EVENT REVIEW: Doug Johnstone and Louise Welsh

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14th October

Palace Green Library

Review by Gabriel Brown

Two crime writers came together to discuss two very intriguing novels.

Doug Johnstone and Louise Welsh delivered a great event chaired by Sasha Dr Buyl. They spoke about their two new books, which are both coincidentally set on the Orkney Islands. Although they did assure us this wasn’t planned at all!

The feeling of entrapment is central to both these books: while the protagonists are unable to escape their fate, they also cannot escape the island. Although you can see Scotland from the island, you can’t actually get to it, and this consolidates the character’s feeling of being stuck there.

Interestingly, Louise said that while she was writing, it was almost as if current reality linked to her book, with everything “falling apart” in terms of political events such as Brexit etc. She commented on the current world being a dystopia in itself.

Doug, talking about criticism he has received regarding his writing on suicide asked a valid question: why is it more acceptable to write about things like murder than it is to discuss suicide?

It was hilarious when the writers discussed forming an apocalypse team. The host said she would be the thinker of the group, Doug would play the drums and Louise would either tell a story or just use a lot of sarcasm. I don’t know if I’d trust them to keep me safe!

A new fact I learned, which I found incredibly surprising, was that 80% of crime readers are women, regardless of how women are often portrayed in crime fiction. Another point highly worth mentioning is that Louise has a plan for a new project. She says she will try to finish it by the end of February and so will have written thousands of words in four months.

Overall, not only was this event great due to the exploration of the crime genre in books, but also because it explored a variety of other interconnected topics.

Cuckoo Review is an arts journalism programme for young writers aged 15-23. Through the Cuckoo Reviewers in Residence programme at Durham Book Festival, young people have reviewed festival events and books, and have interviewed featured authors. For more information about Cuckoo Review visit