Tag Archives: stuart macbride

Doors Open

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!!

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Shatter the bones by Stuart MacBride – a review

Ok, so I have a confession to make. Stuart MacBride is talking in the science fiction session, therefore I had decided to ignore the authors in this until lunch with Mr T who told me I had to read one to complete the challenge.

So I took pot luck on my kindle, downloaded a Stuart MacBride and set off on yet another epic train journey. I’m very glad I took up the challenge, as I really enjoyed this book. However there is a part of me that suspects I may have picked the wrong author as there was not a trace of science fiction in this novel. The description of the session ‘Crime in another dimension’ actually states science fiction or urban fantasy. I have no idea what urban fantasy really means so I’ve Wikipedia-ed and apparently its a fantasy set primarily in a city that focuses for example, on coexistence between humans and paranormal beings.

This must be what classes this book as Urban Fantasy, as its based around a mother and daughter who are kidnapped after they become famous by appearing on the novel equivalent of X-factor. The mothers appearance on a show like this would therefore suggest she is not ‘normal’ so maybe this is the link to urban fantasy?

The story follows Jenny and Alison who are kidnapped after appearing on the show, and the public are told that in order for them to be released unharmed they have to raise millions of pounds. Logan is the officer investigating the crime, and is also dealing with a missing drug dealer and a stalker.

This was quite a good story, although it was obvious who the perpertrator was quite soon on in the book. However saying that there is a twist at the end that I didn’t see coming.

I thought the characters in the book were a little bit stereotyped, the lesbian policewoman, the tattooed girlfriend wearing studs and black leather, but there were enough twists and turns to make this an enjoyable read right through to the end.

I also did think some of the characters were a little bit fawlty towers which was slightly off putting, although this was usually tempered by something horrific happening to them, and you were brought back to crime and murder.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised by this and would definitely like to read some of his other books. It may also have tempted me to go along to the science fiction section, if just to see if I’ve read the right author!

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The Final Detail

I’ve recently been asked how the challenge is coming along. So unfortunately with only 2 weeks left to go its probably time to admit defeat, I am not going to manage to read a book by every author. However I’ve always believed that it is better to try and fail than never bother trying in the first place. I also believe that if you look like you are about to fail, change the goal posts!

By my counting (although as previously established numbers are not always my forte) there are 51 authors appearing at the TOPCWF. In order to give myself a fighting chance this count doesn’t include all those who will be at the dinner, just those speaking. Of these 51, 4 are in the science fiction talk so I don’t count them, so therefore I am left with 47.

As of today I have read books by 27 of them. I think that’s pretty good going and over 50% which would be a pass according to any exam board.

When it became clear that I wasn’t going to make the full quota I decided to change the challenge slightly (clarify the details it could be seen as!) Therefore I was going to try and make sure I’d read at least one author in every session. On this I’ve fared much better.

There are 18 sessions including the dinner. So far there are three I haven’t read anything in, ‘Crime in another dimension’ which as discussed is science fiction and therefore I may give it a miss. ‘Writing for your life’ which sees former journalists and intelligence agents talking. One of these is Tony Thompson and I am currently half way through his audio book ‘Gang Land: From Footsoldiers to kingpins’. The final one is ‘The Golden Age’ and I’ve nearly finished an excellent book by Nicola Upson.

Therefore I think I can safely say that the TOPCWFC (abridged version) is on target to complete. Of course a certain friend of mine was trying to insist that unless I bite the bullet and read one from ‘another dimension’ then I’m not allowed to class it as complete. Never one to step away from a challenge I have today downloaded a book by Stuart Macbride. I am however one to definitely step away from a challenge if it gets dull so I shall let you know how I get on!

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