Exhibit A: a wealth of 'tartan noir'

February 10, 2006

Scotland's two-decade domination of the detective novel is being put under the magnifying glass by an international academic journal.

Scottish writers such as Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, Christopher Brookmyre, Denise Mina and Louise Welsh have topped bestseller lists with crime novels in a genre known as "tartan noir".

Even Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting , has joined his compatriots with Filth , a novel about a psychotic Edinburgh policeman. As has Alexander McCall Smith, a former Edinburgh University law professor, known across the world for his novels about Botswana's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

The US-based Clues: A Journal of Detection , whose executive editor is Margaret Kinsman of London South Bank University, is investigating the phenomenon.

Gill Plain, deputy head of St Andrews University's School of English, will guest edit a special issue on Scottish crime fiction.

Dr Plain said: "Crime fiction has tended to divide between the Agatha Christie mode - the puzzle novel in an enclosed, often rural, environment - and the very hard-boiled American model in the city, with a sense of more violence and danger, where the detective faces jeopardy."

Much of recent Scottish crime fiction was more closely aligned with the US template than with the Inspector Morse model, she said. She is particularly interested in articles looking at what makes a crime novel Scottish, how important national identity is, whether trends have changed in the wake of devolution and whether today's bestsellers stem from a tradition going back to Robert Louis Stevenson and Sherlock Holmes's creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

"[They] wrote about the city in a magnificent and persuasive way that links you to America and (Raymond) Chandler, whose skill was not in the plotting but in the evocation of atmosphere and interaction between people and place," she said.

Dr Plain said McCall Smith was "one of the enigmas" in that his heroine, Precious Ramotswe, was in the Miss Marple mode, able to read character and judge people against local tradition.

Submissions can be made online at http:///mc.manuscriptcentral.com/heldref/clues . Deadline October 31.

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