Monday, 24 July 2017

Harrogate Reflections

I arrived home yesterday afternoon from Harrogate after four fun-filled days at the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. So fun-filled, in fact, that I fear Friday's Forgotten Book was indeed forgotten! Never mind, it will return this week...

This year I spent more time than usual on writing business, as Harrogate offers a great opportunity to meet up with one's agent and publishers, and so on. But there was still a chance to catch up with friends such as Ann Cleeves and Ali Karim (who took the photo of me with Ann). I also met a good many readers - not least several from the Lake District and my home turf in Cheshire.

I've been on panels at Harrogate in the past, but this year for the first time I was asked to chair a panel - Double Indemnity: the theme was not the James M. Cain novel of that name, but rather lawyers who have become crime writers. Denise Mina (never actually a lawyer, but she did attend Glasgow Law School), Alafair Burke, Steve Cavanagh and Matthew Hall proved to be excellent panellists, and the discussion flowed nicely.

In the signing tent after the panel, I was pleased to meet not only a London crime editor who hails from my home village of Lymm but also a mutual friend of a great pal of mine from long ago student days. A little later I met up with the delightful Roz Dudley, whom I first met when she was performing in one of Joy Swift's brilliant murder mystery weekends (playing the part of a psychopathic serial killer, I should add). And it was good to have a chat with Vera herself, Brenda Blethyn. These unexpected encounters really are part of the pleasure of conventions.

I was invited to several publishers' parties, and these provide an opportunity to catch up with people in the writing business whom one might see only once in a blue moon if one is not London-based. As the wine flowed, there were plenty of fascinating conversations. The northern chapter of the CWA also had an informal get together with CWA colleagues from other parts of the country,  and pleasingly the turn-out exceeded our most optimistic expectations.

One of the parties was hosted by Harper Collins, and they'd organised an exhibition of correspondence between Agatha  Christie and Billy Collins that I found both interesting and informative. Of my various enjoyable get togethers, one was with a rare book dealer who told me about a notable discovery of his which I hope to talk about more in a future blog post.

All in all, a great weekend. The weather wasn't as kind as usual, with a mini-monsoon on Saturday. But even so, the clouds had a silver lining. Following encouragement from an American editor, I had a bit of time to myself to think out a new short story, featuring a new detective character who might just investigate further cases in due course. I even wrote the first few lines last night..


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