Criminally Happy Harrogate

Criminally Happy Harrogate

Once again the weather was glorious for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival held the fourth weekend of July at the Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate. For those of you who might not know, Old Peculier is a beer brewed in nearby Masham. A few months ago I visited the brewery premises when in Masham for a crime writing event at the Town Hall with Stephen Booth. And, since you ask, I recommend Theakston beer and their cheese!


I took part in a panel with (left to right) Simon Brett, Ruth Ware, Catriona McPherson (Chair), me and Ann Granger. We (sort of!) addressed the question, “Is The Legacy of the Golden Age Still Alive?” If you haven’t read Simon Brett’s Blotto and Twinks novels, think Agatha’s Tommy and Tuppence written by P G Wodehouse prior to a Simon makeover. Ann’s police procedurals don’t always rely on procedures for a surprising outcome. My not-so-guilty pleasure is to be in the company of Catriona’s aristocratic sleuth, Dandy Gilver. Ruth’s acclaimed debut combines an up-to-the-minute premise with a classic storyline.


This year’s Festival Programming Chair was Gold Dagger recipient Peter James who brought an international flavour to the weekend with authors from Africa, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US alongside European writers. Festival co-founder Val McDermid introduced debut authors in her regular slot “New Blood”. The fascinating political strand across the weekend included veteran war reporter turned thriller author Gerald Seymour and a panel on Political Corruption with Gillian Slovo, Mark Lawson, BBC’s Frank Gardner and MI6 former recruit Charles Cumming.

This is a friendly and sociable event, good for mingling and catching up as well as being welcoming to newcomers. Some attendees are writers in the making who have a particular interest in the Thursday writing workshops.

Harrogate was voted the happiest town in Britain. It is a friendly place with plenty of green spaces, lots going on, good shops and eateries and a railway station. It’s special for me because the second Kate Shackleton novel, A Medal for Murder, is set there. Sue, who created the Book Trails website, has featured A Medal for Murder and provides a map of the town showing my locations, and giving ideas about where to visit.

A Medal for Murder – the novel and the Trail

I’ll be back in Harrogate at 1 pm on Saturday, 3 September for the grand re-opening of the refurbished Waterstones store which will now have a Waterstones café. Tea, cake and a stroll around the Valley Gardens coming up!

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