Top Moments 2015: #ChipLitFest

Lee Child (c) Aston Photography

Lee Child (c) Aston Photography

Last weekend I went to ChipLitFest 2015, the Chipping Norton Literary Festival, to see some of the wonderful crime writing events they had on.

It was my first visit to this festival, so bright and early (well, nine-thirtyish anyway) I met up with author Helen Giltrow outside the fabulous Jaffé and Neale Bookshop & Café where we grabbed a quick coffee before the start of the events.

First up was Lee Child in conversation with Mark Billingham – two writers at the top of their game. The packed out event in Chipping Norton Theatre passed in a flash as they talked about Lee’s love of Aston Villa, the origins of Reacher and the latest book – PERSONAL – that’s new out in paperback. It also sounds like there’s a new Reacher film based on the book NEVER GO BACK in the pipeline, with production starting in the autumn. It was a great event, with Lee and Mark on great form and plenty of time for audience questions (and for getting books signed afterwards).

Mark Billingham (c) Aston Photography

Mark Billingham (c) Aston Photography

After the session there was just time for some more coffee and a slice of cake at the Jaffé and Neale Bookshop & Café – I had the gluten and dairy free Clementine Cake, it was amazing!

Then it was just a short walk to the Town Hall for the Breaking Through panel with Mel Sherratt, Mark Edwards and C.L. Taylor, and moderator, Peter Guttridge. It was great to hear all about Mel, Mark and Cally’s routes to publication, and fantastic to hear that between them they’ve sold over a million copies of their books.

Then it was time for a leisurely lunch at The Chequers, and a quick (or not so quick) drink in the sun on the balcony at the fabulously named bar ‘Bitter & Twisted’.

Then we headed back to the Theatre for S.J. Watson interviewed by Peter Guttridge. It was fascinating hearing about the translation of S.J. Watson’s first book BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP into a film (of the same name) and great to hear an excerpt of his second book SECOND LIFE that’s come out recently. The chapter ended on a real cliff hanger and I’m very intrigued to read the book so I can find out what happens.

S.J. Watson (c) Aston Photography

S.J. Watson (c) Aston Photography

As we filed out of the Theatre it was the end of my visit to ChipLitFest 2015.

I had a fantastic day at a wonderful festival – a brilliantly smooth-running event with fabulously friendly people at every festival location. My only regret is that I didn’t stay for the quiz!

I’ll certainly be back in 2016.

Maybe I’ll see you there?

 

Check out ChipLitFest’s website at http://www.chiplitfest.com where you can sign up for their newsletter, and be sure to follow them on Twitter @ChipLitFest

And big thanks to awesome Aston Photography  www.astonphotography.co.uk for letting me use their fabulous pictures of authors Lee Child, Mark Billingham and S.J. Watson taken during the festival.

You can find out more about the fabulous authors mentioned above by following the links below …

Lee Child at http://www.leechild.com (and you can check out my review of PERSONAL here)

Mark Billingham at http://www.markbillingham.com/news.html (and you can check out my review of his latest book TIME OF DEATH here)

Mel Sherratt at http://www.melsherratt.co.uk (and you can check out my review of FOLLOW THE LEADER here)

C.L. Taylor at her blog here http://cltaylorauthor.com (and I’ll be reviewing her latest book THE LIE next week)

Mark Edwards at http://vossandedwards.com (and I’ll be reviewing his new book FOLLOW YOU HOME when it’s released in June)

S.J. Watson at http://www.sjwatson-books.com (and I’ll be reviewing his new book SECOND LIFE in the near future)

 

Confessions from CrimeFest: Part One

The Iceland Noir panel

The Iceland Noir panel

On a surprisingly hot Thursday last week I packed my weekend bag and headed to CrimeFest. Held in Bristol, from the 15 – 18 May the Royal Marriott Hotel on College Green played host to hundreds of crime writers and readers for a long weekend of panels and interviews celebrating and debating crime fiction.

Having checked into the rather gorgeous conference hotel, I hurried along to my first panel of the afternoon: Locked Rooms & Closed Locations: Writing Yourself into a Corner. Here, the panellists Nev Fountain, Thomas Mogford, Anotonia Hodgson, LC Tyler, and moderator, Charles (Caroline) Todd discussed the settings that inspired their own novels, how they’ve used elements of locked room or closed location settings in their writing, and the difficulties that can be encountered when writing a traditional locked room mystery with an entirely plausible ending.

Next, I trotted along to the Iceland Noir panel. Iceland Noir authors Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Quentin Bates, and Michael Ridpath, along with publisher Petur Mar Olafsson and moderator Barry Forshaw, talked about the rise of Icelandic crime fiction, the cold but beautiful landscape of Iceland, and the dreadfulness of the traditional Icelandic food! Each member of the audience was given a raffle ticket, and at the end of the panel one lucky person won an all-expenses paid trip to this years’ Iceland Noir crime writing festival in Reykjavik in November. Sadly that person was not me.

Then it was off to the bar, to catch up with friends, and on to the Crimefest Pub Quiz, hosted by crimewriter, critic, and quiz master, Peter Guttridge. Despite the amount of wine drunk, we were still able to do much better this year – rising one place from last to second from last! We didn’t mind though, it was still a lot of fun.

As I fell into bed in the early hours of Friday morning, I set my alarm for 7.30am and promised myself I’d get up in a few hours time to see the first panel.

Check out Confessions from CrimeFest: Part 2 to see if I managed it …

CTG Reviews: City of Dreadful Night by Peter Guttridge

cover image

cover image

What the blurb says: “July 1934. A woman’s torso is found in a trunk at Brighton railway station’s left luggage office. Her legs and feet are found in a suitcase at King’s Cross. Her head is never found, her identity never established, her killer never caught. But someone is keeping a diary. July 2009. A massacre in Milldean, Brighton’s notorious no-go area. An armed police operation gone badly wrong. As the rioting begins, highflying Chief Constable Robert Watts makes a decision that will cost him his career. Meanwhile, with the aid of newly discovered police files, ambitious young radio journalist Kate Simpson hopes to solve the notorious Brighton Trunk Murder of 1934, and enlists the help of ex-Chief Constable Robert Watts. But it’s only a matter of time before past and present collide …”

I love a good puzzle, and that’s exactly what this first book in Peter Guttridge’s Brighton series gives you. Twice over.

The mysterious cold case of the Brighton Trunk Murderer (an actual case) is twistingly intertwined with the investigation of the modern day Milldean shooting case. And both are giving Robert Watts a headache.

An excellent investigator, Watts loses his job as Chief Constable in the political fallout from an armed police raid gone bad. With his marriage falling apart, and the job he lived for gone, he’s at a loss of what to do. So when Kate Simpson, a young radio journalist and the daughter of an old friend, asks him for his help he agrees.

But Kate’s not the only one seeking his help. When Sarah Gilchrist, a member of the ill-fated armed operation, returns to work she can’t let the unanswered questions about what really happened go unanswered any longer. As she digs deeper it seems that the bungled raid wasn’t quite the accident it first appeared. That’s when she decides to call on Watts.

As Watts gets drawn into both cases he discovers links to people he knows and implications that have affected him, and his career, without his knowledge. But someone isn’t happy that their secrets are being uncovered, and as more police officers from the raid turn up dead, and threats to Watts, Kate, Sarah and those helping them are made, it seems both the cases are anything but cold.

This isn’t your average police procedural. The quirky narrative style, fresh characters and witty observations kept me turning the pages, keen to find out where Watts, Kate and Sarah’s rather unusual and distinctly unofficial investigations would lead them.

An intriguing journey through the darker side of Brighton, and a great introduction to a new series – I’ve already bought the next book ‘The Last King of Brighton’.

Recommended.

 

[With thanks to Peter Guttridge for my copy of the book]

CTG reports from Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival: Day 3

the big screen in the Albert Halls

the big screen in the Albert Halls

Onto Sunday, and it was hard to believe that the festival was almost over. But there wasn’t time to feel sad as I was booked into a full day of sessions.

The morning started with So You Want to Be a Crime Novelist? A bunch of eight brave writers pitched their novels to the panel – agent Mark Stanton, editor Alison Hennessey, and last year’s winner (and bookseller) Joseph Knobbs. All the participants pitched brilliantly and showed nerves of steel. Massive congratulations to the winners – Alex Cox and Dan Stewart – who both won a gorgeous Toshiba tablet.

Next was the Masters of the Dark session with Mark Billingham and Stewart Neville (chaired by Peter Guttridge). Both writers talked about how freeing it could be to write a standalone novel after focusing on a series, and touched on their research methods (like going out in a patrol car with a couple of Police Officers for the night shift). They also discussed the art of the plot twist – when it works, when it doesn’t, and when there are just too many of the damn things.

After lunch I headed to the Craig Robertson & Chris Carter session (again chaired by Peter Guttridge) entitled Chasing Serial Killers. They discussed where their ideas for stories begin – a murder scene, a motivation, or a character – and the strange places they can suddenly get ideas. Chris Carter talked about being on the beach when one of his story ideas popped into his mind.

In the final session of the day, At the Top of his Game, the ever-sparkling Peter Guttridge chatted to the ever-charismatic Lee Child with an audience packed to the rafters listening in. Peter focused the interview more on Lee than on Reacher, asking him about his own experience growing up, whether Reacher’s fighting techniques, including the head-butts,  are skills Lee himself honed (answer:  yes!), and what his plans are for the series (answer: three more books agreed, after that he’ll see if people want more – I expect that we will!). Of course Lee’s new book NEVER GO BACK was discussed, but as to whether Reacher finally gets to visit with ‘the woman with the great voice’ that he’s been travelling to meet for the past couple of books, well, I guess you’ll just have to read the story to find out! [No spoilers here!]

And then it was over.

All that remains is to say a huge thank you to Dom Hastings and his amazing festival team. Their friendliness, great festive spirit and endlessly positive responses to queries both before and during the festival made for a warm and welcoming atmosphere that I’m sure will bring people back to Bloody Scotland for 2014 and beyond.

[hop on over to www.bloodyscotland.com to check out the early bird offers for Bloody Scotland 2014]