This past weekend I have been down in London with a whole host of other book lovers – both readers and writers – for the inaugural Capital Crime Festival. The brain child of author and screenwriter, Adam Hamdy (Pendulum Series, Black 13), and owner of DHH Literary Agency and (my favourite bookshop in London and place most likely bankrupt me) Goldsboro Books, David Headley, this festival has been a year in the making, and is the first year of what I am sure we all hope will be many more to come. A big thank you to Midas PR for inviting me to attend and the offer of a press pass for the weekend.
Now a lot of time and effort goes into creating a book festival, and before I tell you my thoughts on the weekend I just have to say a massive congratulations to David, Adam, Festival Manager Lizzie Curle, and all of the helpers, volunteers and behind the scenes folk who helped to make the weekend such a success. It was a full on weekend and to corral a whole heap of authors, never mind keep us regular festival goers in check, is no small feat. They managed it with aplomb and everyone should be very proud of what was achieved this weekend.
Now for something that effectively ran over two days, this was one super packed festival. With some of the top names in literature on the bill, you couldn’t have asked for a better way to start. From Martina Cole, to Ian Rankin, Peter James, Robert Harris, to David Baldacci and Kate Atkinson, that is only a mere fraction of what the festival had to offer. Panels introducing new authors, panels on feminism, on international setting, books set against a backdrop of the legal system and possibly my favourite panel, a career retrospective from John Connolly who, like Goldsboro books, is celebrating a 20th birthday of sorts this year. At least, Charlie Parker is. You really could find a little of everything over the weekend, the only thing I struggled to find was time to stop and eat! I didn’t want to miss anything.
So how did I fill my time? Well, the event actually started on Thursday night with a welcome party at which the New Voices award took place. This is an initiative which has been created to find the undiscovered talent out there, and with over one hundred entries, it was a very popular award. A shortlist of ten aspiring writers was decided by public vote, with the final winner being decided upon by a panel from the DHH Literary Agency. I am delighted to say that my friend and fellow blogger, Victoria Goldman, was given an honourable mention for her entry, The Redeemer, as was Patti Buff for The Ice Beneath Me. But, a bit like Highlander, when it comes down to it, there can be only one, and the overall winner was Ashley Harrison with his entry, The Dysconnect. I look forward to seeing more from all three of them in the not so distant future.
A few post award drinks may have been consumed, certainly a lot of talking was done with some lovely friends before I headed back to my hotel for some much needed shut eye. Friday was set to be a very busy day!
First up for me was the first heat of Whose Crime Is It Anyway, in which two teams of debut authors battled it out to see who knew whose work best. A mixture of rapid fire questions, books quotes, and some very dubious acting, this gave a good insight into some of the newest books out there and might have added a couple of my want to read list too. It was a lot of fun, if a little mad at times, with the winning team their place in the final at 6pm that evening.
Next up I took in the Crime On A Global Scale panel with Shaun Harris, Leye Adenle (The Beautiful Side of the Moon), Abir Mukherjee (Smoke and Ashes), Vaseem Khan (Bad Day at the Vulture Club), Craig Russell (The Devil Aspect) and David Hewson (The Savage Shore). Great banter between the authors and some really interesting discussion on setting and why they were inspired to write about their respective subjects.
After tha panel it was time for a quick break and a chance to grab a copy of Vaseem Khan’s latest Ispector Chopra book before heading back in for round 2 of Whose Crime Is It Anyway.
After lunch it was time for my first panel in the Grand Hall, Mark Edwards and Lisa Jewell in conversation with Claire MacGowan. Talking about their latest books, Here to Stay and The Family Upstairs, if you had any doubts about living with strangers (or worse still – you in laws), you’ll be saying a sure fire no after reading their books.
One of the best things about the festival was the opportunity to see a very diverse range of authors, as well as seeing some of the most popular and prolific authors in Crime Fiction. No-one fits that title better than Martina Cole (No Mercy) who entertained us all in conversation with Ali Karim. Martina Cole is fascinating to listen to and not even a case of laryngitis could bring her down.
As if that wasn’t enough, straight afterward I was into a panel with Chi Chi Izundu who was grilling Ian Rankin (In A House of Lies) and Don Winslow (The Border) on The Human Cost Of Crime. A completely fascinating discussion and I could happily have listened to them for a lot longer than the forty five minutes we had.
Feminism in literature is a very strong and often passionate topic of conversation, and none are more passionate about the subject that crime fictions’s own group of Killer Women, Amanda Jennings (The Cliff House), Sarah Hilary (Never Be Broken), Kate Rhodes (Burnt Island), Colette McBeth (Call me a Liar) and Julia Crouch (Her Husband’s Lover). A brilliant discussion (only one mention of the Staunch prize …) which really examined the impact of feminism and the representation of women in literature, challenging some of the typical stereotypes and tropes that really get their tempers flaring.
For my final panel of the day, I decided to take a slight change of pace and a slight change of sub-genre, dropping into the Historical Fiction panel which saw Anna Mazzola (The Story Keeper) questioning Kate Mosse (The Burning Chambers), Simon Mayo (Mad Blood Stirring) and Antonia Hodgson (A Death at Fountain’s Abbey). I don’t read much historical fiction myself, but Mandie loves it and I do like to hear about new books from time to time too.
And all of that was just on day one! Completely full on but thoroughly enjoyable. I missed the last couple of panels to give myself time to recharge and get ready or Saturday. One thing I have learned over the years, is that festivals can be very tiring, and active listening for eight hours is worse than attempting a park run. Okay … maybe not quite that bad.
On Saturday morning I was joined by Mandie who got an early train to Euston for day two of the festivities. Being the loving and generous sister that I am, I walked to the station to meet her. It may also have been because I knew Saturday’s agenda was also jam packed and this was the only exercise I was going to get all day!
Our day began at 09:30 with the When Women Make Murderers panel. A really fascinating discussion between Amy McLellan (Remember Me), Fiona Cummings (The Neighbour), Laura Shepherd-Robinson (Blood & Sugar), Olivia Kiernan (The Killer In Me) and CJ Tudor (The Taking of Annie Thorne). They may all seem lovely but they do write some pretty twisted killers, so it was interesting hearing how they find their inspiration.
As a big fan of Scani Noir, one of the highlights of the weekend for me was Karen Sullivan interviewing (or attempting to interview) Antti Tuomainen (Little Siberia), Ragnar Jonasson (The Island), Yrsa Sigurdardottir (The Absolution) and Will Dean (Red Snow). A lot of talk of puffins (they don’t eat them) ensued, as well as some really great discussion on why Scandi Noir is so popular.
another short break and some book signing next before we headed into the panel on Britain’s Toughest Streets with David Mark (A Rush of Blood), Dreda Say Mitchell (Playing Dirty), Amer Anwar (Brother’s In Blood), Stephanie Marland (You Die Next), and MW Craven (Black Summer). Another really ively panel and I have to say I’m definitely adding Dreda Say Mitchell to my reading list as she spoke with such passion about her writing and representing her community.
After lunch it was time to see what life is like on The Wrong Side of the Law as Ayo Onatade grilled former and current legal profesisonals Harriet Tyce (Blood Orange), Imran Mahmood (You Don’t Know Me), Steve Cavanagh, (Twisted), and Tony Kent (Marked for Death). A really interesting panel with some great anecdotes and free bit of legal advice on HR law from Mr Cavanagh to boot.
This is the point where Mandie and I split up. Mandie headed over to see The Forensic Mind with Chris Ewan (The Good Thief’s Guide), Ann Cleeves (The Long Call) and Denise Mina (Conviction), while I stopped on to step into The Mind Of a Criminal with Jenny Blackhurst (Someone is Lying), Winnie M Li (Dark Chapter), Simon Kernick (Die Alone) and Mel Sherratt (Tick Tock).
After another quick break, we split up again with Mandie going to the Changing Times panel with Paul Burston (The Closer I Get), Mari Hannah (The Scandal), Joseph Knox (The Sleepwalker), Stav Sherez (Eleven Days) and AA Dhand (One Way Out), while I headed off to hear from one of my all time favourite writers, John Connolly (A Book of Bones). Both absolutely fascinating panels but don’t believe all you read on Twitter. JC was not really showing rude pictures. Well … not exactly anyway.
That was it for the panels for us, but not the end of the festival. After seeing Mandie on her way back to Euston, it was back to the Grand Connaught Rooms for the final closing party and the Reader Awards. Congratulations to all of the nominees and also to the eventual winners, all richly deserved.
Now I know I could have been a lot more informative about the panels, and perhaps I should have taken notes, but honestly, I was having too much fun. And ultimately that’s what these festivals are all about. I was inspired, moved to tears, moved to laughter and ultimately moved to buy even more books and try some new authors too. I left the festival frazzled but happy, and have to say a big thank you to the authors for such an entertaining weekend and to my friends and mad fellow bloggers, Meggy, Zoe (aka Sue), Mandie, Karen, Sharon, Tracy, Mary, Linda, Karen, Joy, Jacob, Ronnie, Danielle, Inge, Kate and Rachel for being such great company at varying times over the weekend. And congratulations once again to Adam, David, Lizzie and the whole board on creating such a cracking festival. Roll on 2020.