Monday, 7 March 2016
The Essex Book Festival
I've just returned from the Essex Book Festival. A long way to go - I set off from snowy Lymm on Friday morning and finished up admiring a rather magical sunset over the water at Southend-on-Sea. But it was a good trip, and I was glad to play a small part in a huge county-wide event that is a credit to those in charge: Seona Ford, Camilla Shestopal, Ros Green, and their various colleagues.
I had the great pleasure of meeting John Simenon, son of the legendary Georges, at a dinner on Friday evening. John has co-produced the imminent new version of Maigret, and was full of admiration for the performance of Rowan Atkinson. Definitely one to look out for. The following morning, I made the short journey to Westcliff to admire the truly fantastic book collection of John Cooper, who co-wrote two of my favourite books about the genre with Barry Pike. One or two items - inscribed books by Georgette Heyer and Henry Wade - stand out in my memory; the former is among the most interesting Golden Age items I've ever seen.
Then it was back to Southend, in time for lunch and then a session moderated by journalist Jake Kerridge in which John Simenon and I enjoyed talking about Golden Age fiction from our different perspectives. An hour and a half sped by. After that, I moderated a panel about international crime fiction. Prior to the Festival, I'd worried about whether I'd be able to do a satisfactory job, given that,the focus of the panellists' books are very different from mine. But one of the great things about crime fiction, I believe, is that the connections between crime novelists, however diverse their writing, are highly positive,and so it proved.
So special thanks to the four people who made up a really excellent panel - see Lucy Dauman's phot above - from which I learned a lot. Leye Adenie is a first time novelist from Nigeria, the grandson of a Nigerian king and - I discovered over a glass or two of his favourite red wine that evening - also an IT expert and creator of patented inventions. We had a fascinating discussion. Robert Karjel is Swedish, and was until recently a Lieutenant Colonel in the Swedish air force. He's written four novels over the past fifteen years or so, and the success of My Name Is N, a thriller with a memorable protagonist, Ernst Grip, has enabled him to concentrate on writing full-time. Robert and I had a chip supper together on the seafront late on Saturday evening in weather conditions that can best be described as "bracing". Zgymunt Miloszeweski is a Polish writer whose books about another interesting central character, called Szacki, have made a big hit. And last but certainly not least was Anya Lipska, a Brit married to Pole whose books about an East End Polish fixer who teams up with a female cop have already won a substantial and enthusiastic following. It was a real pleasure to get to know this quartet of writers, and to be part of a terrific Festival.