With authors joining from across Scotland, Scandinavia and the USA, Aberdeen’s international crime writing festival, Granite Noir, returns this February for a fifth year with an exciting programme of online events. From Friday 19 to Sunday 21 February, Granite Noir will stream a mix of live and pre-recorded author conversations, workshops and events for younger audiences featuring luminaries of the genre including Attica Locke, Camilla Läckberg, Val McDermid, Peter May, David Baldacci, Jo Nesbo and M J Leonard. All events are available to watch free of charge. Programmer, Lee Randall, spoke with The Fountain about the challenges of moving to online as well as some of the highlights on the programme.

TF: Granite Noir is moving online, that must have been a difficult decision for a festival that tends to centre around venues?

This has been a challenging year for the arts, including book festivals. At heart is the basic question of public safety, and the duty of care we owe one another. It would have been fantastic to build on the success of our 2020 programme by gathering in our beautiful Aberdeen venues, but not at the risk of anyone’s health. Let’s hope that 2022 sees us meeting up in person once more. 

TF: Obviously it is great that is moving forward and continuing this year, what are you finding are the perks of taking it to the digital stage?

Digital festivals have a lot to recommend them: low carbon footprint, ease of enjoyment (you don’t have to take off your pyjamas!), and unprecedented availability to an international audience, as well as for viewers with accessibility issues, whether that’s the cost of travel or childcare, or a health-related concern. 

Digital festivals also make it financially feasible to work with even more authors from around the world. This year we’re welcoming writers from the U.S.A., Namibia, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, and Ireland, as well as from within the UK. But let me be clear, we’ve always welcomed an international roster of writers, this isn’t new. Still, one side-effect of pivoting to digital is that the menu of possibilities expands. Probably the toughest part of programming 2021 was working to a scaled-back brief, made necessary by the circumstances we find ourselves dealing with. 

TF: Great programme Lee, what are some of your own personal highlights from the programme?

I love ALL the events equally — no, I really do. 

I’m over the moon to welcome back Will Dean and Catherine Ryan Howard, who appeared at Granite Noir earlier in their careers. It’s been fantastic watching their success grow. I’ve teamed them with S.J. Watson, one of the nicest guys in crime writing, and can’t wait to hear what this power trio says about the business of being a writer, and how — and why — they give back to the community via a range of creative outreach efforts. 

As for the surprisingly rare pairing of Ian Rankin and Stuart MacBride, buckle up, crime fiction fans! I predict an hour of laughter, wisdom, and inspiration — in abundance. 

A few years ago I discovered that Val McDermid and I are both fans of Inverness native Josephine Tey, and when I realised this was the 125th anniversary of Tey’s birth, I wanted to celebrate her crime-writing career. One of the great joys of programming is getting all the people I admire gathered round, and I immediately thought of the Backlisted team, and how marvellous it would be hearing them talk all things Tey with the Queen of Tartan Noir. 

Granite Noir has strong links to the Scandinavian Crime Writing community, and I’ve been trying to book Camilla Lackberg and Jo Nesbo since Year One. Imagine how happy I am that they’re each doing an event this year. 

I really want to cheer about all the events, but I’ll wrap up by saying how much I’m relishing speaking with David Baldacci, in the festival’s final event. He’s a dream interview, and I’d like to pick up some of the threads of a conversation we began over the summer about his Atlee Pine series — and American politics! 

TF: I am personally looking forward to the Attica Locke event, what can we expect with this one? 

Top tip: get two articulate intellects in conversation and watch the ideas fly! That’s how I’d describe the hour with Attica Locke and interviewer Alex Clark. We pre-recorded, to fit in with Attica’s hectic schedule, and it took place the day before this year’s US presidential inauguration. Need I say more to whet your appetite? I didn’t want the event to end, and would happily have listened to another hour’s worth of chat. This wide-ranging talk covers the state of the nation, the way that crime fiction works as a vehicle for exploring social divisions and inequalities, and much more, besides. 

Granite Noir takes place online from Friday 19 to Sunday 22 February 2021.  All events are free to view, and can be found via www.granitenoir.com.