Rizzio by Denise Mina: A brief foray into the book world proper — Scott Cumming

Punk Noir Magazine

“She was a real royal lady

True patron of the arts”

– “Classic Cars” – Bright Eyes

Forgive me the indulgence of a review that is, at least half, autobiography. On Saturday, I took part in Aberdeen’s Granite Noir festival and through fate and BA’s IT issues I found myself reading before the panel with Denise Mina. When I received the email to advise I immediately starting freaking out at the thought of reading in front of Scottish crime fiction royalty, but I need not have feared. Mina and panel chair, Alex Clark, were wonderfully open and engaging fellows who knocked off any nerves that existed.

I noted at a recent open mic night I performed at in preparation that I was terrified to introduce myself and make idle small talk, but happy to stand on stage and perform poems that unveil my deepest and darkest. So, it was as I sat in the author room it was a similar situation, but as though I was a young ingenue sat in a golden age Hollywood studio as renown authors and presenters drifted through. It was eye-opening to me to have people who shouldn’t be interested in why I happened to be sitting in that room. It taught me about openness and how I need to try harder in this regard.

 

The reading itself went tremendously with great audience reaction and people who had never heard of me prior to it buying my book at the end. It was a peek into the book world proper that I will not forget in a hurry.

 

Mina was there to promote her latest release, Rizzio, set in 1566 regarding the murder of Mary, Queen of Scots’ secretary and friend David Rizzio, which her husband hoped would induce a miscarriage in her and lead to him being the King of Scotland. It is a novella written as part of a series of books reimagining important moments from Scots history.

 

In my reading, I rarely stray this far into the past for fear of getting bogged down in historical data or of lacking the imagination to think of the world outside the modern age. Here we have a pared down story that focuses mainly on the players and what they are striving for. The history is coloured in greys in this depiction by Mina, but always winking as if to note that nothing has really changed and events of recent days would seem to have borne that out.

 

It is really noir storytelling placed into the 16th Century with motives and misdeeds aplenty and displays the fallacies of men have been ingrained over centuries of privilege and entitlement. The one thing I would say is that the book pales in comparison to the person who wrote it as she is as vibrant as her dress sense would indicate and provided me plenty words of encouragement during the hour or so we spent together.

 

I have asked for forgiveness already within this review, but I ask again as times such as this that change your perspective on who you could be and how by simply being brighter and more willing to engage you can light a fire within someone else. Across my time as a writer I have surprised myself countless times, but have always held back pride from myself, but Saturday was a time to feel proud and showed me just how far I have come in a short span.

 

A short span is all you will need to read this book and as much as it is about events of 1566, it is about the world we live in today and the continued misused patriarchy we see on a daily basis.