Atmospheric Pressure is the second event of Aberdeen’s inaugural crime writing festival, Granite Noir. The Lemon Tree theatre is packed as festival organiser, Lee Randall, introduces authors Doug Johnstone and Sarah Ward. Writer and journalist Randall formerly wrote for the The Scotsman, covering arts and culture, and so is perfectly placed to complete introductions in her quiet, assured style.
Johnstone, she informs us, is a writer, musician and journalist based in Edinburgh. His eighth novel, Crash Land, is set on Orkney – to which Johnstone quips that he’s created the largest death toll on the island since the Viking invasion. He smiles and fidgets with his pale grey pork pie hat. Johnstone’s back catalogue includes The Jump (2015), Gone Again (2013), Hit & Run (2012), Smokeheads (2011), Tombstoning (2006) and The Ossians (2008).
Next we are introduced to Ward, whose debut novel In Bitter Chill was published in 2015 to critical acclaim. Her DC Childs series is set in the Derbyshire Peak District. A Deadly Thaw was published in August 2016, with A Patient Fury due September 2017. She also writes her popular blog, Crimepieces, reviewing the best of current crime fiction published around the world and is a judge for the Petrona Award for Scandinavian translated crime novels.
Back to Johnstone, who grew up in Arbroath and enjoys writing about a small town setting. He confesses that when growing up he read novels set either in the rural Highlands or the urban central belt, finding little that spoke about the kind of place he knew. He enjoys giving landscape a backstory. In Crash Land his main character spends time within the Tomb of the Eagles, Orkney, communing with the dead. Johnstone admits he’s a fan of islands, an insulaphile.
Ward’s novels are set in Derbyshire, where she gleans inspiration from the bleakness of the Peak District, often finding herself snowed in. In addition, she has the option of using either the well-healed town of Bakewell, or former spa town of Buxton with its Georgian architecture and canals. Ward is also a fan of Derbyshire’s small towns, sharing with delight how small town syndrome adds extra pressure on characters. She loves the idea of the serpent within the community.
Location, location, location… Johnstone and Ward know how to entertain an audience, as well as write great novels. Randall wraps up what is an informative session.