Books - Granite Noir

Granite Noir returns next month with a packed programme highlighting Aberdeen’s history, atmosphere and strong sense of place and celebrating the very best crime writing...

Press Release

With a particular focus on the Gothic this year, Granite Noir, Aberdeen’s crime writing festival, welcomes writers including Val McDermid, Charlie Higson, and Louise Welsh, science communicator Kathryn Harkup and KC Wendy Joseph and offers audiences gripping author talks, great music, captivating exhibitions and fascinating workshops.

The award-winning festival, now in its seventh year, darkens the doors of venues across the city including Aberdeen Arts Centre, St Nicholas Kirk, the Music Hall and Lemon Tree over four days from 23-26 February.

Granite Noir is produced by Aberdeen Performing Arts on behalf of partners Aberdeen City Libraries and Aberdeen City & Aberdeenshire Archives. Ben Torrie, Director of Programming and Creative Projects at Aberdeen Performing Arts, said “Granite Noir 2023 will be full of the drama, mystery, music and, of course, cocktails that audiences have come to expect from the festival, as well as plenty thrills and surprises along the way. We have some of the most exciting names in crime fiction, with broad themes of the gothic, horror and of course Noir throughout an exciting weekend of author talks, exhibitions and music from the crime fiction super group the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers. We’ll be starting as we mean to go on, with a healthy dose of dark humour, entertainment and all things Noir, designed to excite and inspire crime fiction writers and fans alike.”

Granite Noir will kick off on Thursday, 23 February with a headline performance at the Lemon Tree from Val McDermid, Mark Billingham, Stuart Neville, Doug Johnstone, Luca Veste and Chris Brookmyre, the author-come-rock stars collectively known as The Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers. With a promise to rock the night away with some dark and criminal tunes, it is an opportunity to let your hair down with your favourite crime writing musicians and some murderously good music.

The Queen of Scottish Crime Fiction herself, Val McDermid, takes to the Music Hall stage on Friday 24 to discuss the triumphant 1989 in what is sure to be an unmissable event for crime fiction fans. The second in the Allie Burns series was named on the First Minister’s best books of 2022 list. Fast Show star and best-selling author Charlie Higson brings his uniquely brilliant voice to introduce his new novel, Whatever Gets You Through the Night and Louise Welsh and Alan Riach explore the rich seam of Tartan Noir, from Stevenson and Hogg through McIlvanney and Tey to the hugely successful writers in the genre today. Three of these, Chris Brookmyre, Denzil Meyrick and Doug Johnstone all introduce their new books and in their inimitable style discuss secrets, short stories and so much more.

Heal & Harrow, a new project by celebrated folk musicians Rachel Newton and Lauren MacColl, pays tribute to some of the 2000+ women who were executed as witches in Scotland in the 16th and 17th centuries, as they perform newly composed music inspired by specially commissioned work by celebrated author Mairi Kidd. Haunt Publishing explore some of their spookier stories and Scotland's Scots Scriever, Shane Strachan, hosts an evening of spoken word performances with a dark twist. Cailean Steed, Kitty Murphy and Rachelle Atalla are some of the bold new voices in crime fiction writing thrilling, dark gothic stories while Ever Dundas and Heather Parry introduce compelling new novels - creepy, sinister and terrifying. Angie Spoto’s debut, The Grief Nurse, is a gothic drama about one woman’s search for freedom amid an aristocratic family’s descent into madness and she’s joined by Carole Johnstone whose novel The Blackhouse is full of dark and deadly secrets.

The Scandi crime genre encompasses a hugely broad spectrum of themes and styles, and this is represented perfectly in Coorie in with Scandi Friends, where Swedish writer Lina Bengtsdotter and Finnish author Antti Tuomainen will take the audience into their starkly different but equally intense and thrilling stories. Historical fiction authors Kaite Welsh and France’s Johana Gustawsson are joined by Vaseem Khan who sets his award-winning crime series in India.

Her Honour Wendy Joseph KC, the third woman ever to hold a permanent position at the Old Bailey, unpicks six extraordinary cases in Trials of the Old Bailey. This darkly fascinating discussion will explore why we kill, what happens at trial and what we can learn about the society in which we live and, adding to the non-fiction strand, Francisco Garcia takes a deep dive into the story of Bible John, the notorious Glasgow serial killer. Science communicator and chemist Dr Kathryn Harkup returns with a look at the reality behind the silly, and not so silly, ways to die in the world of everybody’s favourite spy, James Bond. Audiences can enjoy the ambiance at The Terrace, His Majesty’s Theatre’s new bar and café, as they lift the lid on the science behind the 007 stories and sample his favourite cocktails along the way.

E S Thomson (sold out event)

Granite Noir Workshops include a virtual event from the Scottish BPOC Writers Network for Black writers and writers of colour based in Scotland, a Zine Noir crafternoon and a Poison Pen session where historical crime writer E.S.Thomson explores the potential of poisons as a method of murder. Granite Noir has also teamed up with the Society of Young Publishers Scotland where young people get a chance to speak to Industry professionals and explore how the publishing industry works.

The multiple five-star sell-out comedy hit CSI: Crime Scene Improvisation is a fully improvised, witty and absurd murder mystery staged at the Music Hall, where the audience inspires the crime, grills the suspects, and ultimately decides who is guilty . . . or not. His Majesty’s Theatre plays host to two dramas - The Girl from the North Country with music and lyrics by Bob Dylan, and Miss Marple returns to the stage in an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d.

Events for younger crime fiction fans include a morning session for 3 – 7 yr olds with Jonathan Meres and his Scaredy Bat and workshops with Sarah Todd Taylor and with Maz Evans who each introduce their adventurous characters and help their audiences to crack codes and secret messages (suitable for 8 – 12 yrs). Sarah and Maz then come together in A Detective Adventure to compare notes between their creations - the fantastic spy Alice Éclair and cracking character Vi who is out to save the world. The Aberdeen Arts Centre is screening family films Zootropolis and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? as part of their CrimeWatch Programme which also features Knives Out and Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 suspense thriller Vertigo.

The Curriculum of Crime, a new exhibition from Aberdeen City & Aberdeenshire Archives, sheds light on the enlightened attitudes that existed in nineteenth century Aberdeen and the efforts that were made by social reformers to ensure children were not drawn into a life of crime. With detailed personal observations of the characters and backgrounds of young offenders, the papers of Alexander Thomson (1792-1862) show he was at the forefront of efforts to steer young people away from prison through alternatives such as industrial schools. Using copies of original records, this exhibition will take a closer look at the children, some of whom were as young as eight when they were incarcerated, their backgrounds and the nineteenth century city of which they were a part. The exhibition is free to attend and will be at the Music Hall throughout the festival.

Charlie Higson (Live Streaming Event)

Selected events across the four days of the Festival will be livestreamed and available to view online, allowing those who have connected with Granite Noir from across the globe tune in and enjoy as the action unfolds in Aberdeen.

Councillor Martin Greig, Aberdeen City Council’s culture spokesman, said, “Crime fiction is enjoyed by many so it is a great pleasure to welcome Granite Noir back to the city for its seventh year. It is good to be able to host this festival which brings writers and enthusiasts together from near and far. The programme this year is exciting and diverse with well-known names and emerging talent due to attend. I am glad Aberdeen City Council can continue to support Granite Noir where so many people will gather and enjoy this intriguing and creative form of literature.”

Dr Alice Tarbuck, Literature Officer at Creative Scotland added, “Aberdeen’s stand out crime writing festival is set to draw fans and first timers into its captivating web this February. Whether you’re deep diving into the full four days or spending a few short hours, you can experience a huge range of writing talent and events that really celebrate the crime writing genre in all its forms. At Granite Noir, there really is something for everyone.”

Find details, tickets and more for all events in the 2023 Granite Noir Programme at

Images & info - Granite Noir/Creative Scotland

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