CRAIG Russell tonight became the first author to win the prize for Scotland’s best crime book of the year twice.
The author was presented with the McIlvanney Prize during the official opening event of the Bloody Scotland international crime writing festival in Stirling, for his 15th novel, Hyde.
Russell previously won Scotland’s Crime Book of the Year Award in 2015, the year before the prize was renamed in memory of William McIlvanney, the late novelist and poet known as the godfather of the Tartan Noir genre.
The prize, sponsored by The Glencairn Glass, includes a Glencairn Crystal Decanter, £1000 and nationwide promotion in Waterstones.
Russell said: “It was fantastic to win the Crime Book of the Year in 2015 and I was incredibly smug about that, but to win it again in 2021 I’m going to be absolutely insufferable.
“To have won this against such a fantastic shortlist and longlist and just the background of fantastic writers we have in Scotland, is an amazing honour.”
He joked: “I was going to say ‘I’m humbled’ but I’m not going to do humility any time soon.”
Russell was judged the winner from a five-strong shortlist including established names Stuart MacBride and Alan Parks as well as first time novelists Emma Christie and Robbie Morrison, who was announced as the winner of the 2021 Bloody Scotland Debut Prize for his novel The Edge of the Grave.
Speaking at the event at the Albert Halls in Stirling, McIlvanney Prize judge and crime critic Ayo Onatade said: “Hyde is a fantastic book with a gothic background that draws you in and brings the reader back to the Scottish origins of Jekyll and Hyde’s creator, Robert Louis Stevenson.
“A dark tale that was a delight and a thoroughly entertaining read, it shows that Scottish crime writing is amongst the best in the world.”
BBC Radio Scotland presenter and Debut Judge Janice Forsyth revealed Robbie Morrison as the winner of this year’s Bloody Scotland Debut Prize, for Edge of the Grave (Macmillan), which she described as: “A terrific debut novel, with a memorable cast of characters, which impressed the judges with its ambitious, authentic, deep dive into the Glasgow gangland and class divides of the 1930s.”
Morrison, 53, said on winning the prize: “Ya dancer. This book has been a long time coming, and this is a brilliant thing to happen at the end of it.”
He added: “A great big (raspberry) to the editor who rejected it for being too Glaswegian… personally I don’t think there is such a thing as too Glaswegian.”
Raymond Davidson, founder of sponsors Glencairn Crystal, said: “We’d like to raise a toast to Robbie Morrison and Craig Russell and congratulate them on their success in winning the prizes.
“It is an honour to support the world of Scottish crime fiction with The Glencairn Glass and we wish all the participants well in the future.”
Broadcaster and incoming Bloody Scotland chair, James Crawford, said: “Scottish crime writing has evolved to become a global phenomenon. You could say that summing up the human condition is at the core of what makes crime writing so popular, this desire to work beneath the surface, to explore the extremes of personality or circumstance that drive people to commit crimes or even to kill.
“Is there perhaps something in the water or the air or the landscape that makes Scotland’s crime writers so adept at this, so skilled at unpeeling these layers of personality to expose the raw nerve of identity and truth.”
Bloody Scotland is unique in that it was set up by a group of Scottish crime writers in 2012, along with the prize for Scotland’s best crime book of the year. Five years ago the award was renamed after William McIlvanney, who died on 5 December 2015.
Previous winners include Francine Toon; Manda Scott; Liam McIlvanney; Denise Mina; Chris Brookmyre; Craig Russell: Peter May: Malcolm Mackay; and Charles Cumming.