I'm just back from Crimefest, which was - as always - brilliantly organised by Adrian, Myles, Donna and their friendly and hard-working team. Twenty-five years have passed since I attended my first crime convention, the London Bouchercon of 1990, and during that time conventions have become an important part of the literary landscape - unquestionably a Good Thing.
Adrian and company kindly agreed that the Forgotten Authors' panel this year should be themed around The Golden Age of Murder,and I had a wonderful group of friends to help me in celebrating the book's UK publication (celebration enhanced over the course of the convention by terrific reviews from The Daily Mail, The Spectator, Bookbag, and Crime Fiction Lover). Dolores Gordon-Smith, Aline Templeton, John Curran and this year's CWA Diamond Dagger winner, Catherine Aird all came up with all manner of insights for the audience, and it was sheer pleasure to moderate the panel (the photo was taken by Karen Meek, whose Eurocrime blog is required reading for fans.)
That evening, I had dinner with Catherine and a few friends - a memorable occasion. She is one of those authors I admired long before I met her, and when we did meet, I found, as I have often done with major authors, that she is great company as well as a fine detective novelist. I continue to hope very much that she will publish her long-awaited biography of Josephine Tey, about whom she spoke rather movingly.
My second panel, moderated by John Harvey (whose "Fedora" is one of the best crime short stories of the past decade), tacked the subject of the short story. Andrew Taylor intrigued me by talking about his ghost story, which is a Kindle single,, and I was delighted to meet Robert Olen Butler, a Pulitzer Prize winning author who read out a very short but striking example of his work. The other panellist was Christine Poulson, one of Britain's most under-rated crime writers, and author of several highly distinctive short stories. Other events of note included Sophie Hannah and Matthew Prichard talking about The Monogram Murders, and Lee Child interviewing the legendary Maj Sjowall.
The banquet was smoothly run, and I was very lucky with all my dining companions, who included Catherine Aird, Sheila Mitchell (widow of Harry Keating) and James Runcie, author of the highly successful Grantchester books, who proved to be a witty toastmaster. I'd never met James before, but soon discovered he was a fellow Manchester City fan; after that, it was a struggle not to keep talking football, but somehow we managed it.
I met some other pleasant people for the first time, and as ever it was good to catch up with old friends. The latter include Ali Karim, pictured above with The Golden Age of Murder. Ali is one of the most entertaining companions one could wish to have, and I am really sorry that I shall not be with him at Bouchercon at Raleigh in October, where he will make a fabulous job of his far from easy task as programming chair. I also had the chance to talk to the publishers of the CWA fiction anthology and non-fiction anthology, as well as to catch up with my own publisher, Susie Dunlop of Allison & Busby, who hosted a drinks party during the week-end. It was lovely to see her again, and I'm so glad she's pleased with the next Lake District Mystery, The Dungeon House. All in all, a terrific week-end which I shall long remember.