IT may only be in its second year, but crime-writing festival Bloody Scotland has already been hailed as a success by organisers.
Crime writers and fans gathered in Stirling this weekend for the annual festival celebrating the genre.
Those behind the Bloody Scotland event say ticket sales are up by more than one-quarter on last year's inaugural event.
Authors, including Malcolm Mackay and Lee Child, were among those taking part in workshops and lectures.
While last year's event concerned itself with names from across the Scottish field, this year added international events to the bill, welcoming Norwegian author Jo Nesbo.
More than 40 writers took part in classes and workshops, designed to help aspiring crime writers develop their talent and pitch ideas.
Newcomer Mackay edged out some of the biggest names in the industry to win the 2013 Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year award.
With only his second novel, the Stornoway author officially announced his arrival as one of the country's big hitters in literature.
In taking the prize, Mackay's novel pipped entries from greats such as Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, Gordon Ferris, Denise Mina, pictured left, and Ann Cleeves.
The winning title, How a Gunman Says Goodbye, is the second instalment of his gritty Glasgow crime trilogy, based on deadly hitman Calum Maclean.
Last night's ceremony, at the Golden Lion Hotel, was the showpiece event of this year's Bloody Scotland book festival.
IF YOU ask Jo Nesbo about his interests, the conversation will soon spiral towards the darkest subjects imaginable.
The Norwegian author spends a lot of time thinking about the nature of violence, of cruelty, and the reasons why someone people are truly evil.
Straining to comprehend the nature of such menace, he delves into his own mind and asks: "How much of me is a psychopath?"
The question lingers in the air as Nesbo pauses to consider the labyrinth of possibilities. With a wry smile he returns to the conversation.
"Am I evil? Do I have the capacity for cruelty? When you write the stuff I do, these are the questions you have to think about.
"I've always been fascinated by the nature of evil — I wouldn't say it was a healthy curiosity but a curiosity, nonetheless.
"I can't help but think about cruelty and evil and where these things actually come from."
Despite his admission, there is nothing chilling about the man himself.
He stands in the middle of Glasgow Central Station, en route to the Bloody Scotland festival in Stirling. By the tone of his voice, he may well have been discussing the weather.
It is hard to believe this man has a mind devoted to the darkest areas of the human condition.
For Nesbo the reason is simple. Everyone shares in his fascination — albeit with varying degrees of appreciation.
He says: "I think we all want a glimpse of evil and sadism from time to time. We all want to explore the psychopath within ourselves.
"People may be reluctant to admit it, but it's true. It is this kind of curiosity which can take the human mind to the most unpleasant of places, but we still want to go there.
"It's natural; it's what drives us. Curiosity has been the key to all progress.
"We are all curious about things that we really don't understand but, as most people are not evil themselves, we find it very difficult to understand its true nature. But I'll keep trying."
The product of Nesbo's introspection has been a series of bestselling novels about enigmatic police Inspector Harry Hole.
Known for their gruesome themes, the books have sold millions worldwide and have placed the 52-year-old at the forefront of Nordic Noir.
His most successful title, The Snowman, is set to be made into a movie, with Martin Scorsese on board as producer.
While he is unable to explain the success of Scandinavian crime fiction, Nesbo admits the long, dark winters in the north may well be a contributory factor. This, he reasons, may also inform the nature of Tartan Noir, a sub-genre with which he feels right at home.
"I don't know what it is about Scottish crime fiction but when I read a book by a Scottish writer, it does feel very familiar.
"I really couldn't tell you why writers from Scandinavia and Scotland are similar, but they are. You could say there is a sort of kinship between the two countries, maybe something like that?
"When people ask me why I think Nordic Noir and Tartan Noir are so successful, I try my best to give an intelligent and answer, but in truth I have no idea.
"I've always liked writers from Scotland," he adds. "I've read books from Val McDiarmid and from Ian Rankin and I'm definitely a fan, just like everyone else."
WHILE for some the notion of going against the grain may seem a perilous gamble, in the case of Malcolm Mackay it has been a foundation for success.
In delving into the dark realms of Tartan Noir, the 31-year-old believes the most prudent approach is to abandon tradition and embrace truly unfamiliar territory.
He says: "A lot of people will tell you to write about what you know but, for me, the unknown is much more intriguing.
"Stories which are based on what can be imagined, rather than the things the writer has experienced, can lead to more creative and imaginative ideas."
Reared in Stornoway, the soft-spoken upstart was a reluctant reader and only a casual writer.
He explains: "Writing had always been a hobby and I never thought I would ever be a published novelist.
"As a teenager I wasn't much of a reader but I became interested in American crime fiction and began to mess around with ideas of my own.
"I really wasn't sure if what I had was any good really, so I didn't tell anyone I was even working on a novel.
"So it's only been in the last three years or so that I've been writing seriously — it's hard to believe how things have worked out."
Mackay's rise in the last few years has been nothing short of meteoric as he has gained acclaim as one of Scotland's best literary talents.
He first burst on to the scene early this year with The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter — part one of his gritty Glasgow crime trilogy featuring hardboiled hitman Calum MacLean.
And on the back of his debut's success, the series' follow-up, How a Gunman Says Goodbye, recently won the 2013 Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year award.
Now a fully-fledged member of the growing Tartan Noir contingent, Mackay remains grounded in the company of his counterparts.
He says: "The Scottish crime fiction scene is filled with some of the most talented writers in the industry. To even be considered among them is such a tremendous honour."
As a lifelong resident of Lewis, Mackay's interpretation of Glasgow is one from the outside, looking in. Indeed he has only set foot there a handful of times but insists a greater familiarity with the city would only distract the reader from the story's most important elements — the characters.
"Really, the location is not all that important to the story," he said. "I wanted the events in the novel to be more important than their location."