Tag Archives: ruth rendell

Crime Writers: A decade of crime

Well it’s all over for another year. The weekend before last the sun was shining, the deck chairs were out and the pimms was ready on ice as Harrogate got taken over by 100s of people all with one thing in common, an obsession with crime fiction.

The Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Festival really is the highlight of the year for anyone with an interest in crime fiction. This year to celebrate the festivals tenth anniversary they had gone full out for the festival theme, there was a bookshop in a tent (or yurt if you listened to Mark Lawson) lots of outdoor chairs and of course plenty of drink. The weekend began with the award of the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year which for the second year running went to Denise Mina. I think we may be her lucky charm.

The days go in a blur of talks and queuing (beware there is a lot of queuing for sessions and signings, all worth it though) and chatting about crime fiction.

To me and the sister one of the highlights of the conference is always the New Blood Panel and this year was no exception. Anya Lipska shared the stage with Malcolm Mackay, Collette McBeth and Derek Miller and it was interesting to hear them discuss with Val their new books and of course get a sneak preview of what to expect next.

One of the things I like about this festival is the wide range of topics (within crime of course) and one of the most fascinating was Val McDermid in conversation with Prof Sue Black. There were certainly some memorable moments, and were I not already a vegetarian I doubt I’d ever eat tuna fish again.

Despite the heat and the sunshine outside, the sessions were all packed, and none more so than ‘Vera’ where alongside Ann Cleeves we were treated to a reading of her latest novel by Vera herself the lovely Brenda Blethyn.

The evenings in the bar are just as much fun as the sessions during the day, and being able to just mingle with the authors to us is like getting to go back stage at a Bon Jovi concert (insert most favourite band here) Where else would you sit down with a glass of wine and be next to Baroness Ruth Rendall, Jeanette Winterson and Val McDermid?

The dinner was a last minute addition to our booking as neither of us are James Bond fans. Yet this turned out to be a great decision as we got to join a table with Julia Crouch who was an excellent host. Despite not guessing the murderer we were with a lovely group of people and to top it off we got a copy of Julia Crouch’s new book.

After a quick listen to Lee Child talking to Sarah Millican (and of course being asked about Tom Cruise) it was straight into the quiz. This is always a great way to spend an evening, and is a perfect example of how friendly everyone is. Someone will always come and join you to make up a team. Sadly we didn’t do as well as last year although were by no means last which I always say is all you can ask for.

Charlaine Harris was the final talk of the event and the queue for her book signing broke all records. Luckily she obviously didn’t finish too late and we spotted her heading upstairs in Betty’s for afternoon tea before we left.

The whole weekend was once again a fantastic experience and coming home and making Mr F look at every single book, signature, photo and freebie I got is just part of the fun (for me not him)

Roll on TOPCWF2014.

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The Vault by Ruth Rendell – a review

Ruth Rendell was one of my first introduction into crime writing, as there was an abundance of her books in the local library when I was young. However I haven’t read any of her Wexford books (that I can remember) so I was looking forward to trying this latest one.

Inspector Wexford is now retired and living with his wife in his daughter’s house. However he is soon tempted back to London when asked to help out on a new case. Three bodies have been found in a celler. Two of the bodies are from the same time, however the third one is much newer.

This was quite a good story that made a nice change from some of the more graphic crime reads of late. As well as the investigation into the three bodies, there is a separate back story involving Wexford’s family. I did feel that this was a little bit unnecessary. I would be interested to see if the family featured so much in the previous novels or if it was needed to pad out the time now there was less police work to do. Personally I thought the whole family story was a bit off kilter, and really didn’t warm to the characters but that may just be because I don’t know their history.

I found this a nice easy read, and as a stand alone novel it was certainly worth the time. I was a bit surprised by some elements though. Wexford came across as a very old fashioned detective who had never used the internet. This struck me as a bit strange as he had previously been a high ranking police officer so you’d think they would have been taught how to. Equally I thought that bits of it were a little unlikely. One of the big breakthroughs in the case came from him walking round the city and getting lost which was a little bit coincidental.

However even with those minor criticisms its a quick and easy read, although it would perhaps have been better to remind myself of some of the other Wexford novels first.

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Coffee, tea or murder

Last weekend I was lucky enough to sample the delights of afternoon tea in Bettys in York. It was all very civilised. We bypassed the usual never ending queue into the main café, and were led straight to our table in the previously unseen upstairs. We then spent a very nice afternoon eating salmon sandwiches, scones, cakes and drinking tea. Well ok, as a coffee drinking vegetarian I’d already put my special request in so I had Betty’s posh coffee and very nice avocado sandwiches.

The first Betty’s cafe was opened in the home of the ‘Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival’ The lovely spa town of Harrogate back in 1919 and still remains its most popular café. Me and the Sister went in last year for coffee and cake and were surrounded by people excitedly discussing the festival and carrying goody bags. I’ve no doubt this year will be no exception.

The programme for the event has recently been released and once again it looks a fantastic few days. There are some great special guests, including Ruth Rendell being interviewed by Jeanette Winterson which I’m especially looking forward to. I’ve always been a big fan of Ruth Rendell. Although I’ve not read any of Jeanette Winterson’s books apart from ‘Oranges are not the only fruit’ which as a child I had to keep hidden under my bed as it would most definitely not have been classed as suitable reading.

I’ve not yet been through the entire programme in detail, or indeed planned my reading list for the next few months but at first glance it looks an excellent programme. Some of the speakers are old favourites from last year, whilst some are brand new such as William McIlvanney who I hadn’t even heard of until I saw he was being interviewed by Ian Rankin so will be looking out his novels.

This year’s TV tie in panel is Vera. Ann Cleaves (star of last year’s murder mystery themed dinner) is going to be joined by those who are responsible for bringing her novels to tv, including actor Brenda Blethyn. Another interesting sounding session features forensic anthropologist Professor Sue Black OBE. I’m always fascinated by how far fiction actually mirrors real life, and how much artistic license authors have to employ to keep the story moving.

One of the special guests this year is Lee Child, I have to confess that I’ve never actually read any of his books, so he will definitely be an author I put on the top of my list. He’s being interviewed by Comedian Sarah Millican so that should be an excellent session. Special guest on Saturday evening is York born Kate Atkinson, whose Jackson Brodie novels have recently been turned into a tv series. As a York dweller myself I’m always happy to hear from local people.

The one thing that really did stand out of the programme was that there was not one session I would want to miss. Last year me and the Sister did skip a couple, mainly to give us time for food and of course Betty’s cake. This time Betty’s will definitely have to wait until the show is over!

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A necessary end

The Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival 2012 is over. The books have been put on the shelf, the ‘tossergate’ explosion on twitter has died down, and the reservations have been made for 2013.

Therefore Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival Challenge 2012 has come to an end.

As I’ve said before technically I failed the initial challenge. However its my challenge and my rules therefore the abridged version of the challenge was to read a book by an author in every session. This was much more manageable, and I’m proud to say I read a book by an author in all 18 sessions, including Crime in another dimension.

For those of you wanting more figures – during the festival there were 50 authors appearing over the three days (Mark Lawson was mistakenly counted as an author in my previous post) In total if I include some books that I read prior to starting the blog, although have read since last august when we first booked to attend the festival, I have read 33 of them which I think is quite impressive! 20 of the books have been read in the past 5 months.

I’ve enjoyed every minute of the challenge, and also the blogging. Its been a great chance for me to revisit authors I knew as well as find some new ones to try. Having a target has meant that at times I’ve read books that I would not normally have picked up. Its also meant that very occasionally I’ve wanted a break from crime and have been tempted to pick up some pink fluffy stuff, but luckily I’ve always resisted! Coming back from Harrogate I did wander if I would want to have a total crime break, but I’m pleased to report thats not the case. In fact completely the opposite and I can’t wait to devour the huge pile of books I brought back with me.

So as one door closes another opens as they say. This time its in the guise of guess what… yes the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival 2013! We have our places reserved and I’m looking forward to it. Val McDermid is going to be chairing the programme committee (a decade after she chaired the very first festival) Already lined up to talk is Charlaine Harris, Kate Atkinson and Ruth Rendell, so its going to be another action packed weekend and this time giving myself a whole year to do it I’m once again going to aim to complete the TOPCWFC take 2!


List of novels read:

  1. Amanda Kyle Williams – Stranger you seek
  2. Ann Cleaves – The glass room
  3. Camilla Lackberg – Hidden child
  4. Chris Mooney – Soul collectors
  5. David Mark – The dark winter
  6. Deon Myer – Devils peak
  7. Elizabeth Haynes – Into the darkest corner
  8. Gillian Flynn – Dark Places
  9. Gregg Hurwitz – You’re next
  10. Harlen Coben – Live Wire
  11. Ian Rankin – The impossible dead
  12. Jilliane Hoffman – Plea of insanity
  13. Jo Nesbo – The Leopard
  14. John Connolly – Burning Soul
  15. Julia Crouch – The Cuckoo
  16. Kate Mosse – The Winterghosts
  17. Laura Lippman – Don’t look back
  18. Megan Abbott – The end of everything
  19. Mark Billingham – Bloodline
  20. Neil Cross – Captured
  21. Nicola Upson – Two for sorrow
  22. Oliver Harris – The hollow man
  23. Penny Hancock – Tideline
  24. Peter James – Dead like you
  25. Peter Robinson – Before the poison
  26. Ryan David Jahn – Acts of violence
  27. Stephen Leather – The basement
  28. Stuart MacBride – Shatter the bones
  29. Stuart Neville – The twelve
  30. Tania Carver – Cage of bones
  31. Tim Weaver – Dead tracks
  32. Tony Thompson – Gangland
  33. Val McDermid – The retribution

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