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Shetland Noir, Shetland’s first ever festival of crime fiction, took place between 13th and 15th November. The series of events was a partnership between Shetland Arts, Promote Shetland and Icelandic Noir and was developed with artistic input from well know author with Shetland connections, Anne Cleaves.

As well as the six special guest authors, Arne Dahl, Hakan Nesser, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Alex Gray, Denise Mina and Stuart MacBride, Shetland Noir welcomed authors from as far away as Los Angeles and Washington DC, as well as from the UK mainland and from Shetland.

Featured authors included James Oswald author of the Detective Inspector McLean series; online crime fiction reviewer and Petrona Award for translated Scandinavian crime fiction judge, Sarah Ward; New York Times,USA Today and international bestselling writer Pamela Palmer; and award winning author of The Good Thief’s Guide series Chris Ewan.

They were joined by other stellar names, including bestselling Thriller Award-winning and Bram Stoker and Anthony Award-nominated author Alexandra Sokoloff, S.J.I. Holliday, Mari Hannah and Valerie Laws, as well as ‘Killer Women”, Melanie McGrath, Louise Millar, Helen Giltrow and Laura Wilson.

Events included creative workshops, panel sessions with all the authors, and three special ‘head to head’ events featuring the headline guests. In addition to educational events, panels and receptions, there was also the opportunity to take a bus tour and follow in the footsteps of Jimmy Perez. Lead by special guides Ann Cleeves and Davie Gardener, the tour will explore some of the locations used in filming the BBC TV series Shetland, as well as locations from Ann’s novels.

Extract from Anne Cleaves blog ‘Shetland Noir’ posted on Saturday, November 21st http://www.anncleeves.com/weblog/archives/00000130.html

“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 Shetlandfood. 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 [Taylor], 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.”

The full programme of Shetland Noir events can be found here http://issuu.com/shetlandarts/docs/sn_programme

[photo of Anne Cleaves and Douglas Henshall courtesy of Dale Smith]

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