Sunday 15 March 2009


I’m very pleased to say that I will again be involved in Harrogate’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival this year. It’s an exceptionally well organised event, one of the highlights of the British criminal calendar, and Harrogate on a lovely summer’s day is a splendid place to spend the time (it’s not too bad, either, if it pours with rain, which naturally is not unknown)

Last year I was one of the writers who participated in the Readers’ Dinner, and the Festival as a whole was thoroughly enjoyable. There were a number of real highlights – including meeting that wonderful writer Thomas H. Cook, learning about the Detectiion Club over lunch with Aline Templeton, and taking part in a quiz team with a group of very agreeable companions. It was great fun, as always, to catch up with a number of old friends.

This time, I’m participating in ‘Creative Thursday’, talking about ‘Legalease’. A topic that I’m inclined to interpret rather widely. The Festival will again be held at the Crown Hotel. It starts on Thursday 23 July and runs until the Sunday. I’m hoping that quite few readers of this blog will be there. See you in the bar…

Finally, I must mention my delight in the fact that my Murder Squad colleague Ann Cleeves - who was the person who first urged me to get involved with Harrogate, where she has been Reader in Residence for several years - has just announced that her Jimmy Perez books set in Shetland are to be televised. This follows hard on the heels of a deal to televise her series featuring Vera Stanhope. Blimey! At this rate, there will be a dedicated AC TV channel within months. Can’t wait!


Anonymous said...

I appreciate how good Harrogate is for authors, but it does promote very much of an "us and them" attitiude which I am not used to in the conferences I attend professionally (scientific) or in the other crime fiction conference I have attended (Crime Fest).
I felt like a second class citizen at Harrogate - they take a lot of money from you but one small example - they don't provide enough seats or space! (The authors are in the green rooms of course).
Another point is the dinner to which you refer. I had never heard of this kind of thing before, but in a positive spirit last year paid up my considerable money to attend. Only to find that I had no choice in where I sat, I was "assigned" to a table and will draw a veil over the rest. There are many other small examples of why this "punter", who paid a consderable amount to attend the festival last year, will wait for a more courteous and thoughtful customer service before attending again. This is no fault of the attending authors, of course, but you might like to know what it is like for attendees.

Martin Edwards said...

Very thought-provoking observations, Maxine. And I have heard some authors, let alone attendees, express similar views. The way I look at it is that Harrogate and Crimefest are trying to do rather different things. The organisers of both do a very good job, I think - the logistics would certainly daunt me. I'll be saying more about Crimefest soon. As far as I know, the Harrogate Readers' Dinner was an experiment and I don't think it's being repeated this time around. I wish you'd been on my table!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Martin - I hope I did not sound too OTT. But to go to a conference where the speakers are kept away from everyone else was an eye-opener to me, and I've been going to conferences since before most of the organisers of this one were born.

I am not a groupie who wants to buttonhole and bore authors, far from it. But when I go to a conference I do expect as part of the registration fees to have enough chairs provided, enough space for everyone who is in the audience, which only requires proper event planning - ie. you only allow the number of people to attend who will fit the space you have booked. Otherwise it seems a bit over-commercial, rather like my train company who take their £15 per day but do not provide a seat or other basic facilities. Well, I have to get to work somehow, but I don't have to pay to be treated like that "on my own time".

The reason I go to these things (well, I've only been to two) is to hear and participate in the discussions in a convivial atmosphere, and to meet up with my fellow book reviewers and bloggers - we form a nice virtual community but can't meet that often. If I do see some authors whose books I enjoy reading, it is delightful to meet them, of course, but that is not the prime reason for going. It is just as interesting to meet publishers, editors, translators and so on. Again, provision of enough space and places to sit is all the organisers need to do - the attendees can do the rest. (Of course, Harrogate did manage to provide a space for a bookshop and a bar....say no more.)

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Martin Edwards said...

Certainly not OTT, do not worry! And you've raised some very worthwhile points. I'm a writer who is, one might say, on the margins of this sort of Festival - I can't claim to be a top name - so I hope you find my perspective of interest. The real pleasure to me of all crime conventions is the chance to meet both writers and readers - and over the years I've made many wonderful friends among them. I'm truly sorry that someone as enthusiastic about the genre as you was disappointed by Harrogate, and of course the points you make deserve to be taken very seriously.

I realise that some bestselling writers may feel a bit jaded by the constant stream of events, signings etc, and perhaps that's why they are often hustled away by their publicists etc. but I've never felt like that. Partly because I'm still very much a fan at heart, partly because the events are a very welcome break from my other life as a lawyer. And above all, because my dream was always to be a crime novelist, and I can't get over the fact that some people do actually enjoy my books and then come back for more. Would I change my views if I sold millions? I honestly don't think I would.

Martin Edwards said...

Right, Maxine, thanks for the tip, I've finally made it to Friend Feed. (Only forgot my original password twice, which is quite good going for me!)

crimeficreader said...

Having gone to Harrogate last year, it was my best experience of the occasion; much less "apartheid" than ever before. I agree with some of Maxine's comments and I have more I could use to criticise, but having been there for four years running, it does get better and contacts mature over time. (Admin may not...)

That said, I firmly believe that Harrogate has developed from the trade (publishers and agents) and continues to do so, whereas Bristol is based on the fan-base.

If I am honest, Harry this year looks pretty "same old" and uninspiring to me. There is little fresh as a new Kleenex. Same old ring-fenced "biggies" in the Green room, turfed out for another outing and sometimes for a topic that died a death about 18mths ago, but they haven't noticed.

It would be great if Harrogate could get off its pedestal of self-promo for the (already-well-established few) and actually promote new writers in the main. And by that I mean more than one panel! I mean a theme!

On my blog, I have supported new writers for a few years now. In my mind, Harrogate supports an ongoing established clique. And from what I heard last year, any time spent in the Green Room proves my point.

Martin Edwards said...

Rhian, as you know, I very much share your enthusiasm for new writing in the genre. And of course, not being above self-interest, I'm very keen on the good old mid-list, to which I belong, and which is no doubt threatened even more in troubled economic times! I've mentioned on this blog a few writers who are not currently published, yet who deserve to be, and the full list would be depressingly lengthy.