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Granite Noir: Stellar line-up in store as Aberdeen’s crime writing festival goes online

Granite Noir has unveiled a glittering line-up of world-class crime writers – including Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, Jo Nesbo and David Baldacci – when it returns next month.

While Aberdeen’s award-winning crime writing festival is moving online due to the coronavirus pandemic, organisers say its mix of live streaming and pre-recorded messages offers the best of Granite Noir and hope it can reach an even wider audience when it runs from February 19 to February 21.

Jane Spiers, chief executive of Aberdeen Performing Arts, which produces the event, said: “Obviously this year is a bit different, being online, but we are still bringing the best of Granite Noir, the essence of Granite Noir.

Jane Spiers, chief executive of Aberdeen Performing Arts is looking forward to Granite Noir.

“It will have everything you would expect to see – the Nordic contingent, the Scottish writers, the household names, the ones to watch. I’m looking forward to it.

Online reach knows no bounds

The festival will see authors from across Scotland, Scandinavia and the US taking part in the three-day digital event. Also included in the line-up are writers such as Camilla Läckberg, Attica Locke,  Peter May, Jo Nesbo, and the north-east’s own Stuart MacBride, who is the ambassador for Granite Noir.

Read our exclusive Granite Noir interview with Val McDermid

Jane added the move to online presents opportunities for Granite Noir, which has gone from strength-to-strength since it began.

“There is a brilliant opportunity to broaden our audience base. We have already built up a following across the UK and globally. Online our reach knows no bounds.”

Jane said the stellar line-up is a reflection of the growing renown of Granite Noir since its inception.
Jo Nesbo will be making his first Granite Noir appearance.

“We have built up a fantastic reputation over the past five years. We give all our authors an incredibly warm welcome. The world of crime writing is a small world. People go to crime festivals, they talk and Granite Noir has become one of the go-to festivals for crime writing and not just in the UK, but across the globe.”

Sense of a live audience

She said she was particularly thrilled by the coup of securing Scandinavian best-seller Jo Nesbo, creator of Harry Hole, and top American writer David Baldacci, who will be talking about his life and work and his thrilling Atlee Pine Trilogy.

“Jo Nesbo has been on our wish list for five years. He has to be one of the most sought-after crime writers on the planet. He’s such an interesting character – crime writer, footballer, chart-topping musician and creator of the classic Harry Hole series,” said Jane.

Top US author David Baldacci will be speaking from his home in Virginia.

“We will be speaking to David Baldacci live from Virginia. Anybody who loves an action-packed thriller has to be there to listen to him. He has so many fantastic series.”

Both authors, and most of the Granite Noir events, will be live streamed.

Jane said: “We are trying to recreate that sense of being in front of a live audience, the intimacy and opportunity to connect with authors and ask questions.”

Granite Noir is offered free, in recognition from APA for the support it has been shown by the public since having to close its venues – His Majesty’s, the Music Hall and The Lemon Tree – during the pandemic.

Free festival to say ‘thank you’

Jane said: “It’s a thank you, first of all, for our audiences. We have been blown away by the generous donations we have had over the past 10 months. It also makes it much more accessible.

“There are no barriers to joining us for Granite Noir,” said Jane, adding that during events people would be asked to donate for future Granite Noirs and APA.”

“Also, we really want to continue to engage with our audiences. We feel that Granite Noir, if we make it a free event, is ideal.”

Stuart MacBride returns as the ambassador for Granite Noir.

Homegrown talent taking part includes best-selling Scottish author Peter May who discusses his novel Lockdown.  First written in 2005, this prescient book set against a background of a deadly influenza pandemic was finally published this year.

Stuart MacBride joins Ian Rankin to explore the way fashions come and go in literature, the persistent rumour that the police procedural is dead and how and why they’ve chosen the protagonists in their own work.

As always, the festival will explore the ties between the north-east of Scotland and Scandinavia.

Camilla Läckberg, the Queen of Swedish crime fiction with books published in more than 60 countries, discusses her latest novel The Gilded Cage with Alex Clark.

Ian Rankin makes a welcome return to the crime writing festival.

Stina Jackson won the Best Swedish Crime Award of 2018 and is joined in a panel discussion by Iceland’s Eva Bjorg Aegisdottir and the UK’s Lesley Kara to explore the concept of revenge in their writing.

Taking advantage of online

Jane said that one feature of the online festival will be the use of podcasts. Scotland’s iconic crime author Val McDermid will be joining Backlisted Podcast – which explores classic novels of the past – to discuss a work by Inverness-born Josephine Tey, who was prolific from the 1930s to the 1950s. This is the 125th anniversary of her birth.

True crime will be reflected in podcasts from Isla Traquair, who fronts The Storyteller, and Candice Gaines of Crime Noir.

Jane said: “Being online and going digital has given us a chance to think a little differently and take advantage of it and not be constrained by it.”

As always, the festival will feature new and upcoming authors. Three exciting new voices come together in a special Granite Noir showcase to discuss their debut novels.  Femi Kayode, Susie Yang and Saima Mir have written crime novels set in Nigeria, America and the UK’s Pakistani community respectively.

The hugely-popular Scottish author Val McDermid will be taking part.

Jane said: “I’m really excited about that. You might come to see the household names, but I hope people will pick something they don’t know and something new to read, which will stay with you.”

A popular feature of past Granite Noirs has been the deep dive into the criminal history of Aberdeen. This year, City Archivist Phil Astley will be expanding on his Criminal Portraits blog, featuring mugshots from the Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Archives which featured in the festival last year.

Aberdeen is a star of festival

Jane said: “He will be taking a deep dive into five of the criminal portraits and the criminal underworld in Aberdeen. I think that will be quite exciting.”

There will also be events for younger readers, as well as workshops exploring tips and advice for up-and-coming crime writers. There will also be a chance to take part in a Locked Door escaped game from your own home.

And while an online event for 2021, the festival’s Aberdeen setting is still key.

Jane said: “We have built the identity of Granite Noir around the city, its stories, its history its heritage. One of the biggest challenges has been trying to stay true to that in the digital world, but I’m confident we have done that.

Councillor Marie Boulton is looking forward to the festival.

“I want people to go away knowing that Granite Noir comes from Aberdeen and the north-east and, literally, you couldn’t see it anywhere else.”

“Granite Noir this year is more than a placeholder. We are not just keeping the seat warm for Granite Noir 2022. So come along and try everything.”

Line-up is fantastic

Granite Noir is produced by APA on behalf of partners, Aberdeen Library Service, Aberdeen City and Shire Archives and the Belmont Filmhouse. Granite Noir 2021 is supported by Aberdeen City Council, Creative Scotland and EventScotland.

Councillor Marie Boulton, Aberdeen City Council’s culture spokeswoman, said: “It’s great to see the line-up include the fantastic Jo Nesbo make his first appearance at Granite Noir along with other superstars of the genre such as Val McDermid whom we are delighted to welcome back. There’s also Aberdeen City Council’s very own Phil Astley to talk us through the fascinating histories of some infamous locals!”

Full programme details for Granite Noir 2021 can be found at



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