Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival 2011 – The London Launch party and programme.

Photo (Sam Roberts): Festival Programming Commitee. Left to right: Selina Walker, Natasha Cooper, Dreda Say Mitchell (Chair), Simon Theakston, Jane Gregory, Mark Billingham, Martyn Waites.

It’s back, they’re back and it’s bigger and better than ever…

Thursday evening saw Brown’s Court Rooms, Covent Garden, London play host to the official launch of the 2011 Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.

As one half of the newly appointed duo of bloggers/tweeters for I was pleased to be in attendance along with Maria Barrett, who has already begun her own creative blog report over at

There was a great turnout for the launch this year, usually held in the festival’s home town of Harrogate, with Festival Chief Executive Sharon Canavar, Erica Morris and the rest of the team all making the journey south with a van filled with press packs, goodie bags and bottles of Old Peculier.

There was plenty of time for everyone to the customary mingling amongst a veritable who’s who of the crime fiction community, before the speeches and announcements took place.

Despite visits to the festival previously and other crime events, it never fails to impress just what a friendly business crime fiction appears to be.

It’s also full of what seem very surreal moments, such as walking into a room full of people and being warmly greeted and shaken by the hand by Mark Billingham, whilst standing beside him was his creation DI Tom Thorne in the form of David Morrisey chatting with Mark Lawson.

It’s a generous community – I spied David Hewson there, prior to his own event starting just around the corner at Goldsboro Books the same night.  Peter James graciously attended, standing in for Tom Harper (current CWA Chair) – a role Peter has recently been awarded to step into very shortly.

It was something of a challenge to catch a few photographs, send a few tweets to the world outside the room, and to keep an ear on the speeches, all whilst constantly meeting faces old and new to me, so I am very grateful for Sam Robert’s photographs which he has kindly allowed me to use within this post (the four professional shots rather than my shaky attempts).

First up to welcome everybody and to launch proceedings was Festival Chief Executive Sharon Canavar who thanked everyone for their attendance at the evening, reflected on just how the festival has grown from strength to strength, thanks to its partners, attendees and spomsors.

She handed over to Simon Theakston to add a few words – clearly only too pleased for the long established relationship between Theakston and the festival to continue to grow; this being the first in a new five year continued sponsorship agreement.

Simon then handed over to the new festival chair.

Dreda Say Mitchell has the task of filling the shoes of last year’s great chair, Stuart Macbride but, with her opening speech advising the audience that the best way she could describe this year’s line up was that it was ‘Hot!’, I think she came across as totally impassioned and more than up for the task ahead.

She spoke of how she never would have believed anyone if she’d been told at her first trip to the festival as part of a New Blood panel that she’d be chairing what is now such a huge event in the crime fiction calendar.

I managed a brief chat with her later in the evening as we’d not met before.  Closest I came was waiting in my car to reverse out of the car park at the end of last year’s festival whilst she did her piece to camera for a tv crew about the festival.  I think she was well worth the wait as she seems more than fired up for the role.

And then it was all about the party, with selected tunes from the collections of Martyn Waites & Mark Billingham things got into full swing and gave everyone the chance to catch up with friends old and new.

Great to see supporters like Steve Mosby, the Shots team, Maxim Jakubowski, NJ Cooper, Claire Seeber, Lee Weeks, LC Tyler, Cathi Unsworth…I could go on, all working the room and, for me, a great opportunity to match up a lot of faceless twitter avatars with their real life three-dimensional selves from the world of publishing and crime.

It was probably an hour and a half into proceedings before Maria (my blogger in-crime) and I had even located each other, but even then it was only sufficient time for the briefest of hellos before we each set off again to meet as many of the fine people we are due to spend four days in the company of this July in the lovely town of Harrogate.  Just enough time to get one snapshot of ‘the team’ (below) though;

And so, I’ll leave you with some more of my pretty awful photography and some better shots by Sam and, if you scroll down to the bottom, you’ll be able to see for yourself just what a fantastic line up the team have assembled this year for us all – some real heavy hitting guests this year, some interesting new panels and some twists on some old favourites too.

There will also be another Creative Thursday with classes by Stuart Macbride, Allan Guthrie and Dreda Say Mitchell (details tbc).

So, lots to look forward to.

Huge thanks to Sharon and the whole festival team for a great night, to Sam for providing the better photos and to Emma at Culture Vultures for providing the great experience of covering this event and the main event in July.

Scroll through the photos and check out what’s in store for you.

See you in July – can’t wait…..

Photo (Sam Roberts): Melanie McGrath, Jane Gregory, Dreda Say Mitchell, Mark Billingham, David Shelley

Photo of Mark Lawson & David Morrissey is by Sam Roberts.

Photo (Sam Roberts): Jon Howells & Stuart Broom of Waterstones with Sharon Canavar

Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival

21 – 24 July 2011, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate

2011 Programme

Harrogate: restorative spas, tranquil gardens, quaint teashops. Believe us, you’ll need them. Brace yourselves. Cordon off the flowerbeds, lock your valuables in the hotel safe, and steady the old nerves with a pint of Theakston’s finest ale. The Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival is back in town.

On this year’s programme you’ll see more of the biggest names in the business than ever before with Special Guests including David Baldacci, Linwood Barclay, Lee Child, Martina Cole, Lisa Gardner, Tess Gerritsen, Dennis Lehane and Howard Marks. In addition to all this blockbusting talent this year’s Programme Chair Dreda Say Mitchell has injected some true grit into the line-up as we invite you to take a walk on the wrong side of the tracks.

We’re placing you under the protective custody of the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival for one long, criminally good weekend. You’ll be put under house arrest in Harrogate’s (quite lovely) famous Old Swan Hotel. Don’t worry, rehabilitation awaits thanks to the world’s finest crime writers at Europe’s most arresting literary event.

Thursday 21st July


Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year & Festival Opening Party

Welcome to the crime-writing world’s answer to the Oscars with host, Mark Lawson. It’s easy to let the glamour and the glitz go to your head but a pint of Yorkshire’s finest ale, Theakstons Old Peculier, will help you keep your feet firmly on the glorious northern ground. The anticipation is worthy of the best nail-biting thriller – which of the line-up of likely suspects will be taking home crime fiction’s most hotly-contended award? Watch the winner kill off the competition, and then continue the celebrations and commiserations at the Festival opening party.

Shortlisted authors confirmed June 2011

Friday 22nd July
Martina Cole stands accused of having the most electrifying criminal record in the publishing world. She is the most successful British female novelist of the past decade with 18 titles to her name and books sales in excess of ten million. Cole writes about the world she knows and tells it like it is. Her novels, set in the murky underworld of London’s East End and her native Essex, are amongst the most requested in prison libraries: A testament to the truth of Cole’s writing and her eye for detail. Cole is renowned for her tough gutsy female characters, qualities shared by the author herself. An uncompromising Essex blonde with a talent for writing which compares to the hardest-boiled of American writers, Cole is a Brit with true grit.
The contemporary queen of the British crime novel will be cross-examined by 2011 Programming Chair, Dreda Say Mitchell. The verdict? Guilty as charged.
Breaking new ground for the Festival, this panel, chaired by investigative journalist and crime author Duncan Campbell, explores the rehabilitative power of the written word. Campbell talks to former prison inmates who have built new lives through writing; Erwin James, who served a life sentence for murder before becoming a Guardian columnist; ex-football hooligan-turned-writer and publisher Cass Pennan who experienced “more violence than most people will experience in a hundred lifetimes”, and Noel ‘Razor’ Smith, a lifelong criminal with 58 convictions, who turned to writing after the death of his son.
Take a walk on the wrong side of the tracks with a panel of authors whose depictions of dark underworlds and complex anti-heroes make compelling reading. Mandasue Heller, Denise Mina, Alex Wheatle and Steve Mosby confront the darkest impulses of our criminal societies to find the human truth at their hearts. Chair, thriller writer James Twining, guides us through the dark alleyways of the writers’ imaginations.
The Festival’s New Blood panel is now renowned for showcasing the great talents of tomorrow. It’s the crime fiction equivalent of Vanity Fair’s Young Hollywood edition. Nick Stone, Allan Guthrie, Cathi Unsworth and Mark Mills were all past graduates of the panel as debut novelists. Where are they now? At the top of their game. Chair Martyn Waites finds out about their experiences on the road to success.
NJ Cooper steers us on a journey through deep and disturbing waters as she delves beneath the surface to get to grips with the fascination of the psychological thriller. Sophie Hannah, Camilla Lackberg and Tana French, all writers whose work success can be measured in reader’s sleepless nights, wade into the depths as they explain why writers and readers alike find this genre so gripping.
Hold the front page! It’s not uncommon for journalists to make headlines for turning their careers to crime writing. Here, they go on the record about how their names went from bylines to gracing book spines. True Crime editor of Ireland’s the Sunday World Niamh O’Connor became a bestseller; Stav Sherez spent five years as a music journalist before becoming a CWA Dagger-shortlisted author, and former crime correspondent for the Observer Tony Thompson is regarded as one of the top true-crime writers at work in Britain today.
SPECIAL GUEST EVENT: In Conversation: Linwood Barclay & Lisa Gardner
The first of the Festival’s North American double-bills: Canadian writer Linwood Barclay enjoyed great popularity as humour columnist for the Toronto Star before his talents as a novelist propelled him on to the world’s stage. His first standalone thriller, No Time for Goodbye, was published in 2007 to critical acclaim and great international success. It was the single best-selling novel in the UK in 2008, selling more than 600,000 copies. Barclay’s following books have enjoyed similar levels of success with no lesser writer than Stephen King saying of the 2010 novel Never Look Away, “His is the best thriller I’ve read in 5 years.”
Barclay will be talking with New York Times best-selling novelist Lisa Gardner. Gardner blames a childhood with too much normality to explain why such a nice girl turned to writing such dark books. Employment as a management consultant was the unlikely trigger to her writing career; she started writing suspense novels for the chance to kill off characters who bore striking resemblances to her bosses. Gardner is now the acclaimed author of several thrillers, including The Killing Hour and Live To Tell.
X-Rated: Special Guest Howard Marks
Prepare to trip out as Radio 4’s Mark Lawson meets a man whose own life story proves reality is always stranger than fiction. During the mid-1980s, Howard Marks had 43 aliases, 89 phone lines, and 25 companies trading throughout the world. Bars, recording studios, offshore banks: all were money-laundering vehicles serving the core activity: dope dealing.
During his criminal career Marks had contacts with organisations as diverse as the Mafia, the IRA, MI6 and the CIA, leading the Daily Mail to dub him as ‘the most sophisticated drugs baron of all time.’
A world-wide operation by the Drug Enforcement Agency saw him busted and sentenced to 25 years in prison at the United States Federal Penitentiary. He was released on parole in 1995. His autobiography Mr Nice was recently adapted for film and the book remains an international best-seller and all-time cult classic. 2011 sees the release of Marks’ first novel Sympathy For The Devil.
Saturday 23rd July
The internationally acclaimed bestselling author Tess Gerritsen grew up dreaming of writing her own Nancy Drew mysteries. But her mother, an immigrant from China, worried writing would get her nowhere. She studied medicine and practised for five years in Honolulu, Hawaii, but knew medicine was always a detour. Her first nine books were romantic thrillers before Harvest, her first medical thriller, shot her into the New York Times bestseller list in 1996. Dubbed the ‘medical suspense queen’, Gerritsen’s novel The Killing Place effortlessly sailed to the top of the Official UK Top 50 in January this year. A phenomenal success when she appeared at the Festival three years ago, in 2011 Gerritsen will be interviewed by broadcaster Jenni Murray.
This could be a case for Mulder and Scully. Andrew Taylor delves into strange new worlds as he investigates the growing popularity of novels which combine the use of paranormal elements with crime fiction. Sarah Pinborough, SJ Bolton and Phil Rickman are the authors whose books go bump in the night.
Vampires may still have them feeling faint at the cinema, but at the Festival we’re thirsty for a different kind of fresh blood. Check out the new kids on the block whose heart-stopping talents threaten to stake the old guard. Val McDermid introduces four hot new things on the edge of stellar success, including SJ Watson, one of the first pupils on the Faber Academy Creative Writing Course, Gordon Ferris, who swapped a successful career in banking after writing his debut, Truth Dare Kill and Melanie McGrath, who with her first crime novel White Heat has revealed an hypnotic new voice.
The Bar is a natural habitat for crime authors (we’re talking about the legal kind, of course, but we understand the other kind is quite popular too!). Let’s examine the evidence, M’Lud. The panel stands accused of being guilty of bringing their professional careers in the legal world to bear on the scintillating drama of the fictional courtroom. In the dock are legal eagles, MR Hall, Frances Fyfield, Martin Edwards and Helen Black.
Immoral? Depraved? Degrading? The depiction of sex and vice in crime fiction is always a loaded topic. Do writers who explore the subject exploit the already exploited? Or do they serve an important purpose in illuminating areas too murky for the delicate sensibilities of the mainstream? Authors James McCreed, Val McDermid and Adam Creed are joined by former senior police officer Jackie Malton, the real-life inspiration for Prime Suspect’s, Jane Tennyson.
SPECIAL GUEST EVENT: In Conversation: David Baldacci & Joseph Finder
Our second match of American heavyweights: In the blue corner, former attorney turned blockbuster novelist, David Baldacci. Baldacci holds the publishing world to ransom dominating the bookshelves of more than 80 countries and selling over 100 million books. Film adaptations of his work include Absolute Power with Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman. A regular on the New York Times bestseller list, his books even bridge the political divide with both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton cited as fans.
In the red corner, Joseph Finder. His plan was to become a spy. Instead he became a bestselling thriller writer winning a few awards along the way, including the International Thriller Writers Award for Best Novel for Killer Instinct and the Barry and Gumshoe Awards for Best Thriller for Company Man.
His first novel The Moscow Club was named by Publishers Weekly as one of the ten best spy thrillers of all time and was published in 30 countries. The acclaimed High Crimes became a film starring Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman. His novels have seen him hailed as “the CEO of suspense”. His latest is the second in the Nick Heller series, Buried Secrets.
Come Dine With Me: Criminal Consequences Dinner
Join the Festival’s Reader-in-Residence Martyn Waites for a delightfully devious dining experience.  With the help of the crime author at your table you’ll join forces with your fellow diners to murder the main, deduce over dessert, and conclude over coffee. Guest authors hosting tables this year include: MC Beaton, Elena Forbes, CJ Box, Anne Zouroudi, Elly Griffiths, Christa Faust and Helen Black.
SPECIAL GUEST EVENT: Lee Child’s ‘Room 101’
He sells a book somewhere in the world every second. He’s as rakishly charismatic as his action hero Jack Reacher. And he’s known as the nicest man in crime. We’ve begun to wonder if Lee Child might just be too good to be true, and so we’ve invited him to reveal his darker side by asking Child to select his crime writing pet hates and make the case for consigning them to Room 101.
You can find out a lot about a person when you know what really gets on their nerves. Get closer to the internationally bestselling author than ever before with the help of Independent columnist Christina Patterson, who will be the gatekeeper Child will need to convince of his choices.
CABARET EVENT: Late Night Quiz
We’re not saying it gets deadly serious, but there are quizzes and then there’s the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival quiz. The crème de la crème of crime fiction fans, authors and publishers show no mercy as they battle it out to prove who the real criminal masterminds are. This is your chance to test your team’s knowledge against some of the best brains in the crime business. Quizmasters Dreda Say Mitchell and Mark Billingham ask the questions to determine who will be waving aloft the coveted cup.
Sunday 24th July
Creating a sense of place so convincing the location becomes almost another character is a trick many authors attempt but few truly master. Four authors who have successfully staked their claim and taken ‘ownership’ of particular locations through their work share the secrets behind capturing a location and rendering it real in words. Laura Wilson (London) will be your tour guide as Anne Zouroudi (Greece), CJ Box (Wyoming), Urban Waite (Seattle), Anne Zouroudi (Greece) and Elly Griffiths (Norfolk) journey through the backdrops that bring their fictional worlds to startling life.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Dennis Lehane worked as a counsellor with mentally handicapped and abused children, waited tables, parked cars, drove limos, worked in bookstores, and loaded tractor-trailers. Now, he can barely write a shopping list without Hollywood optioning it. His New York Times bestsellers include Gone, Baby, Gone; Mystic River; Shutter Island; and The Given Day. Mystic River prompted Elmore Leonard to declare: “Boy, does he know how to write”. The movie of the book, directed by Clint Eastwood won Academy Awards for Sean Penn as Best Actor and Tim Robbins for Best Supporting Actor. Gone Baby Gone starred Morgan Freeman and Ben Affleck and Shutter Island featured Leonardo DiCaprio. To add to his too-cool-for-school status, he also penned three episodes of the acclaimed HBO series, The Wire.
Lehane is interviewed by the acclaimed British author Mark Billingham, whose Thorne series was recently adapted by Sky, starring David Morrissey.
A fantastic line-up.
See you there in July
Keith B Walters


Filed under Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Harrogate 2011

3 responses to “Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival 2011 – The London Launch party and programme.

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