Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival – Harrogate day 3 & 4

The third day of the festival started with an interview of the best-selling author Tess Gerritsen. The interviewer was broadcaster Dame Jenni Murray. Once again a phenomenal success it was clear that she is still a firm favourite. One just had to look at the massive queue of people who waited patiently to get their books signed. The queue was so long that I wisely waited until the end before getting my copy of her latest book signed.

Under the able hands of Andrew Taylor the panel The Outer Limits took a look at the phenomena that is the growing popularity of novels, which blend paranormal elements with crime fiction.

One of the most anticipated panels was the New Blood panel. Once again introduced by Val McDermid who is well known for championing debut novelists, the members of New Blood panel this year were SJ Watson whose novel Before I go to Sleep has been receiving rave reviews since it was published earlier this year. Julia Crouch whose first novel Cuckoo delivers a psychological chill, Gordon Ferris whose novel The Hanging Shed was a major success initially as an eBook before being published in print form. The final member of the panel was Melanie McGrath whose novel White Heat is set in Alaska. As interesting as the panel was and it was extremely good, in my opinion the most fascinating thing was watching Val McDermid dancing to Madonna’s Like a Virgin on stage!

Some of the other panels that took place in the afternoon included Legal Eagles, which featured MR Hall, Frances Fyfield, Martin Edwards and Helen Black. The panel were accused of bringing their profession into the world of the fictional courtroom. It was up to Peter McCormick whose is the senior partner at McCormick Solicitors to act as judge. One of the most intriguing panels off the afternoon was Vice Society. Authors James McCreet, Val McDermid and Adam Creed were joined by Jackie Malton (the real life inspiration Jane Tennyson) panel as they discussed the depiction of sex and vice in crime fiction. The panel as moderated by S J Parrish.

The early evening panel saw David Baldacci in conversation with Joseph Finder.

One of the highlights of the conference saw MC Beaton celebrate her 75th Birthday. The celebration was done in conjunction with the Criminal Consequences Dinner. Tables were hosted by crime writers which included Helen Black, C J Box, Alison Bruce, Charles Cumming, Christa Faust, James Forrester, James McCreet and Danny Miller to name a few. With the help of the crime writer on the table the other guests on each table played a game of Criminal Consequences.

Prior to the quiz taking place late on Saturday night special guest Lee Child braved Room 101 to declare what his crime writing pet hates were. So what went into Room 101? For starters bad reviews. Lee particularly mentioned Persuader (book 7) in the series, which had received a number of bad reviews. It was not that Lee had a problem with bad reviews it was more along the lines of the fact that the bad reviews did not make sense and were more akin to someone not willing to write a constructive review.

The next one that did not actually make it into Room 101 was author’s who lie about themselves. The others included authors who describe their characters who are looking at their reflection in a mirror and those who actually say, “there is a murder”. Listening to Lee Child was extremely good fun and interesting. He regaled us about the time that he met President Obama who bummed a cigarette off him and also enlightened us all as to why Reacher is rootless! As he explained, it is an alternative to a rooted series and he wanted to be different from everyone else. As can be expected there was a massive queue of people wanting to get their books signed by Lee Child.

Val McDermid and Mark Billingham hosted the late night quiz. Sadly, the Shots team that was made up of myself, Ali Karim and his wife Muriel, his son Alex and daughter Miriam and author Joseph Finder did not win. We did however have a fantastic time.

As usual after the quiz everyone congregated either in the bar or outside (the weather was so good) and stayed up talking to the small hours.

The Final Day

Surprisingly, I did not have too late a night on Saturday thus I was able to get up bright and early for the final two events. The first event saw authors CJ Box whose books are set in Wyoming, Anne Zouroudi (Greece); Urban Waites (Seattle) & Elly Griffiths (Norfolk) discuss under the title No Place Like Home their different series. All the authors set their books in different locations and they have each managed to stake their own claim on their specific area. The panel was moderated by author Laura Wilson who also sets her books in London.

Of course the one event that I am sure that everyone was looking forward to was special guest Dennis Lehane being interviewed by 2012 programming Chair Mark Billingham. It was standing room only for this event. Dennis Lehane who is known for being the author of such novels as Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island and Mystic River spoke in a wide ranging interview about his work. He talked about his background, what drew him to writing, the reason why he stopped writing the Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro series and what made him decide to go back to them after a 10 year break and write Moonlight Mile. He also spoke about his work on the acclaimed HBO television series The Wire. The interview was extremely well received and one could tell not solely because it was packed but also due to the way in which he received an ovation.

So what were the highlights! I am not going to say because I think it will be unfair. The whole festival was a brilliant well run affair. What I can say is that it was lovely to catch up with the delightful Christa Faust and if you have not read her novel Money Shot then you should do so. Katy Wild the Editorial Director of Hard Case Crime and the large number of reviewers and bloggers that were also in attendance.

The one thing I will admit to is losing my voice late on Sunday. It was a shame because it was not due to excess alcohol but rather me laughing and talking so much!

If the way in which the festival was run this year is anything to go by then 2012 will be smashing! Mark Billingham will be the Chair and a number of the special guests have already been announced. These are Harlan Coben, John Connolly and Charlaine Harris. The festival is due to take place between 19 & 22 July 2012. So book the date in your diary.

One must not of course forget to say a big thank you to Sharon Canavar and Erica Morris along with the rest of the team for putting on such a fabulous event.

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