Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The 21 sexiest crime writers according to....

Here are bits of a blog stolen from Matt Rees, who is
a) very charming
b) a wee bit naughty
c) bored!!!
d) a great writer
e) Welsh!

That was in no order of importance by the way.
He posted bits of this on his own website on Tuesday this week and has caused huge hilarity since. Well he did in my house. I have forgiven Matt (almost) for beating me to Best Debut Novel Dagger. I don't think I have forgiven him for writing a novel  better than mine but I do plan my revenge on a daily basis.

Here's what he got up to...  a Tuesday....bored.... He's in bold.

My comments are both tongue in cheek and italic.

The 21 Sexiest Crime Novelists
by Matt Rees
Killer good looks from writers who kill in their books
"Crime novelists are the sexiest writers. Of course writers aren’t noted for sexiness. Go to a reading by a “literary novelist” and you’ll either encounter an author who looks like a fat, drunk librarian or a pallid fifteenth-century inquisitor. But when you go to a reading by a thriller writer, the movies that’re developed from their books create an expectation that a male writer will be rugged and handsome like an action star and a female writer will be slinky and knowing like a thriller femme fatale. And some of them are. Here’s the list of the 21 sexiest writers in crime fiction, the sexiest genre in all literature."

He starts with my mate Helen FitzGerald who is an Aussie but lives down the road from
me in Glasgow. She once showed me how she had to sit to get this photo taken.
I think she hurt her neck.

Gregg Hurwitz

Matt says that Gregg is "tall and athletic, a soccer player who also dedicates a novel to
how cute his little daughters are. What’s not to love? Also happens to have written
the most explosive opening of any recent thriller in Trust No One."
As my Gran would say 'he looks like he could shift a piano for you.'

Jasmine Schwartz
Matt says  "Her Melissa Morris mysteries are loaded with sexual tension, seduction,
and irritable bowel syndrome."
I confess that this lady is a new writer to me but she's on my list now.
She's also Matt's wife. Great photo.

James Thompson
Matt describes him as "Corruption, sex-trafficking, and a hero with a nasty, violent streak. A Finnish residency permit, and a tattoo. Read Helsinki Blood."
He looks a moody froody doody to me.  I already have this book on my shelf, it's fab.

Zoe Ferraris
Matt says 'Living in the Middle East I’ve always found the fully covered lady
mysterious and alluring. Finding Nouf is a beautiful novel that even makes Saudi sexy.'
Again, a new writer to me, but on my list.

Barry Eisler
Matt is impressed by  this guys hair!
"A former CIA operative and judo black belt. Start with A Clean Kill in Tokyo,
the first of his books about anti-hero John Rain."
He sounds like someone you don't want to mess with. I think my pit bull would think twice.

Megan Abbott

"The thinking man’s crime fiction crumpet, the naughty ingenue of noir with
a PhD in English and American literature. The Song is You is steamy and tense."
I know Megan, she looks like a small delicate creature and her intellect is awesome.

Philip Sington
Matt wants Philip to be the next James Bond. "Born to a British intelligence officer
 and an industrial chemist, tall, sophisticated, sweet, and cosmopolitan (married to a German.) The Valley of Unknowing is about a womanizer.
 That certainly could be considered sexy."

Tess Gerritsen
Matt says..."The self-confessed intense tiger-mommy of crime fiction also has
undeniable sex appeal. The Silent Girl is a gripping story of secrets that haunt several
 lives, and what’s more sexy than a secret?"

Camilla Lackberg
"The kind of looks that made Sweden famous for…You know what it’s famous for.
One of her books includes a corpse found in the tub, so Camilla posted a nice pic
of herself in a bubble bath with shapely leg extended. I rushed to order The Ice Princess,
of course. Which is, like all her others, a thrill."

Zoe Sharp
"Motorbikes and handguns and blonde hair. Okay, you’re on the list. Her self-sufficient,
irascible heroine Charlie Fox is at her best in Die Easy."
I think Matt is very brave.
Very brave indeed.

Robert Crais
"A tough-guy squint and a Batman jaw gets L.A. bestseller Crais onto the list. He lives with his wife and their cats. But I won’t kick him off the list for that. My favorite of his Elvis Cole novels is Stalking the Angel."

Caro Ramsay
"A lovely Glasgow accent and a nice authorial turn in disemboweling and
other gruesomenesses. Caro’s a medical professional. She’s like Patricia Cornwell
without the private helicopter but with more atmosphere."

How did Matt Guess I don't have a helicopter????

Christopher G. Moore
"An urbane expat at home in the fleshpots of Thailand like his hero Vincent Calvino,
 Chris has a decency and worldliness that’s in itself reminiscent of some of the
great noir heroes."

Christa Faust
"A former dominatrix, Christa has one of the most flesh-filled author pages on
Facebook, often featuring her tattoos. I like the pulpishness of her Money Shot
and I’m looking forward to reading her newest Butch Fatale, Dyke Dick."
Now come on, who read, then reread the first three words of Matt's blurb about Christa? I bet Jeff didn't get any further....

Ian Rankin
"Dark and stubbly and candid with a taste for raucous rock. His Inspector Rebus novel Strip Jack has some pleasantly sexy naughtiness."
I emailed Matt and said that you don't get sexy men from Edinburgh. Apart from that Sean Connery bloke.  And Ian is fae Fife.

Alafair Burke
Matt says..."Her 212 is an investigation of internet prurience (a bit like this list) with a thrilling conclusion. A law professor, Alafair is the thinking man’s crime writing crumpet (unless the thinking man is still thinking of Megan Abbott — see above.)"
After making sure that prurience meant what I thought it did, I think I agree with Matt.  I think.  Sorry. still thinking about Sean Connery's tattoo.

Rebecca Cantrell
"A great series set against the backdrop of Nazi Germany. Cool enough to have
written novels specifically for reading on cellphones, iDracula and iFrankenstein." says Matt.

Jason Goodwin
"The thinking woman’s crime fiction crumpet (the thinking man is still busy thinking
about Alafair and Megan). A Cambridge University student of Byzantine history (hence his Inspector Yashim novels) with the look of a rumpled English gent."
A man of 'gratuitous linen'  was how Jason was described to me. And he can either
cook or he knows a lot about cooking. He once complained to me that he'd been to
Glasgow and got out unscathed.

Gillian Flynn
"Truly sexy, and not only for eviscerating marriage in Gone Girl. Wins the prize for best cheekbones on the Sexiest Crime Novelists list."

Laura Lippman
"Even if her #itsokkimnovak selfie hadn’t illustrated that we focus too much on youth in women, she’d be on the list. Of course that selfie only made her sexier. My favorite of hers is What The Dead Know."

So that is his list.......


Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Invisible Disease

I don’t think that Britain is alone in having disconcertingly conflicting attitudes towards women and size.
In the space of an hour last week four items caught my eye, and prompted me to blog. I thought it might stop me ranting. It didn’t.
                                                         Olympic Gold
The first was the concern of the officials that govern Ski Jumping. These sensible chaps know that every kilo of body weight costs the jumper 1.5 metres, so all competitive jumpers keep their body weight very low. Concern for their health prompted new rules so that any jumper with a BMI under 18.5 gets penalised.
The second was a study just published that showed 2, 288  people were admitted to hospital last year in England and Wales for eating disorders. That was an increase of 16% on the previous year.  The biggest jump was for those admissions of girls aged between 10 and 15 years of age. One  tenth of all the girls admitted were 15 years of age.  Horrifically, 47 of these admissions were  between five and nine years old. In terms of mortality, eating disorders are the most dangerous form of mental illness; 20% do not survive the condition. A figure that is probably lower than it should be due to the actual recorded ‘cause of death’ being a different but related condition.

The third was a report that more than 75% of those who suffer from an eating disorder admit that  bullying was part of their ‘significant  cause.’  The same study two years ago showed a figure 8%  lower. The link is a simple one;  young people are more susceptible to having low self esteem and any bullying feeds into that causing a downward spiral. Eating is one way to regain control of life, and the more control, the more the condition spirals, the more comfort there is in it. Not only a vicious circle but a deadly one.
 "Anorexia became my friend,’ is a worrying statement for anyone to make. A very worrying statement for somebody who is 14 years old.

The fourth thing ??( I was screaming at the TV by now so I don’t really know what the fourth thing was)  It was something to do with the word ‘Thinspiration’ being banned from some social media sites. It then discussed the ‘pro ana’ sites which promote ideas to lose weight and unhealthy  weight management.
I had a wee look at some of them. One idea of support on their online community was to post a photo of yourself so others can call you fat. One 14 year old was chuffed with her 47 comments calling her overweight. It motivated her to lose three stones.
That is dangerous and deadly.  Makes you wonder if her mother is aware, or if her mother would be allowed to help even if she was.
One website shows users this warning ; "Eating disorders are not lifestyle choices, they are mental disorders that if left untreated can cause serious health problems or could even be life-threatening."

Pauline Quirke, Acting Gold.

The causes of anorexia are varied  and extremely complex. Each sufferer will have a myriad of multi-layered issues. It is a genetic, chemical, hormonal and psychological issue.  And social media is just  reinforcing that these  abnormal ideas are normal. As one expert said, biology loads the gun, culture pulls the trigger
                                                Dawn French Comedy Gold
Interestingly, in holistic medicine eating disorders are also incredibly difficult to treat , the key phrase in my experience is ‘protection of self’. The body itself  shuts off from  any therapy,  as it will not yield enough control to accept help.  And that only increases the spiral of  desperation.

I know the States uses a different size system to us. I’m using the UK system here…. A size 10 is 32/22/34. I think that is thin. Most UK models are a UK size 8 or 10 ( but in perfect proportion), although I notice US sizes  are quoted in British magazines as being a “US size 0”.
This is something to aspire to. Seemingly.

And these magazines claim to be ‘getting behind’ a ‘ Keep It Real’ campaign to limit the use of  air brushing  on models, and  using more real size models ( the size 10’s that will be). However,  I nipped out and  picked up one cheap celebrity magazine at random. This is aimed I would say at the age range of those impressed by 1 Direction and Justin Beiber, so I conclude, the younger end of the teenage market.
It had  84 printed pages, 22 full page adverts,  10 more of crosswords, reviews and TV stuff. Here’s what the rest was  about…
                                                              Adele Singing Gold
The front page had three pictures ..
One unairbrushed female in a bikini. Good start. She’s lost 2st 5lb in two months.
That’s 33 lbs in 8 weeks. Healthy weight loss is 2lb per week (one pound is 3500 calories, so "lb a week loss is not eating 7000 calories). So in that time she should have lost 16 lbs, not 33.

Some celebrity  “skinnier than ever” (in a congratulatory tone), great photo of them (size 8 down a 6 maybe), and another celebrity panicking about getting in shape for the big day… regardless of the fact that she’s new mum!
No pressure from the front page then.

Double page spread. ‘Soap stars get skinny’, with the use of the word  ‘thinspiration.’ And another double page spread of some tiny models on the cat walk- their knees the widest part of their leg.
‘My new daughter is my priority, not my weight’, says one star. Oh good I thought, the voice of reason. But in the picture she looks noticeably thinner. “Bikini snaps made me want to lose weight”, says another celeb. She looks a size 10 in the before snaps and in need of a good dinner in the after. Then another double page spread of women unhappy with their breast reconstructions…. Unhappy before, and unhappy afterwards. Over the page we have a celebrity diet diary that included glasses of wine and hangovers, with constant reinforcement of the idea that the only way to feel good about yourself is to change your appearance. By surgery if necessary. 
The diet page has a size 6, female ‘star’ with her  daily diet. She has a lollypop head.
There is another one dieting for her wedding so that ‘he’ will fancy her on her big day. I think she could swap him for a bar of chocolate. Then there are the rules for a 400 calorie a day diet. With the proviso that it might be unhealthy. The are a few worrying words in that sentence, 'might' be the one that worries we most.
                                                  Lizzie - Olympic Gold
Current thinking is that the best way to fight eating disorders is to cultivate a peer group that are aware  of the pressures and see them for what they are. And to question them and the values of the society that promotes them.
I don’t think we are quite there yet.
I was so fed up I've included some photos of good role models- all very talented ladies.


Sunday, 9 March 2014

I do a lot of research for the MIE blog I do, representing Scotland every Friday.
This week’s effort was immense.  I had to sit down with three friends drinking latte and eating huge slices of lemon and lime marble cheesecake.

I hope you appreciate the depth of my endeavour and the way I suffer for my art.
Backstory- At the moment I am auctioning off a character’s name for the Clic Sergeant charity to help children with cancer.

 A nice enough thing to do, but it can be fraught with all kinds of difficulty because, for me anyway, the name has to fit the character.   So I don’t know which character is going to be renamed. I can’t leave a character blank and write them in called ‘anon’ then just stick the name in, in case the name is not a good fit.  It needs to fit.  A name says so much more than just the label for that character. It has to suit the character, like a well chosen hat.  
Confused? Well, what do these hats say about these guys??


There are some stereotypes that the reader feels comfortable with. Sometime, in a complicated story, it’s better to name within some ‘boundaries’.
In Scotland we have a weird class of society who wear tracksuits but never go to the gym. They tend to have tattoos and pit bulls. Some have tattooed pit bulls. And spiky hair. They are typified by a banner my lawyer friend saw hanging out a window, it said ‘Happy Thirtieth Birthday Granny!’


Their children will be called Nike, Luca, Princess, Pocohontas, Chantelle, Savannnah, Tyrone, Jasmin. The infamous Yehudi McEwan is an example of this.

Folk with a bit more money are doing the Olivia, Andrew, Niven, Owen, Elizabeth, Jessica thing at the moment. Trendy folk will call their kids anything but spell it the Gaelic way sentencing their kids to a lifetime of spelling it out.  True Gaelic speakers are called Donalda (daughter of Donald), Hectorina (daughter of Hector) etc. The ‘Ina’  is pronounced as in line.

I have no idea where Chinaide came from. The person came from Dundee but I have idea where the spelling came from.

Folk with loads of money are still with Findlay, Angus, Douglas, Callum, Alistair for their kids.

Here a stripper called Gladys would not sound right unless she is Welsh. Effie is a cleaner, not a neuro surgeon.   Mavis would be over 60. Colins make good librarians.  
Did that help? No.

It depends on where you are in the world of course as to whether a name is common place or exotic but it does matter to the story. My cop, Vik Mulholland is spelled that way just to remind readers he has a Russian mother. Which came in very handy in book four but there has been that wee reminder there since book one.

The last time I auctioned a name off, it was bought by a lawyer. I then had to write a sex scene for the character. I emailed him to make sure he was ok with that and explained that the sex scene was very short. He emailed me back and told me that any sex scene with him involved would be very long indeed, many pages, 50 shades indeed. 
So I killed him.

When I do workshops I put a name in front of the class and get them to list what the name suggests. For this blog I got three friends together and asked them to describe the person that went along with the names of my fellow bloggers. The friends were female, two are sane and the other is a beauty therapist (BT). They all read, but not crime fiction so had no idea who they were talking about.  I have just listed their comments as I jotted them down. Some of it is uncanny. Some of it was unprintable.

                                              The other Ramsay....

Caro Ramsay; They know me of course. Nobody is actually called Caro. You just chopped your name in half. And the Ramsays were a load of sheep stealing murderers.  The blonde ones swear a lot.
Verdict; No great fictional depth to any of that

Zoe Sharp; Young? Sounds dangerous?  Bright. I mean Zoe Blunt would be quite different, wouldn’t she. She sounds about 12. Is she a snow boarder? If not, she should be. BT thought she was a fashion designer, edgy, size 6. But all agree, she’s a Brit.
Verdict; precocious, very thin fashion designer who designs winter sports gear.

Lisa Brackmann; BT- did she not sing ‘self control’ (Laura Brannigan?).  She’s an American?  Downhill skier? Swimmer, something athletic.  Yeah, if she’s a librarian or a secretary or something she’s only doing that because she’s a spy. Way too young to be mumsy. All Lisa’a are young.  Tall, slender, long black hair. Cindy Crawford.
Verdict; supermodel discovered in a library and models swim wear for Zoe above.

                                             Stanely Trollip being 'nicked'?

Stanley Trollip; A real cockney geezer. Probably in the Sweeny. He’d say ‘watch it guvner’ a lot. Lovable rogue.
The other one disagreed.  Stanley to her was wearing flannels, a brown suit, hiding in a  courtyard at Oxbridge with some kind of secret formula.  He’d be really intelligent but might not manage to tie his shoe laces properly.  He’d be there in the 1930’s, in the golden age.  But English for definite.
Verdict; Stanley Trollip belongs in The 39 steps. 

Yrsa Sigurdardottir; She must be Lithuanian (BT).  Supermodel. Sexy smouldering. Swedish blonde, (??)   Or is that an Icelandic name?  She could be something to do with volcanoes. Or fish. She could wear a white coat and hold a clipboard, letting her hair tumble down at the right moment. A love interest for defo.  Big blockbuster American film…. She’ll be stopping a meteor in her lunch hour saving the planet from destruction. While having an affair with Michael Fassbender. (BT- she has a thing about Fassbender.)

Verdict; Hollywood’s next big thing!  

                                      Saving a planet from an Icelandic meteor??

Annamaria Alfieri. (BT thought she was at school with Annamaria, her dad owned a cafĂ© on the Govan road) but the other two are now well in the swing of it.  Mafia moll! Voluptuous, dangerous, probably has a stiletto knife down her stocking top. Or an Opera singer, does Tosca.  She lives in the foothills of Rome to protect her voice. She  will have lots of wee dogs that have ribbons in their hair.  Handsome young men run about after her. She’ll have a lot of tantrums. 
Verdict; an opera singer in trouble with the mob who throws herself off the tower in Tosca and somebody has sabotaged the landing. Colin Dexter will write a book about it, Morse will solve the crime. The music to the film will be fab!

ls he pulling her hair?

Jeff Siger. (BT)Did he sing Hollywood nights?  An incredibly handsome young man, square jawed defo American. Actor. He’s cleaning tables waiting to be discovered.  Been known to sing hits from the musicals in the kitchen when they are quiet. The other girl didn’t agree, thought he sounded more like a naturalist. Thought he would spend his time elbow deep in rhino dung while whispering at the camera so as not to disturb his subjects.
Verdict- Johnny Depp lookalike - he can be in the film with Yrsa. Looking at strange dung on the meteor and save the planet too. And the rhino’s.  

Michael Sears; Has loads of money. Old money.  ‘Mickey’ Sears has money but is younger. Both wear handmade shoes. Very tastefully cut suits. Cufflinks. He’d take you out and treat you to a nice dinner. He knows how to use cutlery.  He’ll have his own jet (a Sears jet no doubt). Nothing flashy about him, all very understated money. Both my pals would like to meet ‘Michael’. BT is already googling him on her phone.
Verdict- A bit like the Ewings of Dallas but smaller shoulder pads.

                                         The Sears Family annual lapel competition 
Cara Black - Exotic dancer. Must be.  Something fiery about her.  Or a romantic heroine who struts around in a crinoline getting stroppy. She will have a Spanish or Latin American father.  Or might be a very beautiful gypsy girl who looks after the horses. She will enchant the landowner and marry him against all odds. ( She reads Mills and Boon I think!)
Verdict- Catherine Zeta Jones in Zorro?

                                       The chin hold. Three submissions or a knock out.


No comebacks!  Remember I might come and steal your sheep…

"Caro Ramsay"  07 03 2014 GB

Sunday, 2 March 2014

The Island that won a gold medal.

Here's blog I wrote for Murder is Everywhere. As far as I am aware there has been no murders on Ailsa Craig but it's an interesting little island.  Lisa Brackmann, American Crime Writer was at Sochi and was watching the curling. She was asking me what it was the British Team were singing.
Some thing about 'We are on the road....' then ending the line with a Toot Toot.   A polite version of She'll be coming round the mountains???
Anybody know.....

So here is a question, what links this lady aged 23
This gentleman aged 35
And this island aged 65 000 000 years?

The island is Ailsa Craig, from the Gaelic for the fairy island. It lies 10 miles from the mainland in the outer part of the Firth of Clyde and sits like a wee tumshie bunnet on the horizon. Or a cupcake. Or a tea cosy.  Or a Tunnock's Tea Cake. Or a fresh from the oven blueberry cake.
The lovely photos here are from the web site.

It is an island with moods.

‘The Craig’ sneaks into the background (photobombs?) on millions of photographs of Scottish holiday makers as they get hypothermia spending the summer holidays down the west coast.  Most of the Turnberry Golf Course has a great view of it, the best from the 2nd green I am informed by gentlemen in strange trousers (golfers). Any room in the hotel with an island view costs a fortune.
                                     Daily Mail

It’s the sort of island that makes you smile, covered in sea mist, poking out the sunshine, glistening in the water. It's a happy wee place.

It’s other name is Paddy’s milestone, being half way as the crow flies between Glasgow and Belfast and that was a traditional voyage for Irish immigrants seeking work in Glasgow. Or maybe it's called that because it was a haven for Catholics during the Scottish Reformation in the 16th century. In 1597 a kind gentlemen called Hugh Barclay used the island to provide food and shelter for a Spanish invasion which might have helped re-instate the Catholic faith in Scotland. It didn’t work and Hugh drowned trying to escape the Protestant Rev Andrew Knox. In between times the island got a bit swashbuckley with pirates and parrots and peg legs ready to sail out and steal the booty of boats going up and down the Clyde.
Later the island was used as a prison and then the famous lighthouse was built by the famous Thomas Stevenson. I think he had a famous son. Robert Louis ….


I am lucky enough to have been on the island. Sea bird city. It’s heaven for birds, not so good for human beings. It has a small bay, one windy path up to the top, no where to sit down at the top to admire the view ( or hold on as it is so windy).  There is a small bay with a few buildings (ruined),  two huge foghorns and a strange wee railway track that goes from nowhere to nowhere. Intriguing.


The best way to see the place is to take the boat round it;  40000 breeding pairs of gannets, puffins, kittiwakes,  black guillemots, razorbills, herring gulls, peregrines and a special line in cheeky seals who twiddle their moustaches while bobbing around on the waves.
The back end of the island has incredibly steep cliff like slopes and this was the challenging inspiration for a bunch of drunk blokes to carry up a snooker table and play a few frames in their pants. (Underpants I mean, not American pants)
It is two miles in circumference, about 1100 feet high. The 200 acres is a plug from an extinct volcano left sticking up after the softer rock of the volcano itself was worn away.  The island has a fresh water spring but no other mod cons.  The owner, the 8th Marquis of Ailsa put it up for sale in May 2011  for  £2,500,000 but dropped that price by a million two years later. I believe, and hope, it has been bought by a wildlife trust. The RSPB has a lease on it that runs out in 2050.
The fact that the island went up for sale refuelled the land reform debate. 50% of Scotland is owned by less than 500 individuals ( from illegal gain during the reformation) and has been passed down through the family ever since. I recall having  a chat with a chap at a posh publishing dinner in London. He told me proudly that his family owned a large chunk of the west coast. He then added, even more proudly that he had never visited Scotland (weather was too bad), never mind the bit his family owned. You can insert here any mode of death I might have thought appropriate. 

Indeed the Craig itself has only changed hands once in 600 years but at least the Marquis used to pop over for the  odd BBQ.

 The puffins were nearly driven off the island by the introduction of rats ( they eat the eggs of ground nesting birds)  but widespread use of warfarin has dealt with the rat problem so the puffins are back in droves. There used to be an annual gannet hunt – gannet being considered a delicacy in those days and the uncle of one Robert Burns was involved in the hunting and trading of gannet. Hardly surprising as all this takes place in the Ayrshire coast, Burns country and all that.

So what has all this got to do with the two sporty types above. Well 70% of the curling stones on the face of the planet come from Ailsa Craig. The granite of the island has ‘an unusual crystalline composition’ which gives a uniform hardness. From the 1850’s the island has been quarried for its  riebeckite. Most other stones come from the  Trefor Granite Quarry in Wales.


Blasting is not allowed on the Craig any more but  loose rocks are still used by the Kays of Scotland company. They had their first wee  harvest of loose stones in 11 years in 2013 and got 2000 tonnes. That is enough to fulfil all orders until 2020… after all, they don’t wear out and you can’t break them. The Blue Hone stone from the island has very low water absorption so ice does not erode the stone, and the other type of stone produced is  called Ailsa Craig Common Green, which is of slightly lesser quality.

The stones from this island won the gold medal for Rona Martin and her team in 2002,  and  helped Eve and Dave  and the curling squad to their  medals in Sochi. There is one curling rink in England, one in Wales and three within twenty minutes of my house.
So the link is curling stones!

Caro Ramsay  GB  28/02/2014