I love islands - that's probably already clear from the setting of my books, my travel writing and this blog. After such a hectic October really I should have had a quiet time at home, but islands tempt me; I'm lured back to them. I was lured back to Iceland Noir by the chance to meet up with wonderful friends and a strange, wild but somehow intimate landscape. I was still deciding whether or not to go when I obtained an Icelandic publisher, the small press Ugla (which means Owl) and Hidden Depths was shortlisted for the Ice Pick award for best translated novel. Then I felt I had to be there to support Jakob, my new publisher.
I'm so glad that I went - despite one sleepless night when the music in the night club next to the hotel continued until 5 in the morning. It was cold, with flurries of sleet and ice underfoot, snow on the mountains that surround the town. But in the Nordic House, there was the warmth of greeting old friends - Icelandic, British and Scandie - of bookish conversations and a shared sense of adventure. Jakob had worked as a journalist and arranged interviews with radio and TV as well as newspapers and magazines. It felt as if every encounter was a real conversation, rather than an interview. In Iceland, it seems, books still matter. Marion Pauw won the Ice Pick Award for her crime novel translated from the Dutch. It sounds a fascinating novel and a real challenge for the translator -Ragna Sigurdardottir - and I look forward to reading it in English.
I was at the first Iceland Noir and it's grown in scope and popularity, but some traditions remain the same, and that's what makes it a friendly and informal festival. A few of us gathered at Ragnar's house for an Icelandic Christmas supper and then everyone was invited to Yrsa's home for a party. Celebrations went on well into the early hours. On Saturday night there's always a Gala Dinner; at our table Iceland's first lady chatted crime fiction with a bookseller and an agent.
Then came the surprise ending, the unexpected twist to the tale. Ragnar announced that I'd been given an honorary award for Exceptional Contribution to the Art of Crime Fiction. I was astonished and delighted. There was a plaque and a beautiful Icelandic woollen blanket. I will treasure them both and of course I'll be back in two years time. If you love books, the company of readers and writers, and a landscape to take your breath away, you should be there too.
30 years on...
There's been a big gap since the last entry. That's partly because I've been struggling to complete the new Vera novel THE SEAGULL, but mostly because life has been a bit mad in the past couple of months. COLD EARTH, the latest and penultimate book in the Shetland series, was published at the beginning of October and I spent the first three weeks of the month touring - starting in Shetland and ending up in Dorset. This was a very special tour because COLD EARTH marked my 30th book and my 30th year of publication. So my lovely publicist Maura decided that we should do 30 events to celebrate.
Ann and fellow 'Killer Women' Gaby Chiappe and Douglas Henshall
There were some amazing moments. There was the tea in the Bigton Community Hall in Shetland - a beautiful sunny day, terrific homebakes and the first airing of Bannocks and Blood, a murder mystery available free to libraries and bookshops through the Pan Macmillan website. More teas in Elgin, Perth and Oswestry (I did eat lots of cake on this trip...) A brilliant fundraiser for the Variety Club in Liverpool. Being interviewed by the magnificent Minette Walters in Dorchester and by Clare Donoghue and Chris Ewan in Yeovil. I did book festivals in London with Killer Women, and in Manchester, Sheffield and Chester, but the big one was Cheltenham. I was there with the team behind the TV drama SHETLAND - the scriptwriter, script editor, executive producer and the two lead actors. The panel was moderated by our friend Alison Graham from the Radio Times. It was lovely to catch up with everyone again and despite the audience of a thousand people in a very big tent, it felt as if we were just chatting and reliving the process of bring the characters in the books to the screen.
Since the tour ended it still feels as if I've been on the road. With my fellow murder squaddie Martin Edwards, I explored the nature of classic crime with the interviewer Mark Lawson in the perfect setting of the British Library. There have been two prison visits - to Thameside in London and Deerbolt in Co Durham - and last weekend I was in Orkney talking about reading and libraries to Cerys Matthews for Radio 6 music. This afternoon I'm at the Write Idea Festival in Tower Hamlets. Next week I fly to Reykjavik for the Iceland Noir Crime-Writing Festival. HIDDEN DEPTHS has been shortlisted for best translated crime novel and it'll be a chance for me to meet Jakob, my Icelandic publisher. Afterwards I fly back to Glasgow and immediately to the Western Isles for events in Benbecula and Stornaway Libraries, as part of Book Week Scotland.
Then it's home. A chance to rest and relax in the run up to Christmas. To spend a bit of time with my husband and family. And to think about writing the next book.