Actually, that’s not strictly true. I’d been to Harrogate before to do the usual touristy things. But ask most crime writers if they are going to Harrogate and they will interpret it in one way only. They will assume you are referring to the Theakstons Crime Festival, held in Harrogate every summer. I must admit I had no idea what to expect when I booked my ticket for the festival. I vaguely imagined that I would attend a lot of fascinating talks by fascinating authors, then spend the rest of my time awkwardly trying to make friends, or just trying to find ways of amusing myself in the empty hours outside the festival. I wasn’t on a panel, so nobody would know me, while all those who had attended before would presumably already have formed their own little impregnable cliques. In reality, it would probably have been nowhere near as depressingly lonesome as this, but these are the thoughts that invade one’s mind when contemplating a trip of this kind, and I’m sure it is precisely this type of nervousness that dissuades many from attending.
As it turned out, I was spared all the socialising problems I had pessimistically anticipated. What saved me was a bit of software technology called Twitter. At about the same time I was thinking of attending Harrogate, I signed up for Twitter. I didn’t do so because I was especially eager to embrace social media; I did it mainly because everyone assured me it was a vital tool for authors to use. I have since discovered how valuable Twitter is in all sorts of ways, but one of the immediate benefits for me was that I found lots of people who were planning to go to Harrogate. I got the impression that many were in the same boat as me – wanting to make the most of the festival but not knowing anyone – and so a group of us arranged to meet up in the pub on the first day (mein blog host Mr Keith Walters included). It made all the difference. As soon as we met, it was almost as if I’d known these people for years. There was an instant rapport, and I think we could easily have sat in that pub and chatted all night long. As Mel Sherratt has pointed out in her earlier posting here, we have stayed good friends since that time, and some of us have met up again on several occasions.
As far as the festival went, it ensured that I always had someone with whom to talk, dine and drink. But as I said before, I honestly don’t think it matters if you go to Harrogate not knowing anyone. It’s been said before that the crime writing community are a friendly bunch; if anything, that’s an understatement. Harrogate surpassed my expectations in many ways. The talks were, indeed, fascinating. But just as important are the opportunities to socialise with readers, writers, agents, publishers and journalists. It’s so easy to go to the bar or sit outside in the lovely hotel garden and find that you’re rubbing shoulders with Mark Billingham or Lee Child or any number of big name authors. There is no pretension, no snobbishness. Everyone gets along because we all share a common passion for crime books, and therefore have no shortage of things to talk about. Personal highlights for me? Going for a posh dinner, hosted by my publishers, and being seated at the same table as people like David Baldacci; shaking hands and chatting with Dennis Lehane; seeing my book on the shelves, getting whisked in there to sign them all, then finding they’d all sold out within the hour. I could go on. It was memorable in so many ways. This year’s festival will, I’m sure, be just as memorable.
Many thanks for the time to stop by, David.
Now, all you need to do, if you haven’t already down so, is check out my reviews of his two great books Pariah and The Helper. Then you can go here and here to order your copies and don’t forget to check out David’s website too.