Dark and Chilling – Northern lights

WORD-Web-Event-DARKCHILLINGThe lovely criminal duo of  Yrsa Sigurdardottir (go on do have a try…ỨR-suh SIG-ur-dar-daughter..easy!) and Liam McIlvanney chatted with Crime Watch blogger Craig Sisterson.

Liam McIlvanney was scheduled to appear in the 2010 Press Christchurch Writers Festival but the Darfield Earthquake put the kibosh on that. Four years later he has published the second in his Gerry Conway trilogy Where the dead men go and recently won the 2014 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel.

The panel talked at length about the importance of setting in crime fiction. Liam uses Glasgow, the crime capital of Western Europe, as his backdrop and believes Scotland’s history of dour Calvinism has developed into a dark obsession with sin. Scotland’s complex relationship with England particularly prior to devolved power has also allowed crime writers to pose politicised questions about wider society without the necessity of providing answers.

Yrsa acknowledged Iceland’s unforgiving climate lends itself to the idea, if not the reality, of murder. With no real crime to speak of in the Iceland she has to work hard to make her fictional crimes seem authentic and uses social and political context “to add meat to the bone”. Yrsa also plunders Iceland’s long-standing fascination with the supernatural to great and creepy affect.

Cover of Where the dead men goAsked about memorable early reading experiences, Yrsa admitted to being fascinated by her father’s textbook on gruesome infectious diseases. Horrific but enthralling. Liam’s rather more pedestrian fare included Ray Bradbury and Robert Louis Stevenson. Current crime reading included Sophie Hannah for Yrsa while Liam mentioned David Whish-Wilson and Peter Temple, who he credited as the best crime writer in the English language.

Both Liam and Yrsa hold down day jobs; Yrsa is an engineer working in hydro-electric generation while Liam holds the Stuart Chair in Scottish Studies at Otago University, an academic occupation which could be viewed as “boring and nerdy” but which allows him time to write about evil and achieve cathartic release.

Not particularly dark or chilling but instead a rather cosy and engaging peek at the craft of crime writing.

WORD Christchurch:

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir: WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival

WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival kicks off on 27 August. We’ve asked three quick questions of festival guests:

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

Cover of Philosophy in the gardenWhat (or who) are you most looking forward to at WORD Christchurch?

I would very much like to attend the event Philosophy in the Gardens with Damon Young which according to the programme will be about gardens and great thinkers who have been moved by them. I am presently trying to fix up my own garden, following a visit from a relative that mentioned that she liked my “f**k the system” approach to gardening – which was not the look I was shooting for at all. So I am hoping to pick up some hints from great thinkers, hopefully not anarchists.

What do you think about libraries?

I love libraries. Ever since I was a child I have been a passionate reader. I even attempted to read a book a day for one year (no picture books allowed) and managed up until August when I got “Gone with the Wind” as a present for my 12th birthday. It was so thick, over 900 pages, that I was unable to recoup, but was unable to put the book to one side until the following January. If I had not been able to count on libraries for a constant supply of books that particular year and throughout my life, I would be in the poorhouse.

Yrsa+Sigurdardóttir_4+bigShare a surprising fact about yourself.

I am not sure if it is very surprising but I can share a secret. In addition to being an author I am employed as an engineer in the power sector. This involves a lot of meetings which are unfortunately my least favorite thing in the world. When I attend particularly dreary meetings I tend to wander off in my head and think of ways to murder people in my books. I have come up with some very good murders under these circumstances. Please do not tell my employer.

Cover of The silence of the sea Cover of Someone to watch over me Cover of I remember you