Category Archives: Book events

Framed! At the Penguin Crime Evening.

It’s always wise to tread carefully when invited to Crime Fiction gatherings and events.

DSCF6326You never know when that dagger will be drawn in a dark corner of a room, when your drink might be switched, or worst of all – you get framed in some dodgy photographs.

DSCF6334Such was the case at the otherwise very enjoyable Penguin Crime Evening held recently in London to celebrate their authors and their upcoming titles.

With this solid canon of writers, there’s a lot to look forward from in Penguin Crime books this year:
Nicci Gerrard and Sean French (aka Nicci French)
James Oswald
Felix Francis
Meg Gardiner
Paul Perry and Karen Gillece (aka Karen Perry)
Matthew Frank
Alastair Gunn
Jake Woodhouse



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Harrogate Crime Festival programme is launched !

Last night at the British Library, within the setting of the current A-Z of Crime Writing exhibition, the ‘H is for Hardboiled’ was ignored for one night, replaced by the phrase ‘H is for Harrogate!’.

The full programme and line up for this year’s festival is now up on line – so, go check it out, book loads of tickets and enjoy.

Here’s where to go.



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Creative Thursday at Harrogate !

Aspiring Authors in Life of Crime
Aspiring authors will have the rare chance to pitch their works to some of crime fiction’s most influential names in publishing.
‘Dragons’ Pen’ is the culmination of a day-long creative writing workshop as part of Europe’s biggest celebration of crime fiction, the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival 2013.
The workshop offers the opportunity to pitch concepts to two powerhouse literary agents, Jane Gregory of Gregory and Company and Gordon Wise of Curtis Brown, commissioning editor from Little Brown Jade Chandler, and esteemed publisher Maria Rejt of Pan Macmillan.
Crime is the most lucrative genre. Blockbuster writer Lee Child sells a book a second and the genre dominates our TV and movie screens.
Gemma Rowland, Crime Festival Manager, said: “It’s not surprising then that so many wannabe authors opt for the genre because many probably see it as the equivalent of a lottery ticket, if they get it right, whether it’s commercial or critical acclaim. Everyone thinks they can write crime, it can be formulaic and it can be popular, but in fact to write crime well is a rare skill, which is why our Creative Thursday workshop is in such demand. It’s taught by authors, publishers, agents and editors – so gives a valuable and rare insight into how to really write crime fiction.”
Many of the most successful writers at work today in the genre will feature at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival this July as up to 90 authors gather from around the world including Kate Atkinson, Susan Hill, Ruth Rendell, Ann Cleeves, Lee Child and Ian Rankin.
Creative Thursday precedes the prestigious Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award hosted by broadcaster Mark Lawson and the official opening party for Europe’s biggest celebration of crime fiction.
Attendees will be welcomed by the 2013 programming chair, Val McDermid, before undergoing an intensive exercise-based workshop with Henry Sutton, crime novelist and Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.
A session will also be co-led by Bafta nominated screenwriter MR Hall and former lawyer William Ryan, with an interactive session also on real life crime scenarios from the Forensic Science Society.
2013 Creative Thursday, Thursday 18 July, Time – 9am – 6pm, Price – £99 per person. For more information or to book your place contact the Festival Office on 01423 562 303 or email

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World Book Night 2013 is almost here!

Just today I received an email to advise me that very soon I’ll be able to go and collect my choice of book to give this coming World Book Night – Little Face by Sophie Hannah.

And then, with a resounding second excitable ‘ping’ the following press release arrived – it’s all shaping up to be another great night of celebration of the written word and the chance to once again share the joy of reading.

image004A record year and rising – more authors, poets, libraries, prisons, shelters, schools, nurses, care homes, teenagers, parents and general public, than ever before…

…World Book Night events deliver on 23rd April 2013

On 23rd April 2013 something magical will take place across the country, as the ‘World Book Night Experience’ plays out. Complete strangers will become friends, colleagues will pause and reflect, libraries and bookshops will go the extra mile to ‘stay up late’, and authors of all genres will share their writings and love of the written word with audiences of all ages.

Now in its third year, World Book Night is a celebration of generosity, passion, participation and inclusion, known as the ‘World Book Night Experience’. On 23rd April – UNESCO’s International Day of the Book – many experiences will unfold simultaneously across the UK, the USA and Ireland. With major UK events in Liverpool, London, Edinburgh and beyond, a host of world-renowned writers have given their time – and their books – to inspire regular readers to harness their role as World Book Night ‘Givers’ and help spread a love of reading.

World Book Night’s flagship event will this year be held in Liverpool, where bestselling authors Frank Cottrell Boyce, Jasper Fforde, Philippa Gregory, Jackie Kay, Patrick Ness and Jeanette Winterson take part in a series of free, themed literary sessions at St George’s Hall and the brand new Liverpool Central Library, in association with Liverpool City Council and the BBC. The event features an impromptu Speakers’ Corner, a Book Exchange, Poetry Waiters, a Literary-themed Café and much more.

The second major event will be held at London’s Southbank Centre where World Book Night host Hardeep Singh Kohli will present a glorious night of readings designed to enlighten and entertain, by authors, poets and performers including Sebastian Barry, Tracy Chevalier, Charles Dance, Sarah Dunant, Victoria Hislop, Andrew Motion, Jojo Moyes, Alice Oswald, Elif Shafak, Lemn Sissay, Rupert Thomson and Rose Tremain.

And at Edinburgh Central Library, guests will be treated to thrilling thoughts on writing with No.1 Ladies Detective Agency author Alexander McCall Smith, and a reading by BAFTA-nominated novelist and playwright Lesley Glaister, in conversation with Peggy Hughes (City of Literature).

Jackie Kay, performing in Liverpool, comments: “World Book night strips everything away to the bare essential: the good hearted feeling of a book in your hand, a companion by your side, the best of friends on your road through life.”

Rose Tremain, taking part in London, says: “Lev, the protagonist of THE ROAD HOME, (my novel chosen to join the list of World Book Night titles), has read very few books in his arduous life as a sawmill worker in Eastern Europe. When he comes to England, he’s given a copy of Hamlet by his friend Lydia, whose pedagogical instincts dictate that she work to ‘improve’ his mind. Hamlet is of course way too difficult for a man who has difficulty distinguishing ‘to be or not to be’ from ‘B & B’, but he struggles on with it and eventually finds some affinity with the anguished prince of Denmark. The reading plays a part in opening up and transforming Lev’s life. And this we know from voices around the world: books can transform lives. So let’s hope World Book Night will act as a kind of benign Ponzi scheme for the mighty word.”
Alexander McCall Smith, appearing in Edinburgh, says: “In a world that sometimes seems over-burdened with conflict, World Book Night stands out as a precious beacon. It has two messages: one is that reading is sheer joy and the other is that the act of giving is intrinsically good. I hope this tradition goes on as long as books are made and read.”
World Book Night partner, The Reading Agency, is delighted with the huge efforts libraries have made to be involved again this year, with many authors supporting libraries in hundreds of locations around the country.

Independent charity The Reading Agency has coordinated the input of 2176 libraries across the UK, and supported the creation of a fantastic range of events, including supermarket visits by Amanda Smyth and Mez Parker with Coventry Mobile Library; Jessica Fox supporting Dumfries and Galloway’s Libraries Hit the High Street event; and Miranda Dickinson in Dudley.

Other major library events include Sophie Hannah in Cambridge; Melvin Burgess in Bristol as part of the city’s Britain Writing: Bristol Writing programme; Blake Morrison at a newly refurbished Lewisham Library; an evening of exclusive talks, book giveaways and live music for BookAid featuring Beverley Naidoo, James Mayhew, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst and comedian Natalie Haynes at Canada Water Library Southwark; an Evening of Crime with S J Bolton in Peterborough; Ann Cleeves’ Murder Mystery Evening in Maidstone; Treasure Island themed fun in Gloucestershire; a World Book Night ‘20 books’ inspired pop-up film festival in Tameside; and in the Outer Hebrides books will be transported by Mail Bus, Aeroplane and Ferry to the furthest reaches of the islands, thanks to the dedicated efforts of staff at Lionacleit Library.

Giver applications for World Book Night 2013 hit an all-time high: 23,655 people volunteered to be part of the Experience on April 23rd and from the 20,000 people confirmed as Givers, 54% chose to be involved for the first time. 58% of Givers have chosen to collect their books from a local library.
Also a first this year, World Book Night introduced an application strand for charitable giving enabling more than 2,500 organisations to get books to the hardest to reach sections of society, including 90% of the prison network. 100,000 of the 500,000 books allocated have been ring-fenced for charitable and institutional giving and will be distributed in a host of venues including hospitals, shelters, care homes, community centres and prisons.
World Book Night CEO, Julia Kingsford comments: “From the smallest communities in the Highlands to those in our largest metropolitan centres, World Book Night has an incredible power to unite people from across society. It is amazing to see the passion of the people who come together to share in World Book Night and spread their love of reading.”

Director of The Reading Agency, Miranda McKearney, says: “Where better than your library to celebrate the awesome power of books to connect us to each other? Libraries’ precious presence at the heart of our communities makes us a civilised society and we’re working hard to make sure local people get the chance to experience the excitement of World Book Night in their library.”

This year’s titles are more varied than ever. Prize winners, bestsellers, classic tales, contemporary crime, quick reads and even a graphic novel – there is something for everyone, no matter what their interest or reading ability.

· The twenty World Book Night 2013 titles are:
1. The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry (Faber)
2. Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman (RHCB)
3. Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (HarperCollins)
4. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (Hodder)
5. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming (Vintage)
6. A Little History of the World by E. H. Gombrich (Yale)
7. The White Queen by Philippa Gregory (Simon & Schuster)
8. Little Face by Sophie Hannah (Hodder)
9. Damage by Josephine Hart (Virago)
10. The Island by Victoria Hislop (Headline)
11. Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay (Picador)
12. Last Night Another Soldier… by Andy McNab (Transworld)
13. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (Penguin)
14. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Walker)
15. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink (Orion)
16. No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith (Little, Brown)
17. Treasure Island by R. L. Stevenson (Penguin)
18. The Road Home by Rose Tremain (Vintage)
19. Judge Dredd: The Dark Judges by John Wagner (Rebellion)
20. Why be Happy When You Could be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson (Vintage)


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Europe’s largest celebration of crime writing has announced its headline Special Guest authors, revealing a strong female line-up.

Val McDermid, who chaired the first ever festival in 2003, returns as Programming Chair of the 2013 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate, to mark a ‘Decade of Crime’

Special Guest authors are Jackson Brodie creator Kate Atkinson, Chief Inspector Wexford author Ruth Rendell interviewed by Jeanette Winterson, Charlaine Harris – whose Southern Vampire Mysteries inspired TV’s True Blood and The Woman in Black’s Susan Hill. Men hold their corner with Inspector Rebus creator, Ian Rankin, award-winning crime novelist and poet, William McIlvanney and Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher novels, which recently hit the big screen starring Tom Cruise.

The Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival is hosted at The Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate, where Agatha Christie was famously found in 1926 after her disappearance sparked a national manhunt.  Attendees are invited to join over 80 of the world’s most celebrated crime authors ‘in conversation, in action and in the bar’ from 18 to 21 July.

Val McDermid said: “When I was ‘persuaded’ to chair the Programming Committee for the first festival all those years ago, what tempted me to take it on was the prospect of helping to showcase the range and quality of contemporary crime writing. I know that my passion for this genre is shared by the thousands of readers who have attended our events over the years, and we’ve all had some memorable encounters with those writers who have given us so much delicious, disturbing terror over the years. 2013 will be no different.”

The full programme will be announced over the coming weeks, and individual tickets and rovers will go on sale in the spring. You can secure your place at the Festival now by booking a Weekend Break Package, which includes 3 nights’ bed and breakfast accommodation and a weekend rover ticket, giving you access to all Festival events. To book your Weekend Package call the Festival Office on 01423 562303.

Keep up to date with all the latest news and programme announcements at and on Twitter @TheakstonsCrime

The Festival will be releasing details of participating authors every day on their website and through Twitter in the run up to the full programme being announced.

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Friday at Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival

9am saw another very busy room at the start of the first full day at this year’s festival.  Special guest John Connolly seems to always draw a good crowd and rightly so.  His double-act with festival Chair Mark Billingham is always good value and this was no exception.  Covering the author’s highly popular Charlie Parker series, his standalone work (in particular The Book of Lost Things which Billingham confessed brought him to tears) and even the recent film adaptation of his short story The New Daughter to film with Kevin Costner, this was a great event to kick start Friday.

Advice from John Connolly for any new writers in the audience was to ‘write your books in the privacy of your bedroom – like other solo activities!

There’s a excellent piece on John Connolly’s other passions at We Love this Book, here.

The next panel I sat in on was ‘Crime in Another Dimension’ in which authors discussed the different setting and timelines in which ‘crime’ fiction can still work. Chaired by David Quantick, who described typewriters to a confused panel as being ‘like an iPad but made of metal!’ Full of comedy and interesting insights; Christopher Fowler revealed that there is a nose within Admiralty Arch (possibly for Policemen to rest their spectacles on) and Stuart MacBride talked about the current trend for ‘mash-ups’ with the possibility raised that he would one day bring us ‘Winnie the Pooh and the Silence of the Piglets!’

The early afternoon panel ‘Wanted for Murder: The E-Book’ was always going to stir up emotions within the panel and audience, but I don’t think anyone quite expected the resultant friction that was created by a barrage of seemingly self-sacrificing  comments from Stephen Leather on the panel.  Twitter was on fire with each comment made and resultant responses and this is something that, one week on, is still gaining momentum as the debate continues on social networking sites.

If you missed out, then probably the best report on the panel can be found here ‘Mark Billingham goes Hell for Leather.’

The ‘America’s got Talent’ panel was another great sit-in, with chair John Connolly setting off to ridicule Chris Mooney at every opportunity during introductions (something he took in very good humour).  Connolly seemed at pains to abuse the US panel at every possibility with the comment ‘What the Hell is wrong with you people?!’ but there was a clear mutual respect throughout the conversation. This was despite the fact that one member of the panel, Ryan David Jahn, clearly upset writers on the stage and in the audience by declaring that he loves deadlines and when faced with one he can often achieve up to 12,000 words a day!  The audience were also very pleased to hear from rising star, Gillian Flynn, that she is currently writing a screenplay for her breakthrough novel Gone Girl.

At 10pm the room became the location for ‘The Drinking Detectives’ pub’ – a great setting complete with pub sign and bar with working pumps to enable Ian Rankin and Peter Robinson to sit and chat in their perfect environment.  This was a return after 10 years for the authors to share a pint and discuss their work and their characters on stage.  Introduced by Mark Billingham, who poured their first pints, sorted out their crisps and then left them to it, this was a very entertaining late night discussion full of wonderful anecdotes and news.  Robinson declared that when it comes to people’s perception of Alan Banks on screen, there is only ONE Banks and he is in his mind.  Rankin is often asked if McCafferty is alive or dead and he simply stated that he is in the upcoming new Rebus book ‘Standing in another Man’s Grave’ –  a title based on a misheard Jackie Leven song title.  Rankin himself admitted that he had mis-credited a song ‘I can see clearly now’ to Marvin Gaye in his novel ‘Black and Blue’ whereas it should have been Jimmy Cliff, but he has left it in all editions as a self-punishment for his error.

When asked if there have been many changes in the last 10 years, Robinson stated that there are now too many new writers!

When discussing old jobs, Rankin described himself as the ‘Schindler of the chicken farm’ as he would often save some male chicks from the gas chamber.

Discussion turned to the ’50 Shades of Grey’ phenomena – with Rankin quipping ‘I’ve read Jilly Cooper, why would I read 50 Shades…?’

Pausing only briefly halfway through to pour themselves a second pint, this was a great hour’s entertainment and the only panel where an author (Rankin) has been heard to ask that not too many people come and get their books signed afterwards – as he was keen to get home for a Dr John concert the next day 🙂


(photos copyright Tim Cook).

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Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award

Launching at its customary 8pm on Thursday night slot, it was a packed house for the opening night of the 10th Anniversary of the biggest crime writing festival in Europe and the 2012 Crime Novel of the Year Award ceremony.

Opened by festival Chief Executive Sharon Canavar, this was a vintage year for the gathered crowd with a great final shortlist of six great crime books and their authors up for the prize – a really tough one to call.  I felt especially pleased and sorry (in equal doses) for the team at Orion publishers who had two authors on the shortlist, so I’m sure there were some serious ups and downs during the evening for them.

Simon Theakston, Executive Director at T&R Theakston, took to the stage to talk about the company’s proud and continued sponsorship with the festival and to make as many tenuous, and often humorous, links as he could to the brewery and its association with the world of crime writing. He closed by warning us that in the party bar after the awards the festival-only brew of ‘Crime of Passion’ would once again be available if we wanted to take our chances with a brew that had a distinct hint of almonds (or was that arsenic?) contained within.

Top arts broadcaster Mark Lawson was back again this year to introduce each shortlisted author and their book to the stage (with the exception of Chris Brookmyre who, in true Oscars style was unable to attend as he was in Australia).  Lawson began proceedings by saying that the security of the festival was being handled by G4S and that they had been under pressure to ensure that some Olympic-themed activities took place during the festival this year: This was to include such events as Beach Volleyball with ValMcDermid and Tania Carver!

Lawson refused to let slip anything about the recipient of this year’s lifetime achievement award until it was time for that part of the show, saying he wouldn’t let anything slip in code, not even in Morse code….!

With Chris Brookmyre absent, his book: Where the Bodies Are Buried, was introduced by Lawson and his prize for being shortlisted was collected by his publishers, and then each author in turn came to the stage to collect their shortlist prize and to talk briefly about their novel.

SJ Bolton for Now You See Me.

John Connolly for The Burning Soul.

Denise Mina for The End of the Wasp Season.

Steve Mosby for Black Flowers.

SJ Watson for Before I Go to Sleep.

But, before it was time to announce the winner, it was time to unveil the winner of the lifetime achievement award and a swift standing ovation followed the news as Inspector Morse creator Colin Dexter took to the stage.

In scenes akin to seeing PD James collect her own award last year for the same, Dexter was aided to the stage but, once in place behind the lectern, he was wonderful speaker, full of passion, great humour and gave a very moving speech ending with thanks to the ‘happy band of crime writers’.

And then it was time for the announcement of the Crime Novel of the Year……which went to a very shocked (so shocked she couldn’t even swear) Denise Mina for The End of the Wasp Season.

A great opening to a great weekend – following which many went to sample the ‘Crime of Passion’ and, although I didn’t do a headcount, I think we all made it through to the next morning…..


(all photos Copyright: Tim Cook)


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My Timeline for the 2012 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival

I felt the need to put this together from my notebook scraps for two reasons.

Firstly, to serve as an aid of sorts to remind me where the hell I was for four days so that I can get some grip on just how they flew by so quickly and to hopefully enable me to start to construct something worthwhile from my notes over the forthcoming days.

Secondly, by way of an apology for the fact that conversations with friends both old and new were often brief (to say the least) and for me constantly referring to my watch and diary in a fashion which must, at times, had the appearance of some crackpot trainspotter rushing away at the sudden news of a rare carriage pulling in at another platform.

All that said, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, loved the ‘full-on’ crime festival experience and can only praise Erica Morris, Sharon Canavar and their team, the Riot Communications team and this year’s Chair, Mark Billingham, for such a fantastic tenth year of the festival.

I’m all set to book accommodation for the 2013 festival and to buy a bigger suitcase for that one, it was a squeeze with those books for the return trip!  So, here’s a copy of my schedule – I hope to fill in any blanks and more detail as soon as poss in future blogs:

Thurs 19th July

9.00am – Leave home and walk to the station.

9.28am – Train to London Victoria.

10.17am – Tube to Kings Cross.

11.00am – Train to York.

1.11pm – Train from York to Harrogate

1.43 – Arrive at Harrogate

2-ish – Check into Bed & Breakfast, unpack, shower, get set for the launch day.

4pm – Meet @milorambles at his Hotel reception and head into town for a sit down at Betty’s tea rooms

5pm – Meet lots of twitter friends old and new (far too many to mention) in Wetherspoons pub for drinks.

6pm – Head to The Old Swan Hotel, collect passes/tickets and chat to the Riot Communications team and the Festival team.

7pm – Drinks in the bar with the Vintage/Harvill Secker/Random House team and their authors.

8pm – The Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award and Opening night party.

Remain in the bar and around the festival hotel until around 1.30am.

Slow walk back to the B&B, get things ready for the next day and type a very brief blog.

Friday 20th July

7am – up and getting ready

8am -Breakfast, blog a press release for Transworld’s latest author, walk back to The Old Swan.

9am – John Connolly on stage interviewed by Mark Billingham

10am – I interview Arne Dahl in the Library and then get a photo shoot with him courtesy of his good lady wife.

10.45am – Creep in late to the 10.30 panel, Crime in Another Dimension.

11.30am – I interview Jason Webster in the Library (worth noting that ‘The Library’ is the only room in the hotel that didn’t have a single book).

Had to miss the Drawing the Line Panel due to overlapping things.

12.30 – Lunch with Orion new crime fiction authors A.J. Cross, Harry Bingham and Mark Peterson (manage to spill lovely orange sauce on my white shirt whilst there).

2pm – Wanted for Murder – The eBook panel. (I’m sure you’ve all already read lots on that one….)

3pm – Took a break to return to B&B, shower and change and write another brief blog post.

5pm – America’s Got Talent panel chaired by John Connolly.

6pm –  Drinks reception with Hodder authors and team in the ‘Red Room’ (which was green and white, but not red at all….)

8.00pm – Drinks reception with Little Brown authors and team (plus a host of others) in the Spiegeltent on the green.

Overlapping events meant I missed the Kate Mosse event.

10pm – Ian Rankin and Peter Robinson on stage together (with pints pulled and crisps supplied by Mark Billingham).

11pm – To the bar area until around 2.30am.

Saturday 21st

8am -Breakfast and walk to the Old Swan.

9am- Peter James interviewed by Paul Blezard.

10am – coffee break !

10.30am-The Golden Age panel.

11.30am – I interview Ryan David Jahn in three locations in a 25 minute period.

12noon – New Blood panel chaired by Val McDermid.

1pm – I interview Stuart Neville in the Media Suite.

1.45pm – Visited Mr Beaumont at another part of the main festival which Sharon Canavar directed me to, to discuss a favourite music track. (missing the Deadlier than the Male panel) then took the opportunity to have a few relaxed chats in the bar area and to intake a sandwich and yet more coffee.

3.30pm – A Donkey in the Grand National panel.

4.30pm – Coffee !

5pm – Luther panel chaired by Miranda Sawyer

6pm – I interview Oliver Harris in the Media Suite

6.45pm – Bat out of hell run back to B&B, shower, change for the evening, meet @milorambles at his hotel reception by 7.15pm.

7.30pm-Drinks at the Henley Vineyards Room at Hotel Du Vin with Transworld authors and their team ahead of dinner at 8pm, meaning missing Harlan Coben in discussion with Laura Lippman.

9.45pm – Head back to The Old Swan.

10pm- The Late Night Quiz and the fantastic news that Suzi Holliday on our team won a major prize in the raffle – she will be a character in the next Peter James novel!  Almost made up for the fact that we didn’t win the quiz 🙂

11pm – The hotel bar until around 2am then walked back to B&B.

2.15am-started packing

3am – fell asleep

Sunday 22nd July

6am-woke and finished packing.

8am- breakfast with suitcase by my side.

8.30am – Left the B&B – walked back to The Old Swan

9am – I interview Deon Meyer in the Green Room/Penthouse.

10am – 50 Words for Murder panel chaired by Sir Barry of Forshaw.

11am – coffee !

11.30am – Jo Nesbo interviewed by Mark Lawson.

12.30am – The chance to see a few friends, old and new, on the lawn outside the hotel, oh, and coffee.

1.15pm – I interview Jo Nesbo in the Library (and still not a book in the place…)

1.45pm – A few goodbyes in the bar and then head off to walk to the station.

Train delayed until 15.25 – Go in search of coffee and a sandwich and catch up on twitter activity.

15.25pm – Lots of familiar faces pile on the train to Leeds and I get a chance to finally have a good natter with David Jackson and with David Hewson’s editor en route.

Leeds – change for train to Kings Cross. Unpack laptop and make a start on my crime novel, 1200 words in my eyes are telling me that’ll do for the day.

Kings Cross to Victoria by tube.

Victoria mainline to my local station.

Home at 8pm.


But all such excellent fun – more soon….


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Harrogate Hitlist: Strangeness on a Train by Julia Crouch

A cracking short train-based read by author of Cuckoo and Every Vow You Break, Julia Crouch, created on her ‘Writer in Residence’ journey with East Coast from London to Harrogate.

The perfect read for your own trip to the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival which starts this Thursday.  You can download it here for free.  I couldn’t wait until Thursday’s train journey to read it – and, now I have, I am slightly nervous of discovering my seat might be opposite Julia’s on her way to Harrogate !

Julia Crouch is taking part in the ‘Deadlier Than The Male’ panel at this year’s festival.


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Harrogate Hitlist: Ayo Onatade on Festivals, Festivals and more Festivals

In less than a week, I shall be making the journey from South London up to Harrogate. It is not my first trip to Harrogate for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Festival but after a four-year break in my attendance 2012 will make it my second year back.

Am I looking forward to it? Yes, I am for a number of reasons. However, I shall get back to that in a moment.

As much as Harrogate is the talk of Twittersphere at the present time, it is not the only festival, conference (or whatever you would like to call it) in town. From May to September, there are four events that take place in the UK.

Surprisingly not one of them takes place in London. As a Londoner, I would love this to be remedied but it won’t stop be from attending events taking place outside London.

The first event that starts the “crime fiction season” off is CrimeFest, which takes place in Bristol. It is unlike Harrogate. Firstly, they have multi-track panels that take place and these are also interspersed with interviews with the various guest of honour. There is also a gala dinner on the Saturday night. The last event that takes place, which has become a standing room only event, is Criminal Mastermind, which is based on the BBC programme Mastermind but with those taking part choosing a specialist crime fiction topic in the first round before going on to answering general questions on crime fiction. This year the topics included the Richard Stark’s Parker novels, Dashiell Hammett, the Albert Campion novels of Margery Allingham and UK debut crime novels since 2010. It an immensely fun event and one does get to hang around and talk to authors and readers. As per usual, the best place to hang out is the bar.

The next event on the “crime fiction season list” is of course Old Peculier Crime Festival in Harrogate, which takes place in July. This event is totally different from Bristol and for good reason. Unlike at CrimeFest where they have parallel tracks running everyone is in the same big room together. It does create an atmosphere of camaraderie, which is always very welcoming. In addition, the fact that they have a different Chair each year makes one realise that each year the Festival will be different as it goes without saying that the Chair’s influence on the invited authors will always be seen by those authors that are taking part in the panels, alongside those in attendance. It is hard to judge between Harrogate and CrimeFest, as they are two totally different events and I would not like to make comparisons, as they are both extremely good events. One thing that both CrimeFest and Harrogate have in common though is that they both have a quiz night and of course as with most events of this sort, the best place is to be is in the bar! Late nights are de rigueur at any event so make sure that you have detoxed before you arrive.

The third event is St Hilda’s Crime and Mystery Conference, which takes place every August at St Hilda’s College, Oxford. This is a conference, which is very different to CrimeFest and Harrogate. It is a lot more academic. Every year a theme is decided upon (the theme for the following year is announced on the last day of the conference that has just taken place) and authors that are invited to give a paper must use the theme as the background to their paper. According to Kate Charles, it is by taking soundings from speakers and attendees over the weekend that a decision is made as to the theme for the following year. Over the years, St Hilda’s as it is fondly called has always had a wide variety of Chairs for the conference and these have included Val McDermid, NJ Cooper and Andrew Taylor.

St Hilda’s is organised by crime writer Kate Charles and Eileen Roberts. This year the theme is Humour in Crime Fiction. St Hilda’s is the longest running of the crime events that take place in the UK it was started in 1994. St Hilda’s is lots of fun and with everyone staying in the rooms on the grounds; it is always as if you have snuck away for a weekend back at school. It can at times be intimidating (I mean, you have to stand up in a room of around 100 people and give a paper and then answer questions as well) and the attendees know their stuff, so any thought of coming unprepared will give you a rude shock. I have always found it to be fun (I should actually say that I found giving my first paper rather intimidating) and have now given I believe four papers at St Hilda’s. Crossing Boundaries(2004), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Characters in Crime Fiction(2005), The Past Becomes The Present (2008) and more recently in 2011 Anatomy of Justice: Life Along The Judicial Corridor. Staying at St Hilda’s is a bit disconcerting as you sometimes forget that you are in Oxford. When you look out of the window of the room that you are staying in (or in my case the room I tend to stay in) you find yourself in an oasis of calm with the River Cherwell flowing past your window. Drinking does go on and whilst St Hilda’s does not have a bar, everyone tends to bring a bottle or two into the Senior Common Room and stay up late chatting and drinking!

Lastly and no means least is the Reading Festival of Crime. This has been going on for the last three years in and around Reading. The events are mainly held in the Town Hall and local libraries as well as Reading Museum. Unfortunately, unless I am going blind, I can’t seem to find any information about the event this year. This is sad, as over the years they have had some rather good panels and authors in attendance.

Interspersed with the above there is also the brilliant Crime in the Court, which is only in its second year but has already garnered a loyal following and also Bodies in The Bookshop, which is hosted by Richard Reynolds of Heffers Bookshop in Cambridge.

Best thing about attending any of these events? Catching up with friends, finding out about new authors and books and what is going on in the world of crime and mystery fiction.

Going back to my earlier comment above, I am very much looking forward to Harrogate this year, (whether I am hanging around inside or outside), in the bar or sitting in on an event. The line-up this year is fantastic. What can one say, Laura Lippman, Megan Abbott, Val McDermid, Mark Billingham, John Connolly, Harlan Coben, Mari Hannah, Chris Ewan, Lynn Shepherd….. The list is endless. However, I have got to admit that the two authors that I am looking forward to seeing again are Laura Lippman and Megan Abbott and the one author that I am looking forward to meeting for the first time is Ben Aaronovitch whose books I started to read this year and have devoured.

The opportunity to chat, discuss crime writing, defend books, drink and have a wonderful time is all part and parcel of why events like these are so important and delightful to attend. You never know what news you are going to pick up or what new author/book will be recommended.

I’m off to prepare myself for four days of criminal mayhem see you all there!

Ayo Onatade

A big thank you to Ayo for taking the time to drop by – you can read her excellent regular crime fiction reviews and reporting at and at


Filed under Book events