The sun shone on Harrogate as aficionados of crime fiction gathered at the Old Swan Hotel to meet friends old and new, chat about books and celebrate the genre across a weekend devoted to crime writing and reading but with time for a stroll in the Valley Gardens.
Every year attendees say that this was the “best ever” and this year will be no exception. Orchestrated by a programming committee chaired by Ann Cleeves, author of the Vera and Shetland series, there was something for everyone: chats about favourite books over tea and cake; the “New Blood” of debut authors and presentation of the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year Award – to Sarah Hilary for Someone Else’s Skin and special guests including TV writer Sally Wainwright.
Conversations paired Sara Paretsky and Val McDermid; Mark Billingham and Eddie Izard; Lisa Gardner and Ann Cleeves; M C Beaton and comedian Fred MacAuley. It’s fascinating to gain insights into how writers appreciate each other’s work and ask spot-on questions. Lisa Gardner loves research, whether it’s prison visits or exploration of “the Body Farm”. Ann Cleeves hates research, but spends a lot of time earwigging and chatting in kitchens over cups of tea.
My panel was Yorkshire Pride, chaired by Nick Quantrill, author of Hull noir featuring likeable Joe Geraghty. Steve Mosby stalks the mean streets of Leeds but never names the city. Peter Robinson’s televised DCI Banks novels have Yorkshire residents glued to their screens as they spot the locations. Lee Child’s Yorkshire credentials are that his granny lived in Otley and he attended Sheffield University.
We talked all things Yorkshire: the variety of Britain’s largest county; the beauty of its landscapes; our favourite authors from the Brontes to Winifred Holtby to Keith Waterhouse, from Reginald Hill to Robert Barnard.
I had the pleasure of hosting a table at the Saturday night Author Dinner. Kate Ellis, with help from her writer-actors, presented, an entertaining and tricky murder mystery inspired by Andrea Camilleri’s Montalbano books. Kate’s Murder in the Lemon Grove was challenging (not just because of the cast’s Italian accents!) and a lot of fun.
After the dinner, Rory Bremner interviewed Lee Child who has reached book number twenty in his Jack Reacher series. He originally said he would write twenty-one novels, to honour John D MacDonald whose death brought his Travis McGee stories to an end at that number. Will Child keep to his plan, or will Reacher go on riding into town and into trouble?
I dipped out of the Late Night Quiz. As I write this, there’ll be hardier souls than I still chatting in the bar. But I want to be up in good time for a celebration of Patricia Highsmith and for Barry Forshaw’s interview with Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason. After which it will be goodbye until next time.