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Trick and treat at this year's book festival

MOTIVATING TEENAGERS to read, particularly boys, has long been a problem - never more so than now with the distractions of online computer games, Xboxes and Playstations. Organisers at the Edinburgh International Book Festival have struggled to entice this generation into the garden-party atmosphere of Charlotte Square, but this year's programme could do the trick.

There are exciting-sounding topics: "How to Write a Page Turner". Or:

"Thrills, Chills and ACTION". So they know how to hook the young. Thrillers are the name of the game on August 20, followed by death and the supernatural.

Catherine MacPhail, winner of two Scottish Children's Book awards, knows precisely which buttons to press. Those who enjoy her page-turning thriller Nemesis: Into the Shadows, can turn straight to the next instalment, Nemesis: The Beast Within.

A "quick-fire, interactive event" is promised for those hyper young players in a session with Stephen Cole, author of Thieves Like Us and the Aztec Code. He will share some of his secrets on how to write action scenes and come up with cool characters and original stories.

The next day, Graham Joyce and Tim Bowler will talk about their respective novels, Do the Creepy Thing and Playing Dead. "Prepare to be gripped!" warn the organisers.

Music Matters brings together "three of the hottest teen authors around".

Catherine Forde, Ally Kennen and Graham Marks will discuss how different songs have inspired their stories and could inspire young writers.

Check out Ian Rankin's CD collection and you'll find tracks from the Chemical Brothers and Orbital that infuse his murky tales of Edinburgh detective John Rebus. Rankin writes adult novels, but this year's festival invites teen-agers to hear him and fellow writers Denise Mina and Alan Grant discuss graphic novels in the public programme.

With sessions like these to capture boys on the cusp of adult reading and discussions on teens' freedom of speech in an age of terrorism, the festival has created an impressive forum to lure them in.


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