Beer, Books and Banter: It Must Be the Annual Harrogate Launch Party!

Category: News

Beth Lewis, Charles Cumming, Sarah Hodgson

Fuelled by a delicious new IPA from Yorkshire’s famous Theakston’s Brewery, mini pies and plenty of gossip and chat, a good night was had by all at the programme launch for the 2016 Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Festival, or ‘Harrogate’ as most regular festival-goers refer to it. Speeches were given by Sharon Canavar, CEO of Harrogate Festivals, who confirmed that Harrogate is now the largest dedicated crime festival in the world, Simon Theakston, Executive Director of Theakston’s, who broke the welcome news that the company had just inked a new sponsorship deal with the festival, and finally programming chair Peter James, who both entertained and made the serious point that at the end of the day, it’s all about the books. The Killer Reads team were joined by authors Beth Lewis, who will feature on this year’s New Blood panel for debut authors, and festival favourite Charles Cumming.  This year’s festival, which takes place from 21 – 24 July looks set to be the biggest yet. We hope to see some of you there.

Beth Lewis and her editor Sarah Hodgson 2

Combined - Peter James Beth Lewis Charles Cumming

Guest post from Anya Lipska: Notes from a Harrogate panel novice

Category: News

where the devil cant goEarlier this week we shared Kate’s trip to Harrogate last weekend, but what is the festival like from an author perspective? Anya Lipska shares her experience…

Theakstons Crime Festival in Harrogate is Europe’s biggest crime fiction event and an annual highlight for writers and hardcore fans of the genre, so when Val McDermid chose me to appear on her ‘New Blood’ panel showcasing debut authors, to say I was chuffed would be a howling understatement.

When I climbed down off the ceiling, it dawned on me that the biggest audience I’d ever faced was six members of a book club in the back room of my local pub, an informal affair involving much pinot grigio. Clearly, I would need a bit of pre-match training if I wasn’t going to freeze, faint or gibber in front of what I was told would be a big crowd of crime aficianados. Luckily, I had a date in the diary to speak to a reading group at Barking Library, which was an enjoyable and useful dry run in finding out what people were – and weren’t – interested in hearing from an author.

On the big day, I was asked to turn up half an hour early to get miked up by a sound engineer in the ‘Green Room’, where I met lovely fellow panellists Malcolm Mackay, Colette McBeth and Derek B Miller. And then, in came the ‘Queen of Crime’ herself. I’ve been a fan of Val McDermid’s work ever since I was gripped by the atmospheric A Place of Execution, so meeting her in person was a treat in itself. Val’s something of a legend as a panel moderator and had clearly developed the knack of putting us at our ease. The key thing to remember, she told us, was that the audience were passionate crime fans and that they “wanted to love us.” She told us she’d be asking four main questions: what our books were about; what had drawn us to crime; our journey to publication; and a sneak preview of the book we were currently working on.
And then we were entering a vast room, a good 40 metres long, bubbling with chatter, and mounting the stairs to the stage. The event was sold out, with some 300 people in the audience. Barking Library this wasn’t.

I was pretty nervous at first, but as it went on I began to enjoy myself and by the end, I was disappointed to find it was over! People said they enjoyed my contribution and I signed a lot of books so hopefully I didn’t made a complete ass of myself… And now that I know what to expect, and how warmly supportive an audience of enthusiastic readers can be, I’m itching to do the next one.

Find out more about Anya on her website:
You can also follow Anya on Twitter @anyalipska

Anya’s book, Where The Devil Can’t Go, is out now – read a fantastic review of it here.

Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival 2013

Category: News
Tea at Betty's

Kate taking tea at Betty’s

From Thursday 18th July to Sunday 21st July the delightful spa town of Harrogate was swarmed by crime authors, fans, and publishing people. As if in celebration of the festival’s 10th anniversary, the sun was shining, and naturally everyone was bemoaning the heat and the lack of air con while desperately devouring ice creams and cold drinks (certainly no shortage of the latter!). The programming committee and organisers deserve a hearty round of applause for another superb array of panels and an all-round fantastic weekend. Hard to believe it’s over for another year…

Snippets from a few of the panels I attended:

Friday 10pm, Fleming Fans:

Charles Cumming chairing Jonathan Freedland (Sam Bourne), JJ Connolly, Gregg Hurwitz and David Marks

Fleming panel

A collective swoon from the audience as the men walked in to take their places on stage, suavely attired in black tie. Charles opened the panel with the line, ‘The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning.’ What followed was a lively, entertaining discussion about Fleming’s writing, and the importance of Bond as a character (and possibly as a national treasure). I won’t rehash the entire conversation, though the panel was asked whether they thought there would ever be a female Bond. The general consensus was yes, but that it could only work if it made sense in terms of the story, and was not just a politically-correct gesture. Jonathan Freedland let us in on his theory that the next Bond will be Idris Elba – no complaints here!

Saturday 3.30pm, South of the Equator:

Paul Johnston chairing Lauren Beukes, Michael Robotham, Helen Fitzgerald and MD Villiers

Lauren Beukes ready for signing

In fact none of the authors on this panel set their latest novels in their country of residence. So one of the points discussed was the idea that you can actually have a stronger sense of a place when you’re away from that place – and that might come from a strong emotional connection to your homeland.

Lauren chose to set The Shining Girls in Chicago rather than South Africa because she didn’t want it to become an apartheid novel. And in her research, she was struck by the violence, corruption, and racism to be found in Chicago’s history. It brought home to her the idea of the universality of issues – as she realised that South Africa does not necessarily have claim to the worst examples of human behaviour.

Sunday 10am, Slaughtering the Sacred Cows:

Mark Lawson chairing Stuart MacBride, Catriona McPherson, MC Scott, and Cathi Unsworth.

Stuart signing books

Mark kicked off this panel by deciphering the intriguing title and asking the question, ‘Are there strict rules & structures in crime fiction and should you abide by them or break them?’.

Stuart, for one, said he never pays attention to the rules, except for when he was writing Birthdays for the Dead, where he followed the structure of a Shakespearean tragedy.

However, there is a balancing act to be aware of, for if you completely explode all reader expectations, you’re at risk of losing the market. Luckily, seeing as this was an early Sunday morning event, there was much hilarity and joking amongst the panellists, particularly when they got on to the topic of their worst ever Amazon reviews…

RIP Emad

RIP Emad