Well it’s over, the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival has finished, and I have no idea how to begin to describe this weekend. It was excellent!
Me and the Sister travelled over on Thursday afternoon. After a quick trip round the bookshops of Harrogate (market research obviously) we headed to the hotel where the festival kicked off to a great start with Denise Mina being awarded the crime novel of the year. Colin Dexter then made a guest appearance to accept the lifetime achievement award, he was a very witty man.
Breakfast the next morning and the celebrity spotting began before the first session of the day started. This was Mark Billingham (who incidentally was our first celebrity spot at breakfast) interviewing John Connolly. Obviously great friends it was a very funny interview.
The first full day of the festival included the science fiction session. Contrary to my original thoughts this turned into a very amusing talk and not completely geeky! In the afternoon there was the rather controversial e-book debate, which yesterday afternoon on twitter was rebranded ‘tossergate’. Some very strong views were aired, including one bookseller who pointed out that people are happy to pay over £8 to view a two hour film, but will balk against buying a £7.99 novel.
John Connolly then reappeared, this time as chair of the America’s Got Talent session with four great authors discussing their latest book and what they are doing next. After such a full day we decided to skip the Kate Mosse interview (although apparently she was absolutely fascinating) and headed into a very busy Harrogate for something to eat.
We got back in time to see what, to me was definitely one of the highlights – A late night chat between Ian Rankin and Peter Robinson. With Mark Billingham attempting to stand in as barman for the pair, it did seem that they were just out for the night having a couple of beers and a catch up which was excellent.
Saturday morning started with Peter James and quite a disturbing story about his stalker. At one point he was receiving up to 40 emails a day from her, how on earth did she find the time? The day continued with a fascinating debate on whether the 1920s/30s really can be called the ‘Golden Age of Crime’ before Val McDermid took to the stage for the New Blood panel. This was her choice of the best new writers of the year and included the lovely Elizabeth Haynes who I later met in the queue for Harlen Coben and again in the toilets (Contrary to what it may sound like, especially after the earlier discussions I wasn’t actually stalking her!)
The afternoon continued with the same gusto. One panel was an interesting discussion between 3 female writers and ‘reader in residence’ Martyn Waites (who writes as a women) as to whether women write more gruesome stuff than men. There was also a special event around the TV show Luther, where journalist Miranda Sawyer interviewed its writer Neil Cross alongside production team members and two actors (I confess I now have a bit of a crush on Warren Brown who plays Ripley).
Early evening and we went along to the Come Die With Me dinner hosted by Ann Cleaves, and were sat on a table with SJ Parris. It was then straight into an interview with Harlen Coben who was talking to Laura Lippman. It was another interesting session, and again they are obviously great friends and it was a very natural interaction.
Me and the Sister then rather nervously went along to the Late Night Quiz. Neither of us are particularly good at quizzes, and not knowing anyone else we did have visions of ending up bottom on our own. However it was great fun. We met two very nice ladies again on their own, and rather amazingly (Especially considering the competition in the room) we came third out of the readers teams and fifth overall.
Another late night in the bar (although much earlier than most people) and then our final day started with a discussion around translation, before the final session which was Mark Lawson interviewing an interesting Jo Nesbo. A quick trip to Betty’s as we’d not had time to go during the weekend and we left the Swan Hotel sadly behind.
People keep asking ‘which was your favourite’ and I can honestly say, I haven’t got a clue. I can’t pick one as it would feel like a disservice to all the others. Each session was fascinating and I came away from each one thinking ‘wow’. Admittedly that only lasted for the 10 minutes I was queuing for the book signings before it was straight back into the next session. It was a full on weekend and I loved every minute of it. Roll on 2013!!