Saturday, 21 July 2012

Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Day Two

So what did day two of Harrogate bring?  

Day two started off with a brief introduction by Programme Chair Mark Billingham.  The first event of the day started at 9:00am and was an interview  with John Connolly (who is one of the special guest's) by Programme Chair Mark Billingham. John was talking about his work.   Despite the fact that the event started at 9:00am it was standing room only.

The interview started by Mark asking John about his Every Dead Thing the first book in the Charlie Parker series. John informed the audience that it had taken him 5 years to write and that he had done so whilst still working as a journalist.  He also said that he never told his colleagues that his was writing a book and he also felt that you (at least with your first book) should not tell anyone that you are writing a book.  He said, "there are something that you keep to yourself". John also indicated that he had felt some pressure as his advance had been the biggest for an Irish debut and therefore a lot had been riding on his work.  He had been convinced that things might fall apart.  He had not expected his Charlie Parker book to be published. He felt that it was good being a freelance journalist but that the downside was that there was no fall back.  John also stated that if he had not finished the first Charlie Parker book then he did not believe that he would have been published.

The issue of experimentation was also discussed and John stated that you can experiment within a series.  His spoke about his standalone novel Bad Men as well and stated that he believes that one needs to get away from a series at times but that he also realised that readers were loyal to characters. 

John was also asked about his reading and whether or not he read any crime fiction himself.  He explained that he was a late bloomer.  Two authors had a major effect on him and that they were James Lee Burke (specifically his novel Black Cherry Blues) whose use of language and landscape is amazing and also Ross McDonald the author of the Lew Archer series.  The Lew Archer series is due to be republished by Penguin.  He also stated that whilst he felt that Raymond Chandler was a good writer he did not think that he was a good novelist.

John was also asked why had he decided to set his Parker series in the United States?  He explained that there had been a lack of tradition in Ireland and that he had also not wanted to write about Ireland. At the time he started writing Ireland was still mired in the troubles and that it had been impossible to write about it. He agreed that there was a resurgence in Irish crime fiction.  The problem was however that the Irish are not used to seeing their lives played out within crime fiction. 

He was asked to describe his work and he felt that they were "Detective Gothic or Supernatural Thrillers

John said that he enjoyed the radio a lot and that listening to the radio was very big in Ireland. He has written a number of ghost stories for the radio.  The first series was actually transmitted on the radio in the afternoon (therefore defeating the object) the second series was actually transmitted late at night.

John also told the audience that one of the stories The New Daughter had been made into a film staring Kevin Costner.  Unfortunately it was not widely promoted and had a limited release.

John was also asked about The Book of Lost Things and he admitted that David the young boy in the book was based on him.

The interview between John and Mark was far ranging and they also covered other topics such as the fact that he enjoyed writing "evil" characters.  One of the first books that he read was Ian Fleming's Thunderball.  The cover of the version of Thunderball that he had was the one that had two bullet holes on the front. Inkwell Monkey (from his short story collection Noctunes)was the first short story that he wrote for the BBC.  The characteristics that Charlie Parker took from him were his sense of humour (good) and  being introspective (worse) which is part of being a writer.  His favourite death that he has written can be found in Bad Men and was as a result of an incident in a coffee shop and a mobile phone.  In Bad Men a character gets beaten to a pulp because of his mobile phone and how distracting it was. 

A number of other panels took place which I managed to miss due to the fact that I kept on getting waylaid! These were Crime in Another Place which was moderated by Stuart McBride, Drawing The Line moderated by NJ Cooper, Writing for Your Life that was moderated by Tony Thompson. The panel which I believe will go down as "panel of the Festival" was Wanted for Murder: The E-Book. Which was chaired by Mark Lawson.  Sadly I was not at the panel.  However, We Love This Book has an interesting take on what happened. You can read Stacey Bartlett's article here.  I did manage to speak to one of the participant's later on who confirmed what had taken place and said that one of the things that he had been upset about with fellow author Stephen Leather was the fact that he created "sock accounts" and used them to promote his work. I am sorry that I was not there as it is clear that it was a rather passionate panel.

One of the best things about the Festival has been the opportunity (for me) to meet and talk to Ben Aaronvitch whose books I have been devouring this year. Orion organised a lovely lunch for bloggers and reviewers along with some of their authors who were, Harry Bingham, AJ Cross, Mark Peterson and Ben Aaronvitch. The Shots Team were invited and I got to chat to Ben and ask him about his series which is a cross-genre mix of fantasy and a police procedural.  The latest book in the series is Whispers Underground.      

America's Got Talent was a brilliantly panel moderated by John Connolly.  The participating authors were Edgar winning author Megan Abbott (whom I had last seen last year at St Louis when she was on the panel that I had moderated.  Chris Mooney (who has also been on a panel that I have moderated and whom I had dinner with on Wednesday evening) and  CWA Dagger winning author's Gillian Flynn and Ryan David Jahn. The panel was lively and interesting with John being his usual charming and funny self.  All the authors spoke about their books and their writing amongst the topics discussed.  Gillian explained that like John she had been working for an entertainment magazine when her first book was published.  Megan Abbot explained that the crime that takes place in her latest book is accidental.  Both Megan and Gillian confirmed that they enjoyed True Crime. Chris Mooney confirmed that his latest book was a change in the course in his writing as in his previous books he had a female character at centre stage but this was not the case in the current book. David explained that whilst he had been in the army, he was not interested in war.  What he was interested in was violence and the nature of violence.  David is also a former screenwriter.  He stated that he enjoyed being a screen writer but what he did not enjoy was having to deal with producers.  He said that he did not like receiving notes from people  who did not know what they were doing and only wanted changes to suit themselves.  David also said that he had worked on a reality television programme but that he had got fired from this. 

So what else did we find out from the authors? - The author that influenced David is the late Jim Thompson. He does not want to pull his punches when it comes to his writing. Megan was the editor of her school newspaper and films influence her books.  She has been a movie lover from a young age.  Gillian Flynn's father if a professor and teaches film.  Her introduction to the genre was on father-daughter dates where they would watch films. She has always liked the "dark stuff" along with stories and writing.  She also likes endings that are not happy.  Her first story was entitled "To The Outhouse".  With Chris Mooney he is fascinated with dynamics especially women who can hold themselves in a man's world. That there is a company in America called My Holy Smoke where you can transform the ashes of your loved one into a gun cartridge. His parents were very liberal when it came to reading. Silence of the Lambs was and still a big influence.

One of the best things about events such as Harrogate is also the opportunity to socialise not  only with authors but fellow bloggers and friends.  So far the Shots team have been generously invited to a number of drinks receptions and lunches/dinners.  On Friday it was the brilliant lunch organised by Orion and the drinks reception that Hodder and Stoughton had for their authors. However, I have to admit that so far the best party has to go to Little, Brown who held theirs in a Spiegeltent.  It was brilliant.  It was like being in a circus tent.  Guests were supplied with lots to drink and eat along with some brilliant music. There was even dancing!!!!!  

The final panel of the night was Ian Rankin and Peter Robinson in conversation.  Again, and as it has been all along the room was packed.  It was standing room only and they had to bring in more chairs to accommodate the large number of people who had bought tickets for the event. I found myself perched on a windowsill. It  is rather difficult to describe the Ian  Rankin and Peter Robinson event.  It was more like the two of them were sitting down in a bar with a couple of pints of beer and using the opportunity to catch up with one another.  They did in fact have some pints of beer which they sipped as they talked about their work, writing and anything else that caught their fancy. They certainly sparked off one another and there was not a lull in the conversation.  They both spoke about the television version of their books and whether or not they should watch them. The fact that they would never get an actor who played the lead that would suit everyone. Peter confirmed that his current book is not a Banks book but a standalone.  Ian confirmed that he was bringing Rebus back and that it is going to be interesting to see how Rebus and Fox dealt with each other.  Malcolm Fox does not want Rebus back.  Peter also confirmed that whilst he lives in Toronto and Richmond he has found himself spending more time of late in Richmond. One of the questions Peter got asked was which of his books he would suggest that a first time reader should pick up.  Peter stated that he would suggest either In a Dry Season or Aftermath.  Ian Rankin confirmed that he wrote Resurrection Men as a bet as he had been asked why he had not set any of the Rebus books in the Met Training College.  He managed to get in there undercover for two weeks and the result was Resurrection Men.  Ian also confirmed that his favourite book was Black and Blue.

I have also got to say that I finally met and spoke with the delightful Erin Faye!!!! Really cool and a really lovely lady!    

So what other ad hoc things happened? Caught up with Chris Ewan the author of the brilliant Good Thief series. Sadly it does not appear that there will be any more of them.  Chris has written the Berlin book but after that one will have to wait and see.  The good news of course is that he has written a  standalone novel Safe House.    I also managed to have a quick chat with Robert Wilson who informed me that they have finished filming the Javier Falcon novel in Seville but he was unsure when it was going to be shown on Sky Atlantic.    

So. That's that for day two of Harrogate!  I'm off to see what day three will bring!  One panel that I am really looking forward to is the New Blood panel that is due to be moderated by val McDermid.    

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