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Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Harrogate Crime Festival 2012 – Part 1

It’s that time of year again – the time all crime writers look forward to – the Harrogate Crime Festival, where crime writers and readers gather to celebrate crime fiction in all its varieties.

Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, where the crime conference is held

I’m not entirely sure what you would call a gathering of crime writers – would it be a murder of crime writers? Maybe not, because we don’t want to be associated with crows. After all it’s a murder of crows, isn’t it? What about a massacre of crime writers? Do you think that would suit any better? If you have any ideas I’d love to hear them.

Anyway, whatever you call them, you won’t find a bigger gathering anywhere this summer, than Harrogate. They all gather at the Old Swan Hotel, that’s the one where Agatha Christie was found after her vanishing act more years ago than I care to remember.

This is the tenth Harrogate Crime Festival, although to give it its proper title I should be saying the Theakstons Old Peculier (yes the spelling is correct) Crime Writing Festival. The first one took place in 2003, and it was meant to be a small weekend of literature events that would be part of the larger Harrogate International Festival. However, probably because of the early involvement of Val McDermid, it was like Topsy, it grew and grew, until it is now the largest and most prestigious crime fiction event in Europe.

Over the years many of the biggies of the crime writing world have appeared at Harrogate, including PD James, Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith, and many more. Not forgetting our international counterparts such as Jeffrey Deaver (a favourite of mine), Michael Connolly, Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Jo Nesbo, I could go on and on. But you don’t want a list of names of the world’s most prestigious crime writers, do you? You want me to get on and tell you about this year’s festival. The only thing is, there is so much going on, there is no way I’ll be able to get it all into one blog post, so I’ll talk about each day in a separate post, so you’ll just have to watch this space

Well, I arrived on Thursday afternoon. There were people there before me because the festival runs a creative writing day prior to the opening events on Thursday evening. I have taken part in the creative writing day in past years and it is something well worth attending. But because I didn’t do it this year I won’t comment on it.

Mark Lawson, from BBC Radio 4 Front Row

The festival started on Thursday night with the presentation of the awards. Mark Lawson introduced this with a hilarious speech, and I’m sure the laughter could have been heard in Harrogate town centre. The locals must have wondered what was going on.

Some of the bits I remember was where he referred to Cambridge being like downtown Detroit, and Oxford as the most lethal town in England, while going for a walk in Suffolk was quite risky because you’d be lucky to return from it. He also reckoned that with the recent reported drop in UK crime figures we’d all soon be out of a job.

Colin Dexter, author of the Morse series

Mark Billingham then came on stage to announce the recipient of the lifetime award for an outstanding contribution to crime fiction. This was presented to Colin Dexter, by Simon Theakston, the festival’s sponsor. Colin entertained us with a short speech, laced with his usual dry humour, and he got a standing ovation from the audience. He was a very popular choice for the lifetime award. But I wasn’t surprised by this, because Colin is a lovely man whom I’ve had the honour to meet on several occasions, and I still treasure the photograph he gave me earlier this year, of his portrait which hangs in the Randolph Hotel.

After this came the presentation of the Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award which was won by Denise Mina, for End of the Wasp Season. I’ve read Denise’s Garnethill trilogy and she’s a great crime writer, so I made a note to myself – get End of the Wasp season as soon as possible.

Denise Mina with the Theakston Old Peculier award for crime novel of the year

We finished up with the Festival opening party, which was mobbed and quite quickly became uncomfortably hot. However, no one seemed to mind and there was lots of networking, chatting and meeting up with old and new friends. I spent a fair bit of the time with Sonia, Lucy, Justine and Isobel, and we had a lovely time.

The top tier of the cup cake mountain at the festival party

Oh, and by the way, Justine is now my BFF because she told me she’d read my book, Dead Wood, and loved it. She also said she was reading another author (quite a famous one, who shall be nameless), and thought my book was the better of the two. Yay, The perfect end to a perfect day.

From left - Isabel, Lucy, Sonia, and Justine

Well, that’s Thursday taken care of, I’ll write about the Friday events in the next post, so watch this space, and I’ll try not to be too long.


Melanie said...

Can't wait to read about the rest of the goings on at Harrogate.

Lindsay said...

It sounds brilliant, Chris. I would love to go one year. We used to live in Harrogate too, wish I had realised about it when I lived there! Looking forward to reading about the rest of your time there.


Susan Russo Anderson said...

Thanks so much for this post, Chris and I look forward to day two and 3!

One of my goals is to attend the Theakston Old Peculier next year and I hope to meet you there.

So glad Denise Mina won. You'll love THE END OF THE WASP season.

Have a wonderful festival.


Sheryl said...

Sounds like a good time was had by all, Chris. Isn't fab to be compared to a well-known more than favourably! :) xx

Janice Horton said...

What a fabulous first day! How wonderful that Colin Dexter was awarded the life time award. Does he get a lifetime supply of Old Perculier? Have you tasted that brew - it's really yummy!

Loved Denise Mina's dress!

Eagerly awaiting the next installment! xx

Linn B Halton said...

Sounds like a fab time Chris! Thanks for sharing - and cupcakes too ... as well as some amazing writers of course!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Sounds fantastic, Chris - look forward to reading the remainder!

Rebecca Leith said...

Wish I'd been there. Looking forward to hearing more.

Chris Longmuir said...

Great to hear from you all, and I agree that Colin Dexter was a great person and writer to give the lifetime awartd to. Now I really must get myself in gear to write part 2

Anonymous said...

One of my ex-bosses once played in a quartet with Alexander McCall Smith! Think she played piano.