Daily Archives: July 13, 2012

Harrogate Hitlist: David Jackson on his first trip to the festival in 2011

Last year was my first time at Harrogate.

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.

Keith

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Harrogate Hitlist: Mark Edwards & Louise Voss on their favourite crime fiction

Very pleased to have Mark Edwards drop by today on the blog to tell us a little about his first Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival appearance and to reveal his favourite crime fiction reads along with those of his writing partner, Louise Voss.

Many thanks to both for their time:

This year will be my first year at Harrogate and over the last few weeks I have been watching festival veterans work themselves into a foaming frenzy of anticipation. There has been a lot of talk about boozing, lots of promises of meet-ups; everybody tells me it’s the best thing ever. I can’t wait!

My writing partner Louise Voss and I will be appearing alongside Mari Hannah, who has already appeared on this blog so I won’t repeat what she said. But, like Mari, Louise and I had a long, hard slog – with more ups and down’s and emotional highs and lows than an X Factor winner’s ‘journey’ – to get to the point where we are now.

Most people know that we had a self-published No.1 on Kindle. That opened doors for us which led to our deal with HarperCollins. But before that there were many years of trying and never-quite-getting-there. You can read the whole journey, from my perspective, here: From being left on the shelf, to being on the shelf.

The panel we are taking part in at Harrogate is called Success Stories. That’s great, and when you are a struggling writer, trying to get that deal, you become so fixated on finding a publisher that you often don’t see beyond that except in misty fantasies of CWA Gold Dagger acceptance speeches and moving in next door to JK Rowling.

But finding a publisher is only one step on the way towards success. I still feel like we have a very long way to go – to establish ourselves, to find readers, to be able to relax and enjoy it. The most important part of that is to build up a body of work that you are proud of and that people want to read. That’s what it’s all about – not being a flash in the pan or a one-hit wonder; it’s about having a backlist that can compete with the best.

Catch Your Death and Killing Cupid – our stalker novel; the first novel Louise and I wrote together, that finally comes out in paperback on August 2nd, ten years after we started writing it – are just the first steps in what will hopefully be a proper success story.

If you’re going to Harrogate, especially Creative Thursday, hopefully we’ll see you there. Please come and say hello. We want the opportunity to hand out some of the pretty business cards we’ve had made specially!

In the meantime, in honour of the theme of success stories, we have chosen our ten favourite crime novels – five each. Books that have inspired us and made us want to be better writers. Maybe you could leave a comment and let us know if you agree or disagree with our choices.

Mark’s top five

Mo Hayder – The Treatment Easily the most terrifying book I’ve ever read, made even more intensely scary by the fact that it’s set near where I used to live, and I’d see the flats where the killer lived every morning on my way to work. A psychopath takes a family prisoner and does unspeakable things to them. Then there’s the sub-plot featuring the brother of the hero, Jack Caffrey. The ending is perhaps the cruelest ever written. Read it if you dare. Just don’t expect to sleep much afterwards.

Michael Connelly – The Concrete Blonde Connelly’s Harry Bosch books must be the most consistently-brilliant series out there. Bosch is such a great character, the Clint Eastwood of the LAPD. It’s hard to choose a favourite but this was the one that made me most breathless with excitement. You know when you are so immersed in a book that it feels like you are inhaling the words? That’s what it feels like reading The Concrete Blonde.

Natsuo Kirino – Out  Another darkly disturbing shocker, this one. A downtrodden Japanese factory worker accidentally kills her husband, then enlists some of her friends to help cover it up. I used to live in Japan and this book perfectly captures the side of that country you don’t usually see. It’s not all neon and Hello Kitty. This is a cold, chilling read and utterly gripping.

Jason Starr – The Follower  Jason Starr deserves to be far, far more famous than he is. He has written a series of standalone novels, most of which feature a guy who makes a stupid mistake, then more stupid mistakes, and watches his life spin completely out of control. The Follower is slightly different – it’s about a woman and her stalker. And as well as being extremely fast-paced it’s very funny. Starr is now writing werewolf novels which are also great, but his earlier crime books are all, without exception, brilliant.

George Pelecanos – Drama City  Another American writer, which makes me feel a bit guilty, as I haven’t mentioned some of my favourite British authors like Peter James and Val McDermid. But Pelecanos is the master. If I met him I would have to do that whole ‘I’m not worthy’ thing and lie at his feet. He is a genius. As with Connelly and Starr, it’s so hard to pick a favourite but Drama City has it all. The central character is the US equivalent of an RSPCA officer, trying to go straight while caught up in DC’s drug wars. If you like The Wire you will love this. The fact this got a 1 star review on Amazon renders all Amazon reviews meaningless. Over to Louise for her top five:

Kate Atkinson – Case Histories (or any of her Jackson Brodie novels).  I’ve loved KA since Behind the Scenes at the Museum in 1995. Jackson is a British version of Jack Reacher, and the sexiest fictional detective I can think of. I fancy him something rotten!

Tana French – The Likeness I really enjoy French’s robust characters and unexpectedly poetic narrative. The premise of this book is ludicrously far-fetched, yet I was able to suspend my disbelief entirely. It reminded me a bit of A Secret History (which I bet is on Mark’s list! No, I decided it’s not strictly a crime novel, though it is the best book ever written – Mark)

Peter James – Dead Like You  A consummate storyteller, I think James’s strength lies in the way he uses a third person narrative so effectively- all his characters, even the fairly minor ones, are so brilliantly drawn. I could have picked any of the Roy Grace novels but this one really stuck in my mind (it’s ‘the one with the shoes’!).

Emlyn Rees – The Hunted  A masterclass (am typing this on my phone and four times my predictive text has insisted that says ‘master lass’) in writing pace and tension – such a page-turner.

Elizabeth Haynes – Into the Darkest Corner  The crime novels I enjoy most are those that can combine a cracking pace with complex, believable characters in extreme or unusual situations. I’m not a big fan of extremely violent books in which people get imaginatively tortured. Mark writes all those bits in ours! I think the characterisation in ITDC is great.

Killing Cupid (which Peter James called “astonishingly good”) will be published in paperback on August 2nd and is already available as on eBook. Catch Your Death is also available as a paperback and ebook. Both will be available in shops from August 2nd as a Buy One Get One Free bundle. Visit www.vossandedwards.com for more, or like our Facebook page for news of an online book club chat about Killing Cupid www.facebook.com/vossandedwards

Many thanks to Mark and Louise for some top selections there and for their time to drop by.

Keith

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