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Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Another Year, Another Crimefest by Chris Longmuir

I love this crime convention, not only because it gives me a chance to catch up with old friends, both readers and writers, nor is it because I have an opportunity to strut my stuff on a writers’ panel, but because I love Bristol. I have family there, and my mother celebrated her 100th birthday there last year. She’ll be 101 years young this year and still going strong and living independently.

Many years ago I used to drive to Bristol, but not anymore. Nowadays it’s the train for me, a nine hours journey – and my suitcase this year weighed the proverbial ton. It was the books you see. Last year I didn’t have to cart books with me, because Foyles ordered them for the Crimefest bookshop. Different bookseller this year and no advance order, so in the suitcase they went. I was keeping my fingers tightly crossed that I wouldn’t have to hump them home again.

The train invariably arrives at the teatime rush hour, so it’s always a slow journey to the hotel, but this year it was even slower. I spent half an hour in the taxi while the driver tried every route known to taxi-drivers to get me to my hotel, but the thousands strong anti-austerity demonstration in the city centre ensured he wasn’t going to be successful.

Bristol Crepe Kiosk
My room at the Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel was comfortable as usual, but once I unpacked I headed out to enjoy the sunshine. It was a lovely evening and the Waterfront  was busy, I had my first icecream of the season, and then treated myself to a crepe from the Bristol Crepe Kiosk. It saved me hunting for somewhere to have a meal and I could stay out in the sunshine to eat it.

The following morning it was all change. Cold and rainy. The conference didn’t start until 1.30 pm so I walked to Broadmead shopping centre. It’s only a fifteen minute walk from the hotel, but by the time I got there and back, I was soaked through. Was it only last year I did the same walk in a heatwave?

The irrepressible Joanna Penn
Crimefest devotees were now arriving, and after the procedure of checking in and claiming my goody bag with a selection of freebie books and a variety of promotional materials, it was all systems go as the panels started. It’s always a difficult decision choosing which ones to attend, but I plunked for the Debut Authors panel, followed by the Odd Jobs panel, and the Nordic Noir Panel. I missed the next one in order to attend a meeting of ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors), at the Bristol branch of Foyles, where Joanna Penn talked about the advantages of publishing audio-books. Quite a lot to think about, but Joanna is such an enthusiastic person none of us required much convincing that this might be the next big thing.

Having missed the Crimefest Pub Quiz, I retired to bed to regain my strength for the next day’s fray.

Friday was packed with author panels, too many to detail, however one of the highlights of the day was the one which created the most mirth, and that was the one entitled Strange Bedfellows: Sex in Crime Fiction. The other one, which was informative rather than hilarious, was the Audible panel about audio books and dramatisations.  The day was rounded off with a cocktail party to announce the CWA Daggers shortlist, by which time I was exhausted again.
Catherine Aird interviewed by Jake Kerridge
Saturday dawned, bright and clear. Not that I got to enjoy the weather because it was back to another non-stop session of author panels. Again, if I mentioned them all, it would be enough to fill a book. However, I will mention the highlights of the day, which for me was the interview with Catherine Aird who has been writing for the past fifty years and who was such a charming, unassuming woman she won all our hearts. Two other high profile sets of interviews were, Sophie Hannah and Mathew Pritchard (Agatha Christie’s grandson), interviewed by John Curran, followed by Lee Child interviewing Maj Sj√∂wall. But for sheer entertainment, lots of hilarity and laughs, nothing could beat the Things That Go Bump panel, moderated by Kevin Wignall, with panel members, A.K. Benedict, Oscar de Muriel, J.F. Penn, and Mark Roberts. As far as I was concerned it was the best panel of the day.
Mathew Pritchard, John Curran, and Sophie Hannah
Saturday evening was taken up with a formal reception followed by the gala dinner. My table was named the Locked Room, and I did wonder whether I would get out again. However, the meal was excellent, the speaker, James Runcie, was entertaining and had us all laughing out loud as he described how to write a Booker prize-winning book, my table companions were interesting people and the chat was good.
Some of the audience at the Emerging Indie Voices Panel

Emerging Indie Voices Panel
Sunday morning arrived all too soon, and it was time for the panel I was on. I’d been asked to join the Emerging Indie Voices panel, although I think I’ve been emerging for quite a long time now. Last year’s panel was one of the highlights of the convention, and I was a bit scared I wouldn’t match up to last year’s standard. I needn’t have worried, the panel discussion, ably moderated by Joanna Penn, was a great success. It was lively, energetic, and entertaining, and I had a great time on it. The readers and writers who attended were a brilliant audience, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. I have the feeling this panel will be another highlight of the 2015 convention. Oh, and I sold some of my books, so that was less to hump back home in my suitcase.
Nick Stephenson, Chris Longmuir, and JJ Marsh on the Emerging Indie Voices Panel
The convention, for me, wound up with the interview of James Runcie by Jake Kerridge. Runcie is an enetertaining speaker, so it was a brilliant end to a brilliant convention. Roll on next year’s Crimefest, I’ve already paid my deposit.
Having fun on the Emerging Indie Voices Panel
Chris Longmuir


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