I’m writing this from the absolutely lovely resort town of Harrogate in the UK, where I arrived on Thursday evening. I’m attending the Crime Writing Festival, which is being held at the Crown Hotel.
The hotel is filled with writers, fans and editors from around the world. In fact, one of the first authors I met (on the train up from London) was Johan Theorin, a Swedish author whose books are starting to make a big splash here in the UK.
(As you can see, Johan and I share a love for great beers.)
One of the great aspects of this festival is that each presentation receives the festival’s full attention — there are no simultaneous panels or programs, so that one doesn’t have to sit onstage and look out at a half-empty auditorium. And the panels have been fascinating, although I must confess that it’s taken me a few days to tune in to the various UK accents, which to this American’s ear are sometimes incomprehensible. I found French novelist Michel Benoit’s strong French accent easier to understand than some of the English I’m hearing around here!
Some of the memorable moments that I can recall off the top of my head:
On opening night, panel moderator Natasha Cooper asked each of the panelists onstage: “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” I could almost see the panelists squirming in their chairs as they tried to decide whether to tell the truth.
Friday, on the “True Lies” program, a panel of authors who are also real police officers or attorneys (Nigel McCrery, Charlie Owen, John Connor and Frances Fyfield) described some of the weird real-life cases they’ve experienced. And Charlie Owen, I think it was, spoke of the man who had been in the midst of picking his nose when he had a car accident which drove his finger straight up his nostril and into his brain, killing him. “A case of fatal nose-picking”, as she put it.
Today, a much-anticipated panel called “Bloody Women” played to a packed house. Chelsea Cain, Val McDermid, Simon Beckett and Mark Billingham discussed whether women can get away with more explicit violence in their novels than can men. Because emotions (and opinions) are strong on this topic, we were all expecting male vs. female arguments to break out, but in fact they were all quite civilized. No controversy after all, which led someone to say, “So what’s the argument going to be next year? Big vs small?” Mark Billingham responded with: “Big vs. small what?”
And moderator Stuart MacBride’s hilarious answer: “Mark, come with me into the men’s room and I’ll demonstrate.”