So anyway I’m smiling at this beautiful young woman and she’s kind of half-smiling back in that way that says, “I haven’t a clue who you are but you look vaguely familiar and I hope you’re just being friendly and don’t misinterpret my half-smile.” Well, okay, maybe I’m reading too much into what is, after all, only a half-smile. But I’m smiling at her because in fact I do know exactly who she is and she, in theory, knows who I am. We’ve done a couple of events together, after all.
However the context is unusual. We’re in an ornate reception room in the Beaux-Arts Museum in Lyon, France to celebrate the opening of Quais de Polar, the biggest crime fiction and film festival in continental Europe. John Harvey is over in the corner with his French publisher, Roger Ellory is somewhere around, though I can’t see him in the scrum of people in here. David Peace and Peter Robinson are arriving late.
They’re about to award the prize for best crime novel of the year. Declan Hughes wins – go, Declan! – but he’s not here to collect it. Always a disappointment when that happens, especially as whoever it is who collects it on his behalf is a bit gabby. Which in a language you only understand in part translates into very gabby.
I’m here for an event about international crime festivals on behalf of Bristol Crimefest. On my panel there are people from Liege, Belgium and a place in Italy I can’t spell without looking it up. There is simultaneous translation through earphones for us. This is discombobulating, especially as my set goes haywire - I think because the Italian guy sitting next to me is texting and checking his phone messages throughout the event, hiding his phone behind his name-card.
So I lose about ten minutes of the conversation. But that doesn’t matter because we’re all being pretty boring and the chairwoman does most of the talking anyway – don’t get me started about chairing at festivals – and anyway there are more people on the panel, if you include the translators, than there are in the audience.
Still, it’s a sunny day and we have a nice lunch whilst planning a way of working together and talking movies. The Italian guy and I agree on The Spider Stratagem as Bertolucci’s best thriller – why can’t you get it on DVD? (That’s a rhetorical question, pop-pickers.)
Turns out the Italian guy (I can’t remember his name, if you think me calling him that is a bit rude – although as I can’t remember the name of his festival either it probably is very rude) works on his festival with our own Maxim Jakubowski and Adrian Wootton.
Peter Robinson does his thing at two; John Harvey is done and dusted. Roger Ellory has two events lined up so he’s still working hard. There’s a big dinner tonight. I’m in two minds. My French isn’t good enough to handle any kind of intelligent conversation and I feel bad, therefore, that people out of politeness need to tire their brains speaking English to me. Plus, Lyon is such a great city to wander around in the evening. Roman remains to die for. Which people probably did.
It was S J Parris, in case you’re wondering.