I'm happy to claim the idea of borrowing Reykjavik's crime-writing festival for Shetland as mine, though I can't remember now exactly how it was decided. In any event there was no opposition from the Icelanders to the idea and it was wonderful to welcome so many of them to Shetland last weekend. Visitors from all over the world braved the dramatic weather - we coincided with Storm Abigail and there was very little daylight - to join us to discuss all things criminal. Delayed (and somewhat exciting) flights only added to the drama. The main focus, as was only appropriate, was Nordic Noir and three of the six headliners were Icelandic or Swedish, but it was great to meet a librarian from Washington DC, a reader from LA and a couple of Scandie journalists as well as people from throughout the UK.
The festival had a very Shetland flavour though. We were welcomed to Lerwick Library on Thursday night with homebakes, a spinner, an expert in Shetland ponies and two members of the Up Helly Aa Guizer Squad in full costume! It was a great opportunity for locals and visitors to meet and share ideas. The official civic reception on Friday night featured Shetland beer and wonderful Shetland food. It was a chance to show off my non-fiction book about the islands and I was delighted to present the first Jimmy Perez award to writer Helen Grant for her beautifully structured short story The Beach House. Thanks to my publishers for making the event even more special by arranging for Dougie Henshall, who plays Perez in the BBC drama, to be there to hand over the beautiful glass and driftwood trophy.
The weather calmed on Sunday in time for our coach trip around the Shetland mainland. It had been put together by local crimewriter Marsali Taylor and BBC local fixer Davie Gardner. We went from the Eshaness cliffs to the north to St Ninian's Isle in the south looking at some of the locations in the books and the drama. But Marsali is a trained guide so we learned a lot more about the islands than the fictional creations based there. Lunch was in the Hillswick Community Hall, a nod to the tradition of Shetland Sunday teas.
A huge thanks to everyone who made the trek north for Shetland Noir, not just the writers - Stuart MacBride, Denise Mina and Alex Gray were the Scottish guests of honour and there were too many others to name individually - but to pathologist Prof James Grieve and CSI Helen Pepper who came to talk about the reality of crime and share their own perspectives on crime fiction. The biggest thanks though should go to Marsali, to Donald Anderson of Shetland Arts, to Misa Hay and Kirsty Halcrow of Promote Shetland and to all the staff and volunteers in Mareel. I'm sure lots of the visitors will return to see the islands in the long days of summer.