We’ll always have Harrogate!

2013 marked my second year attending the Theakston Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate.

I remember I had first heard about the festival from Mark Billingham, who had told me the festival was not to be missed and the event for everyone who loved crime fiction.

So, ever since last year I was looking forward to go back to Harrogate. To meet with the wonderful people that I had been introduced to last year and to hopefully get to know a few new faces.

The buzz that is tangible all around at Harrogate is hard to describe. It kind of fills each pore and fibre of the body with the creativity and the happiness of the people present – like a huge alien gathering where they are all seemingly connected.

Harrogate is actually what most people wish school should have been like – a Hogwarts for the creative. No matter if you are a reader, an absolute beginner in writing, debut author, agent, publisher, long time bestselling author, no one feels out of place at Harrogate and everybody is welcome to the big family. Mind you, even such a festival has the occasional wankers showing up but those were only minor glitches in the wonderful matrix that is Harrogate.

I loved hearing the attendees, mostly British, complain about the ‘heat’ which was only like 25 Celsius and the lack of air condition while at home in Germany we had over 30 degrees and no air con either.

I was proud that Harrogate had a special panel this year titled Dead in Deutschland, as thrillers are really big over here. Barry Forshaw talked to Nele Neuhaus, Jan Costin Wagner, Sebastian Fitzek and the very funny Dane Jussi Adler-Olsen who entertained the audience very well. Whoever sat in that panel will never forget Fitzek’s story about an additional chapter suddenly showing up in one of his books, courtesy of the translator in Italy!

The air was much clearer and less vile this year without a certain ladyboy shagger present but somehow the aftermath of how he-who-shouldn’t-be-named behaved last year (and unfortunately still does) echoed strongly in the panel titled ‘Social Media: Who Are You?’ and also still hung in the air being discussed amongst the visitors of the festival.

Two other panels I attended this year were dedicated to James Bond, one of my heroes since my childhood days! Well, maybe not so much during the era of Roger Moore, as Moore portrayed him too comically for my taste making Bond some kind of British Frank Drebin instead of a MI6 agent.

‘Fleming Fans’ was scheduled Friday at 10 pm and I was disappointed how few people attended and missed this great panel. Maybe it was the late time combined with the heat that everyone who had already sat in the panels during the day had just wanted to get out and enjoy a cold drink. They didn’t know what they were missing. The five dapper gents that are Charles Cumming, Gregg Hurwitz, David Mark, J.J. Connolly and Jonathan Freedland went on stage in best Bond mode all looking sharp in tuxes and holding an obligatory vodka martini – shaken, not stirred I might add! The panel centred around the origins of Bond, the background of its creator Ian Fleming and how Bond has developed during the years with the different actors lending Bond a face on screen.

One of the funniest moments surely was when American Gregg Hurwitz was talking about laserdiscs, looking at Charles Cumming, asking ‘I don’t know if you’ve had those here’ to which Brit Cumming dryly replied ‘You know, we even have electricity here!’, a perfect moment for Hurwitz to snap ‘Yeah, but no air condition’, for which Hurwitz received general applause and lots of laughter from the heat-stricken audience.

cumming hurwitz     panel fleming fans

David Mark, who has become quite an expert on Ian Fleming and James Bond, and Tom Wood chaired a wonderful reader’s group talking about Casino Royale, his creator Fleming and what the character of Bond means to the British in general, being a national hero and treasure albeit he never existed. Thanks, by the way, to the woman sleeping in the back during the talk that she had the grace not to snore!

I had the great pleasure of meeting almost all of my favourite people from last year again. Unfortunately some I only chatted to very briefly whereas I had the pleasure of molesting others with my bullshit more frequently.

I am incredibly proud that Gregg Hurwitz recognised me as the fellow Batman geek from last year.

Gregg_Nic     wulf_paul

I also got a photo sandwich with two of my favourite thriller authors, Kiwi Paul Cleave and German Wulf Dorn who enjoyed his first time ever at the festival.

Special thanks goes to one of the coolest men ever, Kevin Wignall, who happens to be a great author too. He has the most incredible stories to tell and is a cornucopia of jokes and ludicrous ideas. My face actually hurt from all the laughing I did in his presence.

I was incredibly happy to have a chance to chat a bit longer this year to the lovely Mel Sherratt, a woman who showed the publishing world the meaning of girl power and who finally – and very well deserved – managed to reap the fruits of her labour! Whoever met Mel knows exactly what a great and sparkling personality she is!

Special thanks to all the wonderful people that were kind enough to put up with my bullshit this year and still not had me admitted to an asylum! Paul, Wulf, Gregg, Kevin, Mel, Tom, Will Carver, Simon Kernick, Sarah Pinborough, Jamie Lee Nardone, Charlie Cumming (bless him, the charmer called me a lady!), Cath Bore, Dave Jackson, Nick Quantrill, Luca Veste (see you on stage on a panel next year?!), Steve Mosby (he’ll be programming chair of next year’s festival – I have utter faith in you, Steve!), Mark Billingham, David Mark and his fabulous wife Nicola, Margaret Murphy, Rebecca Bradley, Martin J. Frankson and Janet O’Kane who I almost missed during the whole festival, and the encylopedic and truly wonderful Pam McIlroy (aye, your sweetness!). I finally got to meet crime ladies Mari Hannah and Anya Lipska but our chats were far too brief, but we’ll always have next year! Miles & Keith, you were thoroughly missed this year and I am looking forward to seeing you in 2014! Apologies to all of you that I forgot to name, it is owed to old age and my brain basically turns mushier with each passing day! To all of you who have been published yet I wish you success and soaring book sales! To all the ones who still try I wish you strength and perseverance!

steve tom kevin simon    N_D_M_P_N

dave-margaret   steve me

For anyone looking for a great hotel with beautiful refurbished rooms and wonderful bathrooms I’d definitely recommend the Studley Hotel in Harrogate, close to the Old Swan. They make a great breakfast (and they have air con in the breakfast room, yay!). The only thing you’ll have to get used to are the motion activated sensors in the bathroom which made me stand up and give a wave more than once while doing a ‘number two’! I’d also like to get it right that I didn’t book a room in the Studley hotel just because it features the word ‘stud’ as I have been wrongly accused by Tom Wood. Tom also knighted me ‘honorary Brit’ – to me that is worth more than an OBE!

A special thanks goes to author Val McDermid and the programming committee for a truly great job! Kudos to you all!

The feeling after the festival ended can basically only be described as a plunge into depression and near suicidal. I think the word ‘harroloss’ is already a medical term acknowledging the dark times of the soul until next year’s festival beckons.

Fuck the Oscars – we’ll always have Harrogate! (Which is much better anyway!)