I know I’m doing this all out of whack, but yesterday I managed to sneak into a panel with a seriously fantastic panel – not only was the brilliant Julia Crouch (she could be my favourite moderator) holding things down (and telling us about her strange fascination with ‘squeezing spot porn’) but there was also Mick Herron (creator of the much-loved Jackson Lamb series of spy novels), Sabine Durrant (whose Lie With Me has been wowing readers for a year now), Stave Sherez (who, similarly, is wowing people with his latest, The Intrusions) and Canadian writer Shari la Pena. They were discussing the subject of endearing monsters, and it was a cracker.
I say it every year, but the New Blood panel, hosted by Val McDermid, is one of the highlights of the festival. Why? Well, as a fan of crime fiction it’s always interesting to hear panellists talk about their work – and not least debut writers – who present a raw, often unvarnished and unrehearsed version of their journey to publication. This year’s panel was another cracker.
Chair Elly Griffiths and the Harrogate team really have put together a terrific line-up for this year’s Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival, and the fun continued this morning when one of the UK best-loved and best-selling crime writers, Ian Rankin, took to the stage of the Royal Hall concert hall here in Harrogate.
And so it begins. After an opening ceremony/party where Lee Child was awarded the Oustanding Contribution To Crime Fiction award (and Chris Brookmyre win the Crime Novel Of The Year award for Black Widow), the 15th Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival snapped into gear. Elly Griffiths is this year’s chair, and she and the festival team have done an outstanding job at putting together a really great line-up. I’ll be doing my best to bring you as much of the action as I can (although I’m kind of working today a bit). First up, some bloke called Lee Child.
Regular readers will know that I like to get out and about and go to a few crime literature festivals across the year, and then report back here on some of the panels and some of the words spoken within them. Arguably the biggest is the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, held at the Old Swan hotel. One of my highlights every year at the festival is the New Blood panel, where crime writing legend, Val McDermid, hosts a panel comprising four authors who have published debut novels during the past year (or are about to publish). Val herself picks the panellists – which is a ringing endorsement in itself – and this year, the panel has been announced ahead of time.
Three words I never thought I’d be typing on this blog: Juan Pablo Escobar. In among all the crime fiction authors here in Oslo for Krimfestivalen, there has been one exception to the rule: the son of one of the most notorious criminals the world has ever seen. Juan Pablo is here in Norway to promote his book Pablo Escobar: My Father and he has been a big draw – last night he commanded the stage alongside other big names at the Osly Nye Centralteatret, and today he formed a one-man guest panel. (It should also be noted that the likes of Anne Holt, Arne Dahl and half an hour of crime-based improvisational comedy were also part of the theatre program.) The session was packed. There seems to be a real interest in the man and his life, and you could hardly move – it was easily the most attended session here at Krimfestivalen. But it felt strange to me: the Colombian drug wars of the 1980s and Pablo Escobar’s empire feel like a world away from Norway, and Escobar Jnr was someone I was genuinely not expecting to encounter. No matter, it was fascinating stuff and the crowd was rapt so I’ve combined the two sessions and tried to summarise them both.