Confessions from #TheakstonsCrime (Part 3): Some New Blood, A Secret Garden and the Crime Writers Football Match

The annual Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate happened last weekend and, as always, it was an amazing weekend of crime fiction, bookish antics, parties, and awards. It was a time to rub shoulders with like-minded types who write and read crime fiction, and to catch up with friends and meet new ones.

Here are a couple more of the highlights from the weekend …

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The New Blood Panel

Every year Val McDermid picks her four favourite debuts and showcases them on the New Blood panel. It’s a fab panel for readers to be introduced to some brilliant new authors, and always has a great vibe to it. This year was no exception, with the four debut authors – Martin Holmen (CLINCH), JS Law (TENACITY), Beth Lewis (THE WOLF ROAD) and Abir Mukherjee (A RISING MAN) – doing a fantastic job of enticing the audience to read their books.

I was lucky enough to get to sit in the front row for this panel. It was great to see the four debut authors having such a fun time with Val McDermid who expertly put them at their ease. As they talked about their books, it was fascinating to hear about their inspirations and research. It emerged that something they all had in common was the desire to explore what it is to be an outsider, and to have lead characters who recognised their own ‘otherness’.

Martin Holmen said that his inspiration for writing CLINCH was to create a book that combined Swedish expression with the great American thriller tradition. JS Law talked about coming to the realisation that a female naval officer’s experience of the armed forces was very different to his own as a male officer – Val McDermid referred to TENACITY as a feminist Submarine Thriller – and wanting to explore that difference with a female main character. Beth Lewis jumped into THE WOLF ROAD with the premise – what if the person you love is actually a monster? And Abir Mukherjee talked about creating his main character, who while being British in India doesn’t align himself to either culture. Add in Abir’s stories of researching in Indian, Beth’s survival skills course anecdotes (what ever did happen to that pigeon??) and JS Law’s talk of putting his arm into the waste tanks on-board a submarine – which had the whole audience recoiling at the grossness! And this panel had to be a top highlight of the festival.

All four debut authors are well worth checking out:

Click here to buy CLINCH by Martin Holmen

Click here to buy TENACITY by JS Law and follow him on Twitter @JSLawBooks

Click here to buy THE WOLF ROAD by Beth Lewis and follow her on Twitter @bethklewis

Click here to buy A RISING MAN by Abir Mukherjee and follow him on Twitter @radiomukhers

And, of course, be sure to pre-order Val McDermid’s latest book OUT OF BOUNDS here and follow her on Twitter @valmcdermid

 

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The Bonnier Zaffre Secret Garden Party

When you get a party invitation that promises ‘Prosecco, canapés and cake’ and is being held in a secret garden, you just have to go! And Bonnier Zaffre know how to throw a seriously good party. In a (relatively) secret location, the sun shone as I drank Prosecco and mingled with the fabulous stable of authors that Bonnier Zaffre have put together.

It was great to catch up with the Bonnier authors including the ever-bubbly Alex Caan (CUT TO THE BONE), my pal David Young (STASI CHILD) who I did the MA in Creative Writing at City University London with, the lovely David Jackson (A TAPPING AT MY DOOR) and criminal lawyer Neil White (FROM THE SHADOWS). I also got to have a good chat with bloggers Liz Barnsley, The Book Trail and Northern Lass, PR wonder Jamie-Lee Nardone, and crime writers Susi Holliday, Anya Lipska, Zoe Sharp, Martyn Waites, and Mark Hill.

 

The North vs South Crime Writers Football Match

The annual crime writers’ football match was held on Saturday afternoon in front of a large crowd, and as well as crime writers there were a few agents and publishers among the players.

Players for The North were: Luca Veste, Craig Robertson, Howard Linskey, Col Bury, Nick Quantrill, Michael Fowler, Vincent Holland-Keen, Rob Sinclair, and Neil White

Players for The South were: Tim Weaver, James Law, Ian Ayris, Darren Laws, Ed Wood, Phil Patterson, Tom Witcomb, Steven Dunne, and Emad Akhtar.

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As always it was a fiercely fought battle, with the South scoring first (Emad Akhtar), and the North equalising shortly after (due to an own goal by Ian Ayris). Both sides had brought their A-games, but as the end of the match drew closer they started to tire. When referee Mark Billingham announced there would be a penalty shoot out, and the players started to take their shots, it looked for a while as if there’d be no goals. But Rob Sinclair came through for The North and won them the match when Phil Patterson missed the last kick.

So The North remained victorious and, unlike last year, there were no bones broken during the course of the match so all players from both sides were able to celebrate fully in the bar afterwards!

 

Be sure to stop by the CTG blog again tomorrow to see my photo galley from Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival (including lots more action shots from the football)!

Sound like your kind of thing? Make sure you check out Harrogate Festivals and join the mailing list for the details of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival 2017

The (Not So) Secret Diary of a Slice Girl #BloodyScotland (part 2)

L-R: Kati, Elizabeth, Lucy, CTG (me!), Susi, Alex (c) Eoin Carey

L-R: Kati, Elizabeth, Lucy, CTG (me!), Susi, Alex (c) Eoin Carey

So I’m one of The Slice Girls – a group made up of crime writers, a publicist, and me – who took to the stage (actually, onto the bar) to perform a number at Bloody Scotland’s Crime in the Coo cabaret night. And this is how it happened …

I got ‘the call’, or rather, ‘the IM’ about four months ago. A short message from Slice Girls leader, Alexandra Sokoloff, that simply said, ‘Steph, do you sing?’ It was a simple question, but answering it made me feel a little like Neo in the Matrix – should I take the red pill or the blue one – what should I say? No. Yes. Kind of, well, there was that one time I sang with Danny La Rue …

In the end, I said yes. And so, it began. Well, after Harrogate in July, it began, anyway. I got sent the lyrics and the music for The Cell Block Tango from Chicago, was allocated my part (the “POP” monologue, and given instructions to practice. And practice I did. I also watched Chicago the film, watched clips of the Cellblock Tango performed on Broadway, and also by an all-male cast as part of a Broadway Backwards charity event (and the best rendition of the song in my book!).

L-R: Kati, Elizabeth & Lucy (c) Eoin Carey

L-R: Kati, Elizabeth & Lucy (c) Eoin Carey

But, as the months, weeks and days counted down to Bloody Scotland, I’d still only practiced on my own and in private. The fear set in. What if I forgot the words? What if I couldn’t do it in front of other people? Luckily I wouldn’t be up there alone, I was a Slice Girl now, and I’d be performing with fabulous crime writers Kati Hiekkapelto, Lucy Ribchester, SJI Holliday and Alexandra Sokoloff; and awesome Simon & Schuster senior publicist Elizabeth Preston. I told myself it was going to be fun (and I tried to believe it).

Before long, it was time. I arrived on Friday evening (late, as usual) at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival, and missed the first practice. Not such a great start, but at least I’d made it to the hotel – and the bar. I soon forgot my nerves after a few drinks, but the next day – Saturday, performance day – they were back, along with all the ‘what ifs’.

But I needn’t have worried – Alexandra had a plan. She gathered us together and had us rehearsing for as long as it took to change six people who’d never sung together into a group that might have a chance of looking like they knew what they were doing. There was choreography to learn too. And the challenge of actually getting up onto the bar in the first place (without putting our heels through the barstool covers). But we practiced, and practiced, and weirdly it was kind of fun.

So, to the evening. We met up at the hotel and headed down to the Curly Coo for our technical rehearsal at 7pm (with the bar due to open at 8pm). Dressed in our costumes we got more than a few odd looks from people out and about in Stirling. We had our rehearsal, with the lights being put up and cameras being fixed in place around us, and then, as the doors were about to be opened, I allowed myself a large glass of wine – for courage, you understand.

L-R: Lucy, CTG (me!), Susi, Alex (c) Eoin Carey

L-R: Lucy, CTG (me!), Susi, Alex (c) Eoin Carey

There were some fantastic performances – Val McDermid singing with Doug Johnstone on guitar, Mason Cross reading a rather entertaining one-star review, and numerous brilliant others. But I have to admit it was hard to concentrate knowing that soon we’d be up on the bar, performing our song.

When crime writer (and Maestro of the evening) Craig Robertson gave us a twenty-minute warning two things happened. First, we all got another drink, and second, we started running through our monologues, quietly, in the upstairs hallway.

Then it was time, and we made our way through the crowded bar, climbed up onto the bar (me in a far less elegant fashion than the others), and the music started …

And, you know what, it actually wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it’d be. All the way up to the music starting, I felt the fear – absolute and utterly terrifying. But all the practices of the day had done their work, and we all remembered our words, sung in time and had a very fun time. There’s even a bit of video around, taken by crime writer Mari Hannah – you can watch it here

So a massive thank you to Alexandra Sokoloff for pushing me out of my comfort zone, to the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival for letting it happen, and to my fellow Slice Girls – Alex, Kati Hiekkapelto, Lucy Ribchester, SJI Holliday, Elizabeth Preston.

I truly had a bloody brilliant time!!

L-R: Elizabeth, Lucy, CTG (me!), Susi, Alex (c) Eoin Carey

L-R: Elizabeth, Lucy, CTG (me!), Susi, Alex (c) Eoin Carey

 

L-R: Lucy, Elizabeth, Alexandra, Susi, Kati, CTG (me!)

L-R: Lucy, Elizabeth, Alexandra, Susi, Kati, CTG (me!)

Events Alert: BritCrime 2015 – a free online crime fiction festival on 11-13 July!

BritCrime Festival logo

BritCrime organiser and author, Helen Smith

BritCrime organiser and author, Helen Smith

BritCrime 2015 is a brand new sparkly crime fiction festival that will run for the first time from 11 – 13 July 2015. Instigated by author Helen Smith, the festival will feature more than forty crime authors taking part over the three-day festival.

The free festival – yes, that’s right – FREE – will take place entirely online. There’ll be live Q&A panel discussions on the BritCrime Facebook page as well as ‘Meet us in the (virtual) Bar’ sessions for late night chat and japes.

In the run up to the festival there’ll be lots of exciting things going on – giveaways, video sessions and interactive Google Hangouts. You can also sign up to get the festival email updates – and be entered into the draw to win a Kindle Paperwhite.

Participating authors include Quentin Bates, Jenny Blackhurst, Rebecca Bradley, Graeme Cameron, Steve Cavanagh, Tammy Cohen, Mason Cross, Julia Crouch, Eva Dolan, Steven Dunne, Mark Edwards, Chris Ewan, Paul Finch, Helen Giltrow, Sarah Hilary, Susi Holliday, Jane Isaac, Amanda Jennings, Emma Kavanagh, Anya Lipska, Colette McBeth, M J McGrath, Fergus McNeill, Clare Mackintosh, Michael J Malone, Ava Marsh, Alex Marwood, K T Medina, Daniel Pembrey, J F Penn, Nick Quantrill, Marnie Riches, Craig Robertson, Mel Sherratt, Alexandra Sokoloff, Helen Smith, C L Taylor, Simon Toyne, Luca Veste, Louise Voss, Sarah Ward – that’s A LOT of authors!!

Author, Mason Cross

Author, Mason Cross

And you can ask them anything! Want to know what sparked the idea for a book? – you can ask them; want to learn how to pick locks or how to turn your teenage diary into a murder story? – there’ll be tips for that too; wondering what it’s like to go from real life detective to crime fiction writer? – that’s something you can ask as well.

On Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th July the live Q&A sessions will run from midday to 10pm (UK time) with the ‘Meet us in the Bar’ sessions live after the panels from 10pm to midnight.

On Monday 13th July there’ll be highlights from the BritCrime Festival, a report from ThrillerFest (New York), BritCrime authors on tour: looking forward to Harrogate, Bloody Scotland and Bouchercon, and ‘What’s next for BritCrime? – more exciting stuff to come.’

Author, Eva Dolan

Author, Eva Dolan

So whether you love murder mysteries, police procedurals, private investigators, thrillers, romantic suspense or domestic noir (or all of them!) by getting online and involved, you’ll be able to take part in this fantastic new festival wherever you live – and FOR FREE!

So be sure to follow @BritCrime on Twitter, and then hop on over to the festival website at www.britcrime.com to find out more, register, and start thinking of all the questions you’d like to ask the authors …

See you at BritCrime!

Events Alert: Iceland Noir Festival of Crime Fiction 2014

Iceland Noir banner

Iceland Noir banner

After a hugely successful first year, Iceland Noir – the first Icelandic crime writing festival – will be running again in 2014.

This year it will take place on Friday 21st – Saturday 22nd November at the Nordic House in Reykjavík, Iceland.

The lineup  is still under wraps, but registration is open and you can take advantage of the early bird ticket offer right now.

Hop over to the Iceland Noir Facebook page to find out more at: http://www.facebook.com/IcelandNoir

Click on the following link to book: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/iceland-noir-tickets-10220179833

CTG reports from Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival: Day 2

Queue for Jo Nesbo

Queue for Jo Nesbo

Now queuing might normally be viewed as an annoying if not frustrating aspect of festival going, but not at Bloody Scotland. The buzz in the queue for the sold out sessions at the Albert Halls was tremendous, and it was great to strike up conversations with fellow fans of crime fiction and find out what their highlights of the festival had been and which sessions and authors they were looking forward to seeing. In the process I managed to add a few more authors to my ever growing ‘must read’ list.

As for the sessions I attended, the highlights of my day were:

The Fresh Blood panel. Chaired by Michael Malone, the panel of Matt Bendoris, Lisa Ballantyne and Malcolm Mackay talked about their debut novels and their experiences of getting to publication. They talked of the challenges (and need for dogged determination) when juggling home, work and writing, with Matt Bendoris admitting that he wrote his debut (and second novel) on his Blackberry while standing on a packed commuter train en-route (and back) to his day job!

Thrilling Tales and Psychological Twists saw Professor David Wilson in conversation with Zoe Sharp and Julia Crouch. Professor Wilson asked Zoe and Julia to first read excerpts from their books – Julia from her most recent novel Tarnished, and Zoe from her new standalone novel The Blood Whisperer – and then invited the audience to say how the narrative had made them feel. It was fascinating stuff, and so interesting to hear the impact both the writers’ narrative had.

Professor Wilson was keen to learn what had prompted the authors to write crime thrillers and prompted Zoe Sharp speak of her real life experience of receiving death threats when working as a photo journalist. In a rather unconventional departure from the standard interview format he then turned a question to the audience – why do you read the crime genre? An overriding theme from the discussion was that readers enjoy the sense of justice and resolution in crime novels – something that you don’t always get in real life crimes.

So, by the end of these two sessions, I’d added five more books to my reading pile:

The Blood Whisperer by Zoe Sharp

Tarnished by Julia Crouch

The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne

Killing with Confidence by Matt Bendoris

The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter by Malcolm Mackey

 

I just hoped that there would be enough room in my case for all the books I wanted to buy, especially as there was still one more day to go …

 

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

Events Alert: Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival’s “Creative Thursday”

festival logo

festival logo

I’ve just heard that bookings are now open for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival’s creative writing course for aspiring writers – Creative Thursday. Held on Thursday 18th July 2013, and running from 9am to 6pm, it’s a fabulous opportunity for those interested in writing crime.

This day-long programme of workshops and seminars gives aspiring crime and thriller writers access to bestselling crime writers, publishing industry professionals and real-life crime experts.

The workshop will cover topics including:

  • Learning from the Greats
  • Constructing Character and Plot
  • Interactive Session with the Forensic Science Society
  • Plus the return of The Dragons Pen – Dare you enter and pitch your novel idea?

In addition, a lucky few Creative Thursday participants with a completed concept for a crime novel will get the opportunity to pitch their book to two agents

The Creative Thursday workshop costs £99.

To find out more, pop over to the Festival website here: http://harrogateinternationalfestivals.com/crime/creative-thursday/

Or to book your place, contact the festival office on 01423 562 303 or email crime@harrogate-festival.org.uk