Friday, 23 May 2014

CrimeFest - Part 1

I had an awesome time at my first CrimeFest.

Wait... is it CrimeFest or just Crimefest? Let's go with CrimeFest, because I like camel case.

Anyway, I met lots of cool people, consumed more beer than I've managed in the rest of the year put together, and even flogged a copy of The Killing Season to a star of stage and screen. This is going to be a mammoth post for me, so I'm going to split it into two parts. The first one will cover Thursday and Friday, the second Saturday and Sunday.


I flew down from Glasgow on Thursday afternoon, having to brave the airport bus link (seriously, how is it 2014 and we don't have a rail link to Scotland's major airport, or buses that take debit cards for that matter?). After a short delay, the flight down to Bristol was uneventful and smooth, which is just as well because I'm the world's worst flyer. After checking into my hotel (the Radisson Blu, very nice) and making fists with my toes on the carpet...

one for the Die Hard fans

 ...I made my way across the canal to the Bristol Marriot, venue for CrimeFest, and quickly located familiar faces Craig Robertson, Michael J Malone, Douglas Skelton and Ali Karim. It was great to relax with a beer, chat to familiar faces and meet some new ones.

The Bristol Marriot

I said hi to Mark Billingham, who'd given me some great advice when I was struggling with writing the second Carter Blake book, and then someone introduced me to Barry Forshaw, who was kind enough to say my book had something of a critical buzz around it. I also met Jake Kerridge of the Telegraph, the man in charge of my panel the following day. I took it easy on the bar, and headed back to my hotel around 12:30 for an earlyish night, because I was on at 9am the following day.


I hauled myself out of bed and got ready for the panel with several cups of coffee. I was amused later to see Lucy Santos of the CWA had tweeted that I was looking bright and breezy.

Jake Kerridge was moderating my panel (the second of three over the weekend) on Debut Authors: An Infusion of Fresh Blood, and I was on with four other newbies: M.J. Arlidge (Eenie Meenie), Kate Griffin (Kitty Beck and the Music Hall Murders), Colette McBeth (Precious Thing) and Jake Woodhouse (After the Silence). I quickly remembered that the best and worst thing about these book festivals is you end up with tons of new novels you want to read. I genuinely wanted to read all of these books after hearing their authors talk about them, but probably Kate's most of all, because I'm a sucker for Victorian-era mystery.

Of all of us, Jake Woodhouse and I were probably the freshest of the fresh blood, with our debuts coming out within a day of each other at the end of last month. It was great to chat to the others and hear about their backgrounds, their journeys to publication and their experiences of being published for the first time. I think I managed to be reasonably lucid for a non-morning person, and I talked a bit about getting an agent and thinking about the commercial appeal of my book. Jake (moderator Jake that is) got a big laugh from the audience when he read the current FAQ section from my website out in full:

Q: Do you have a lot of material for the FAQ section?
A: Not as yet, no.

Which reminded me I really need to update that now I'm getting actual questions.
After the panel there was a signing, during which I managed to write the wrong date while signing a copy of The Killing Season. The gentleman concerned was incredibly understanding, and magnanimously suggested the mistake just made his copy unique. I've been known to use this excuse myself: the Japanese call it a wabi: a tiny flaw that emphasises the individuality of the piece. Note to self: keep a calendar nearby at all times.

I visited the Foyles festival bookshop and was pleased to see a familiar cover on display...

the hardback version too!

Sorry, I'll get over taking pics of my book in bookshops someday. Perhaps. Okay, probably not gonna happen.

I settled back to be in the audience for another couple of panels after that: one on Death in High Heels: Women as Victims and another on The Modern Thriller. The first one was a heated but very well-behaved debate about the prevalence of young pretty women as victims in crime fiction and what it says about society (and readers of thrillers, I suppose). I was particularly interested to discover that the typical reader for books that feature young female victims is, perhaps surprisingly, young females. The panel on modern thrillers was also lively, with an eye-opening anecdote from Simon Kernick about being briefly kidnapped as a teen.

After that I caught up with an old friend for lunch and then headed back to the bar at the Marriott. On the way, my editor tweeted that I had been reviewed in the Daily Mail - my first review in a national newspaper, and thankfully they liked it.

The usual suspects were at the bar of course, and the supernaturally-organised Angela McMahon from Orion had arrived and introduced me to fellow debut Orion author Helen Giltrow - whose book The Distance has just been published - and Harry Bingham, who is more established than either of us, with a whole series of DC Fiona Griffiths novels. We went to dinner at the nearby Hotel du Vin where we spent a few hours over great food and wine and conversation. Again, it's always fascinating to note the similarities and the differences between how other authors approach writing a book. Also brilliant to talk to Angela about the exciting life of a publicist and just how many Ian Rankin enquiries she has to field on your average day even when he's taking a year off.

I would have loved to head back to the bar after dinner, but I had another 9am panel the next day.

Come back tomorrow to find out all about the Hired Guns panel and my bruising encounter with a certain black leather swivel chair in part 2...

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