In the early afternoon of July 20th this year I stood on the porch of the Royal Baths in Harrogate having taken shelter underneath the roof as the clouds kept pouring down with heavy rain. My first thought then was Even heaven is crying that it’s over.
This rare poetic outburst probably had something to do with going cold turkey in the aftermath of having enjoyed four days of literary mayhem at the tenth edition of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.
It has been my third year attending the festival and I must say it has become an event not to be missed.
It was wonderful to be welcomed by huge letters depicting ‘READ’ at the Old Swan Hotel – a truly great touch and it perfectly sums up what the festival is all about: reading, books, authors and the written word in general.
The few days never seem to be enough time to attend panels, to meet with old friends and to make new acquaintances, no matter how long the nights stretch into mornings.
Speaking of panels, I am ashamed to say I managed to attend very few this year and even missed some I had been really interested in.
The Good Old Days panel was surely one that attracted a lot of interest. Mel Sherratt, Mari Hannah, Mark Edwards and James Oswald discussed their different paths towards publication. While Martyn Waites proved that he is crap taking selfies he surely was a great host for the panel. The crowd applauded Mari Hannah when she showed the agents and publishers that had deemed her not good enough to be published the middle finger! That was a sure highlight of the festival and an incentive for authors trying to be published to persevere and not to give up. Also, the ongoing discussion about traditional publishing versus self-publishing will keep providing enough substance for many moons to come.
David Mark hosted the Keeping It Real panel and he found the perfect balance between seriousness and humour in dealing with the mostly grim subject. Chris Carter, Stuart Neville, Stav Sherez and Tim Weaver discussed if it was acceptable to use crimes that happened in real life as a source for a story. The general consensus about that matter was that real crimes are often much more abominable than writers would dare to put it in their books. Chris Carter told the audience about crime scenes he had witnessed where murders had taken place without any substantial reason whatsoever. He recalled a crime where a man had thrown first his baby and afterwards his girlfriend out of a window simply because he wanted to watch his football game in peace. He stated that an author could never get away with using something like that as a motive as the readers would never buy it – however true it might be! General experience seems to prove that the less intelligent someone is the more prone those people are in using violence as an answer. Basically that means discuss with an intelligent person and all you may get is your head spinning but discuss with someone stupid and if he can’t win an argument he might just go ahead and stab you – so choose your friends wisely!
One of the major events this year for many of the attendants was a rare appearance of J.K. Rowling as Robert Galbraith talking with Val McDermid and afterwards signing her new novel The Silkworm.
Even though my body was not fully functioning due to an alien infection that had taken over my body I was adamant to make the best of the festival. If you ever wondered where the ‘germ’ in German comes from, well, there you have it!
Thanks to a wonderful Mark Billingham who took his time to chat with me and to call my poor sickly husband, who had abandoned me in favour of his sick bed, a ‘pussy’. I was flabbergasted when he asked me, after looking at my wrist, ‘Is that a Toywatch?’ I simply couldn’t guess what Mark could possibly know about Toywatches but the answer to that mystery was obvious as his daughter likes that brand too.
The conversations at an event like Harrogate are mostly fun, sometimes epic and every now and then even profound. I got into a politically very incorrect and hilarious conversation about a documentary showing a granny working as an escort! I discussed eighties horror in depth spanning from the Friday the 13th slasher movies to Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci. And I was happy to finally personally meet Stav Sherez, whose hair had suffered from the mugginess during the festival as much as mine!
The idea of putting up a tent on the lawn outside the Old Swan Hotel including bar was a truly wonderful idea as the weather in Britain – even if they call the season ‘summer’ – is hardly trustworthy. And a big thanks goes to all the lovely people working so hard up front and in the background to make the festival yet again a truly memorable event.
The biggest thank you however is reserved for this year’s chair Steve Mosby, who is not only an excellent writer but who also organised a memorable programme together with the committee members. Steve seemed the epitome of relaxed during the festival though how much he was panicking inwardly might never be revealed.
Many hugs to the wonderful and merciful friends, old and new, authors and professionals, who weren’t put off by my germs and took their time to chat with me and who made this year’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival such a cool event! I hope I didn’t infect any of you! You are all great, I wanna have babies with you all! You are legion to name you all personally and I’d be damned if I missed someone accidentally so I won’t even bother to try. You know who you are!! Hope to see you all again next year!
How long until summer 2015????