Bloody Scotland McIlvanney Prize 2020 Winners


sponsored by The Glencairn Glass with match funding from Culture & Business Fund Scotland

It has been a rollercoaster year for debut writers. Closed bookshops meant that they could have sunk without trace but reviewers, innovative booksellers, established authors and the media have been incredibly supportive and at Bloody Scotland we have been hugely grateful for the enthusiasm shown for the finalists in our second Bloody Scotland Debut Prize – Francine Toon, Deborah Masson, Stephen O’Rourke and Marion Todd. 

The prize was judged by Lin Anderson, author and co-founder of Bloody Scotland, Ewan Wilson from Waterstones and Kenny Tweedale from sponsors the Glencairn Glass, who at the opening of the Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival on Friday evening revealed the winner of the Debut Prize to be Deborah Masson with Hold Your Tongue.

The judges described Hold Your Tongue as ‘a well written, fast paced and gritty thriller with a strong female protagonist, who will stop at nothing to find the killer’

The finalists of the prestigious McIlvanney Prize included established names Ambrose Parry and Doug Johnstone (both of whom were finalists last year) alongside relative newcomer Andrew James Greig and debut author Francine Toon who had also featured on the Bloody Scotland Debut shortlist.

Judges Karen Robinson (Times Crime Club) and James Crawford (author, TV presenter and chair of Publishing Scotland) were chaired by writer and broadcaster Stuart Cosgrove who revealed the winner of the McIlvanney Prize 2020 to be Francine Toon with Pine.

He described her book as ‘an extraordinary novel which stood out because of the sheer quality of the writing and the dark brooding atmosphere of the remote rural Scottish village in which it is set. The book merges the supernatural with real crime in a very memorable way and brings an exciting new talent to Scottish crime writing.’  

Both winners are debuts. Both are published by Transworld, who coincidentally also published last year’s winner Manda Scott. It is the first year that the Glencairn Glass have sponsored the prizes. Kirsty Nicholson, Glencairn Crystal’s Marketing Manager said:

First time authors winning both prizes this year highlights what a bright future the fantastic tradition of Scottish crime writing has. We are delighted and proud to sponsor such prestigious awards with the Glencairn Glass and would liketo congratulate both Francine and Deborah, while wishing them all the best for the future.’ 

Francine Toon was brought up in Sutherland and Fife. She has lived in Dornoch, St Andrews, Edinburgh, Canterbury, London and Portugal

Deborah Masson was born and bred in Aberdeen. She and her children now live in the family home where she grew up.

The two prize winning covers.

Bloody Scotland McIlvanney Prize Shortlist

sponsored by The Glencairn Glass with match funding from Culture & Business Fund Scotland
The annual McIlvanney judges lunch was a virtual Bank Holiday breakfast this year with Karen Robinson in London, Stuart Cosgrove in Glasgow and James Crawford in Edinburgh.

All were impressed by the variety and diversity of the finalists, with titles of dark humour, historical research, ambitious and innovative writing which demonstrate the sheer range of the crime genre and continuing strength of Scottish crime writing.

The list includes two who were finalists / bemused winners last year when Manda Scott announced that she was sharing the prize (Ambrose Parry & Doug Johnstone); an author who is also shortlisted for the 2020 Bloody Scotland Debut Prize (Francine Toon) and someone who provided and operated the audio, lighting and staging for the first Bloody Scotland Festivals and only started writing three years ago (Andrew James Greig). When he heard he was a finalist he said: “As a sound engineer I pinned a lapel mic on William McIlvanney at what was to be his last appearance at Bloody Scotland in 2014. I never imagined that in six years time I’d become a writer myself and be a finalist for the prize that bears his name.”

The judges praised WHIRLIGIG by Andrew James Greig (Fledgling Press) for an ‘ambitious, innovative concept and the most intricate modus operandi for killing the victims of any book this year…a real page turner’

They described PINE by Francine Toon (Transworld) as ‘an impressive and atmospheric novel, with a portrait of remote rural Scotland, bringing in issues of school bullying, mental health and alcoholism.  Very readable and engaging, It’s also beautifully written.’

It’s the third time in five years that Doug Johnstone has been a McIlvanney Finalist. A perennial favourite at the Festival his latest book, A DARK MATTER (Orenda) was described by the judges as ‘a brilliant idea, a heartwarming portrait of a family with three generations of women set in an undertakers.  A confident, entertaining novel with dark humour, pace and energy.’

THE ART OF DYING is the second collaboration by husband and wife team, Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman. Chris won the McIlvanney Prize in 2016 with Black Widow and as Ambrose Parry they were finalists for the McIlvanney Prize last year. The judges loved the ‘original setting in Victorian Edinburgh’ and praised the ‘fascinating medical research’ and the ‘implicit love affair building between the two main characters – the medically trained man, and the untrained women (who is clearly the smarter of the two).’

The winner will be revealed from Stirling on Friday 18 September at 7pm and all the finalists are involved over the festival weekend. Andrew James Greig is on The Never-Ending Panel as is Doug Johnstone and Ambrose Parry; Chris Brookmyre (50% of Ambrose Parry) and Doug will also be participating in The Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers – Behind the Music and Crime at the Coo Online and Francine Toon has contributed to the debut short story in association with new sponsors of the two prizes, the Glencairn Glass. 

Marisa Haetzman (the other 50% of Ambrose Parry) summed it up when she said “It’s little surprise to say that this is the best news we’ve had all year.”

Bloody Scotland is Scotland’s International Crime Writing Festival, providing a showcase for the best crime writing from Scotland and the world, unique in that it was set up by a group of Scottish crime writers in 2012. Full information at

New sponsor, The Glencairn Glass, the World’s Favourite Whisky Glass and the Official Glass for Whisky is sponsoring both The McIlvanney Prize and The Bloody Scotland Debut Crime Novel of the Year. Culture & Business Fund Scotland have generously given matched funding.

The winners of the McIlvanney Prize will be revealed at 7pm on 18 September 2020 when we will also reveal the winner of the second Bloody Scotland Debut Prize.

The McIlvanney Prize is judged by Stuart Cosgrove, writer and broadcaster, James Crawford, chair of Publishing Scotland and presenter of BBC series Scotland from the Sky and Karen Robinson, Editor of The Times Crime Club.

The McIlvanney award recognises excellence in Scottish crime writing, includes a prize of £1000 and nationwide promotion in Waterstones. The 2020 longlist features established crime writers and debuts, corporates and indies. Previous winners are Manda Scott with A Treachery of Spies in 2019 (who chose to share her prize with all the finalists), Liam McIlvanney with The Quaker in 2018, Denise Mina with The Long Drop 2017, Chris Brookmyre with Black Widow 2016, Craig Russell with The Ghosts of Altona in 2015, Peter May with Entry Island in 2014, Malcolm Mackay with How A Gunman Says Goodbye in 2013 and Charles Cumming with A Foreign Country in 2012. The inaugural Bloody Scotland Debut Prize 2019 was won by Claire Askew with All The Hidden Truths.

Shortlisted authors for the Debut Prize 2020 are:
Deborah Masson, Hold Your Tongue (Transworld)
Stephen O’Rourke, The Crown Agent (Sandstone)
Marion Todd, See Them Run (Canelo)
Francine Toon, Pine (Doubleday)

The authors shortlisted for the Debut Prize will collaborate on a short story to be co-ordinated by author and board member, Gordon Brown aka Morgan Cry, in association with The Glencairn Glass.

Bloody Scotland is supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland’s Open Project Funding. Other key sponsors and supporters include: Stirling Council, Creative Scotland, Go Forth Stirling, HW Fisher, Waterstones, Stirling University, the Faculty of Advocates, Open University Scotland, Sunday Times Crime Club, the Curly Coo Bar, Culture & Business Fund Scotland and the Glencairn Glass.

Janice Forsyth, BBC Radio Scotland said: “Bloody Scotland is small and beautifully formed…it echoes the friendliness and supportive nature of the crime writing community.”

Chris Brookmyre said: “Working together has been what got us through lockdown, so having both Ambrose Parry novels named as a finalists for the McIlvanney Prize in successive years feels like such a massive endorsement of our efforts.”

Francine Toon said: “To be shortlisted for the Scottish Crime Debut of the Year has been such an honour, but to also be a Finalist for the McIlvanney Prize is unbelievable. Five years ago, when I was in the Highlands at Halloween and had the idea for Pine, I never could have imagined something this amazing would happen.”

Doug Johnstone said: “Third time lucky?!”

Angie Crawford from Waterstones said: “This is a tremendously exciting list showcasing some very exciting new voices in crime fiction with big names. There is no doubt that each of these fine books will make worthy winners – we cannot wait for the announcement but at the same time don’t envy the judges who have a very difficult decision ahead of them!”

I’m going to try to work my way through the shortlist and choose my own winner!