Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Day Three

The god's must have decided that we could do with some sunshine on Saturday because instead of the rather wet and windy day, we had loads of sunshine!  It did make one feel extra pleased to be at Harrogate.

Saturday brought an assortment of panels.  The first being Peter James (who is the current Chairman of the Crime Writers Association) being interviewed by Paul Blezard.  Unfortunately I did not manage to get to this panel as I spent the time writing of the blog for day two.  Fellow Shots member Ali Karim however did attend and I am reliably informed that not only was the room full (as all of the panels have been) by that the interview was extremely interesting.

I did attend the following panel which was The Golden Age. On the one side there was David Roberts and Nicola Upson who were standing up for the Golden Age of British crime fiction between the 1920s and 1930s and on the other side was Stuart Neville and Robert Wilson who were championing the view that we are currently in the Golden Age of British crime fiction with the vast array of authors and types of novels currently available.  The panel was moderated by Martyn Waites who got the ball rolling by asking "was it then or is it now".  This was an interesting panel which was in my opinion slightly spoilt by David Roberts being a tad over disparaging and making a number of comments which did him a dis-service.  He could have been trying to make the panel a lot more interesting but I don't think it worked.  However, that aside what did we gather from the panel.  Nicola Upson felt that the 1920s and 30s was the Golden Age of crime writing.  As she explained it was a period of new talents and new writers.  The  Golden Age established  a genre.  It was a period when certain conventions  were established - a springboard!

For David Roberts as far as he was concerned the first Golden Age author was Agatha Christie. He also felt that Dorothy L Sayers and Agatha Christie were superb novelists. He also considered Nicholas Blake (aka Cecil day Lewis) and Josephine Tey to be better than today's writers. Golden Age writers set the world to right.  He also stated that he felt that there was too much violence in current contemporary crime novels.  There is also moral ambiguity. He was upset about the fact that people loved violence.   He felt that we are now in an age where we are not asked to make moral judgments. David Roberts also wondered who would want to read a thriller twice as since you have read it once you already know the killer, therefore what would be the point.

From Robert Wilson's and Stuart Neville's point of view moral ambiguity is essential. They liked to read about damaged people. They also wondered how many people re-read Golden Age books. Contemporary  crime novels are far more able to deal with  social commentary. Also books are supposed to be firstly entertainment and Martyn Waites commented by saying that good books should make you laugh , cry and think.  Surprisingly, Neville Stuart revealed the fact that he is squeamish about injuries. 

It was felt that there have been two periods of Golden Age.  The first period was predominately English and Female whilst the second was due to the influence of America. David Roberts extremely reluctantly agreed that Chandler was a great writer.

One of the questions that was also pondered was who was the driving force behind the change in crime fiction?  Was it authors, readers or publishers?  It was felt to be a collective.  David Roberts stated that one should just suck it and see - you write and see whether or not it will sell.

To end the panel Martyn Waites took a vote on which was the Golden Age period.  Golden Age then lost out to Golden Age now on a show of hands.

One of the most anticipated panels which I did manage to attend and which again was standing room only was New Blood which was moderated by Val McDermid.  The New Blood  panel gives us attendees a chance to hear from new authors that have had at least one book published. Val McDermid has always chaired this panel and she does a very good job of it.  She is always able to draw out the best from the authors.  This year the authors tat made the panel were David Marks whose book is set in Hull and is entitled The Dark Winter, Oli Harris with his novel Hollow Man which is about the blurring  the lines of those on the right and wrong side of the law. Kate Rhodes with Crossbones Yard.  Her main character is essentially a good person in a difficult world. The final author was Elizabeth Haynes with Into The Darkest Corner which looks at relationships and what happens when things go badly wrong.  It is told in two parts 2003 and then 2007.

Amongst the questions they were asked was what drove them to write about crime.  For Oli Harris is was due to the fact that he had read widely and loved the crime structure.  He felt that if one got it write when writing then it could take you places.  Elizabeth on the other hand started by reading romances but had always been a fan of crime fiction.  It was the reason that she joined the police as she felt that it would be a way for her to write a novel.  David Mark explained that he had become a trainee reporter at 17 on the crime beat but that after 15 years he got fed up.  He decided that he wanted a conversation with readers. For Kate Rhodes Val McDermid's Tony Hill was certainly an influence.

The next books that we can expect from them are Deep Shelter by Oli Harris that is due out next spring, Revenge of the Tide by Elizabeth Haynes which is out now.  Elizabeth is currently working on her third novel Human Remains. The title of Kate Rhodes next novel is A Killing of Angels whilst David Mark's is Original Skin.

They were all also asked what helped them write.  For Oli it was with a lot of caffeine and moving towards quiet places. Elizabeth explained that for her it was urgent deadlines. David  stated that it was when people stopped asking about his day job and for Kate it was being in a quiet seaside cottage.

The final panel that I managed to attend on Saturday was A Donkey in The Grand National.  This panel was moderated by Henry Sutton and consisted of John Harvey, Laura Lippman, Simon Lelic and Val McDermid. The panel was all about whether or not crime fiction deserve proper literary recognition.  There was a very lively discussion about this and it was clear that all the participant's had strong views on the topic. One of the points that came out of the discussion was the fact that decisions as to how books were designated were made for publishing reasons.

The one panel that I was disappointed to miss was the one that saw Harlan Coben being interviewed by Laura Lippman.  The only excuse I can give was that I not only had a drinks reception to attend but I also had a dinner to go to.

Like most people, I took part in the Late Night Quiz.  It was not my intention to do so but Ali Karim my fellow Shots colleague organised a team so I found myself taking part.  It was actually a lot of fun.  We did not win, but we  did not do too badly either.  We came sixth!

Saturday evening was in fact a lot of fun. Despite the fact that I did not have the intention of staying up late, I finally rolled into bed at 3:00am on Sunday morning.  Do I regret it? Of course not.  One of the best things about events such as Harrogate is the ability to stay up late catching up with people and drinking!.

My last post will be about the final day of harrogate and also my reflections on the event as a whole.

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