Reasoning that most people present will already be familiar with his dark Scottish crime fiction or – he hopes – about to become so, Stuart MacBride eschews the traditional Book Festival format of reading from his latest work in favour of a powerpoint presentation.
And – although the slides do feature charts, graphs and statistics – they are fortunately delivered with a ready wit and humour which would put many Fringe stand-ups to shame.
MacBride’s presentation therefore contains such gems as the established scientific fact that swearing is therapeutic, why people’s inability to read French is entirely MacBride’s fault, and the reason why you should never ever get into a lift with Sam Neill.
The graphs and numbers are used to illustrate the point that MacBride’s latest novel A Song For The Dying contains significantly less “swearies” than its predecessor Birthdays For The Dead. A conscious decision, the culling of the cussing is an acknowledgement of the fact that some of his readers seem more offended by bad language than grisly depictions of ghastly murder.
MacBride goes on to further demonstrate his family-friendly side with an interactive telling of his “banned” Skeleton Bob story, a cautionary tale for children produced to support Dundee University’s Million For A Morgue campaign. Resurrecting the tale of Bob and his zombie pal with the help of his undead assistants Philip Ardagh and Allan Guthrie, MacBride entertains – and attempts to get the audience sreaming “brains” loud enough for George RR Martin in the neighbouring tent to hear.
A series of bamboozling one-star reviews for a French edition of one his novels is singled out for ridicule, though MacBride refuses to rise to any bait, comparing vociferous online critics to a troop of poo-flinging monkeys. Things then naturally lead on to tales of flatulence in elevators, before MacBride answers questions from the audience in as quick-witted a style as his presentation.
Proving that the mind capable of dreaming up such horrors as those depicted in the Ash Henderson books is equally at ease entertaining with humour, by the end of the evening MacBride may well have achieved his initial aim and gained several more fans of his award-winning work.