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No time for goodbye

The tents have gone, the bar is empty, and the dead body outline has been taken up from outside the front door, yes the annual Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival has finished for another year. Despite the rain which was an unwelcome new addition to the festival, normally the organisers are able to arrange for glorious sunshine, once again it was an absolutely fantastic weekend.

Arriving on Thursday afternoon as soon as you drive up the path there is an unmistakable buzz that says you are in for a real treat. The tents were even bigger than last year, there was an outdoor bar and the whole thing was set around one of the best bookcases I’ve ever seen.

Anyone who has any interest in books will by now know that J K Rowling made an appearance as Robert Galbraith, an event which surprisingly was completely wizard free. However this was only one of many many fantastic sessions put together by programme chair Steve Mosby of which it’s almost impossible to choose a favourite.

There was no doubt that for me Lynda La Plante was definitely a highlight. It showed exactly what I love about this festival. I went along with a pre-conceived idea, I had seen a lot of her tv credits but had only read one of her books so I was in two minds as to whether to go. Yet she completely blew me away. She was funny, charming, interesting and intelligent, and it definitely goes down as the session I laughed the most in. I came away wanting to immediately rush out and buy all her back catalogue.

Unfortunately the back seat and boot of the car were already full with all the other books we’d bought so I thought it best to wait until I got home. Thanks to Mr F a copy of Twisted is now on the top of my ‘to read’ pile, a pile which could conceivably be described as more a tower than a pile. The number of books I came home with possibly out did even last year’s tally, as it is completely impossible to sit and enjoy listening to authors talk without wanting to go and read their books. I can’t guarantee I’ll manage to get through as many as Natalie Haynes who in the turning to crime session said she’d read about 220 novels last year, but I’ll give it a go.

As always there are some interesting debates and points of view put forward, during one session James Smythe suggested what is possibly both the best and the worst idea ever. He thought that one way of getting people to read books they wouldn’t usually read was by changing bookshops around so that books are stored a-z rather than by category. This could be a good way to find new books, but would mean that a quick trip to the bookshop would actually end up taking me all day.

People familiar with this festival will know that listening to the authors up on stage is only one part of the fun, celebrity author spotting adds another dimension, which author eats the most for breakfast, who was the last still standing in the bar at night, will people make it to the morning sessions, and of course the most important question of all, will anyone join us to make a team for the Saturday night quiz. Excitingly for us this year we were actually joined by the lovely Tony Thompson, although our performance was rather dismal compared to this years winning team lead by Stav Sherez.

The weekend is certainly not a relaxing one, its non-stop with sessions and book signings back to back throughout with little time for chatting. Yet it is definitely one of my most favourite ways to spend a weekend, finished off as always by a quick Betty’s lunch before heading home to sort through all my new books. Its a wonderful weekend,  and a great way of finding new authors, plus you never know what interesting knowledge you’ll pick up, who knew cabbage shows up the same as blood in some forensic tests. I’ll be more careful with my cabbage chopping in future!

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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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