are in vogue at the moment, with more and more books by Scots hitting the shelves. Some say a whole new sub-genre called tartan noir is developing, and we’ve received word that September will see the country’s first international crime writing festival – Bloody Scotland – take place in Stirling. And only today we reviewed The Crime Interviews, a book detailing the work of numerous Scottish writers.

So even though it’s not Burns Night or St Andrew’s Day, we decided to look at just a few of those Scottish names that you’ll have heard of, and possibly a few who’ll be soon be filling your bookshelves.

It would be remiss to start anywhere other than with the biggest Scottish name in the crime fiction field. Ian Rankin is the bestselling author of the Rebus novels, totalling 17 books and spanning two decades. With the new Malcolm Fox series, Rankin has firmly cemented his place as one of the UK’s premier crime writers. His writing sets the standard for any author wanting to link story and place effortlessly, bringing Edinburgh to life better than any other writer.

Val McDermid is perhaps best known for her Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series, which became a successful TV series called Wire in the Blood. Known for her psychological thrillers, McDermid is an incredible talent, who seems to somehow get better with every novel. A true great and The Retribution is a wonderful read.

Hot on the heels of both Rankin and McDermid is Stuart MacBride, the author of seven Logan McRae novels which are set in the ‘Granite City’ of Aberdeen. Known for being both gritty and humorous, MacBride has his feet set firmly in the crime fiction scene as one its biggest names. An excellent writer, his latest McRae novel Shatter The Bones shows his deft skill for grim crime fiction.

He may spend a lot of time outside of Scotland these days, yet Paul Johnston is still setting the bar high for intelligent crime fiction writing. His Quint Dalrymple novels, set in a futuristic Scotland, form an excellent series of books.

For darker fare, Ray Banks is your best bet. A fantastic talent for hardboiled and noir crime writing, Banks revels in the dingier side of life in the north. And he’s not the only one, Allan Guthrie is a name well known in this area of the genre also. Definitely ones to check out.

Craig Robertson is a new name to have cropped up in the last year or so, but with Random and Snapshot he is proving he’s someone who will be around for a while. Incredibly original writing. Similarly, Tony Black is a name to remember, with his new Rob Brennan novel Murder Mile already being talked about as possibly being the best new release of the year. With an already well received series of Gus Dury novels behind him, Black is one to watch.

A writer who is a bestseller in Scotland with her Lorimer series of novels, Alex Gray is consistently producing great work. Bringing Glasgow to life, this is a series to get stuck into. And with his debut novel due out this year, Michael Malone is already being touted as the new big name to add to the growing list above. Blood Tears will be released in June and it’s hoped this will be just the first of his DI McBain novels.

There is a realism present so manyof these Scottish books which is sometimes absent from other UK-based stories. Whether that’s an influence of place or time, I’m not sure. So I asked Helen FitzGerald, who is originally from Australia but has lived in Scotland for the last 20 years. She writes astounding psychological crime fiction, with a touch of genre-bending. Her recent release The Donor took the number two slot in my best books of 2011. Here’s what she said…

“My mum said 20 years living in the grey, murder capital of Western Europe, has made me write about darkness, despair, and deviance. She suggested I come home to Australia to write something with hope and joy in it. Taking her advice, I headed downunder in December, sat at an outside table in a cheerful, sunny beach-side cafe, and started writing. The story I started writing is about a dysfunctional Australian couple who accidentally overdose, kill and bury their baby whilst a raging bushfire burns folk to a crisp in the distance. Sorry Mum, it’s not Glasgow. It’s me.”

So, there you have it. An incredible list of Scottish crime writers to sink your teeth into. Undoubtedly I’ll have forgotten to include somebody imporant here. So please let us know who you think should be on the list in the comments section below.


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