Anyone following me on Twitter will know that I’ve recently come back from Crime Fest in Bristol – a 4 day jamboree of crime writers and readers from all over the country and, certainly in the case of the readers, from across the Atlantic. You have to hand it to them, American crime fiction lovers are COMMITTED.
I’ve not been to a big literary festival before. I’m the suspicious type who generally walks away from any crowd gathering around a spectacle and, besides, I don’t tend to be a big fan of giving faceless people a lot of money to sit me in a tent so that I can listen to somebody I admire but who – in all likelihood – isn’t being paid remotely adequately to be there talking to me. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, click here.)
Mind you, despite the keeping away from crowds thing, I did once to go a big festival. A really big one. The Reading Rock Festival. I went with my sons when the Red Hot Chili Peppers were at their zenith in Britain and every other guitarist, bassist and drummer were trying to be John Frusciante, Flea and Chad Smith. That festival was – and I’m using the word with neither irony nor slack-jawed overstatement – awesome. Never mind the music, the sheer fact of more than 60,000 people being crammed into a few alcohol-licensed acres for four days without a riot breaking out somewhere on site is, truly, awesome. I didn’t see so much as a punch thrown the whole time we were there.
Needless to say, there were no punches thrown at Crime Fest. For people who enjoy reading and/or writing about murder in all its forms from cosy to horrific the Crime Festers were a remarkably pleasant and peaceable bunch. (Actually, reading that back, a thought occurs. Cosy crime is clearly a thing but can murder ever really be cosy? I’d like to think not.)
So, peace and pleasantness aside, what did I bring away from Crime Fest ?
New people in my life. I met some really lovely readers and writers. It would be invidious to name them, but if you’re reading this, you know who you are – thanks for making Crime Fest fun for me. Getting to know you on Twitter (even if it is only 140 characters at a time) and, no doubt, at subsequent fests is going to be one of the pleasures of being on the crime scene, as it were.
I discovered that there are more crime novels set in Wales than I had so far discovered. Which was cheering. Clearly, there are book-buying people out there who don’t think that Wales is somehow beyond the literary pale. (Which is what you would think from a careful perusal of any current list of bestsellers you’d care to name.) I’ll be talking more about these novels in future posts, so keep popping back.
Generally speaking, I don’t really have heroes but I got to speak to somebody who would be a hero of mine if I did: Ann Cleeves, author of the Vera Stanhope and Shetland series. And she was so lovely that I’m going to break my ‘don’t sit in a tent to watch under-remunerated authors’ rule and go to the Hay Festival to see her talk about televising ‘Shetland’ and, amongst other things, handling violence against women on screen. You can find out more here.
And I learned something. A big thing. STAY AT THE FESTIVAL VENUE. (See what I did there? Big thing.) I live a 50 minute drive away from the centre of Bristol so I decided to save money and commute in to Crime Fest. Which turned out to be a collossal mistake. The Crime Fest timetable is packed – no lunch breaks are scheduled which was a shock to somebody like me who’s only been used to the kind of slackers’ conferences professionals in other spheres go to where you’re constantly breaking for coffee or lunch or because your poor puny brain is too overloaded – so, if you want to go and see all the discussion panels you can cram in, there’s very limited opportunity to talk to your fellow readers and writers. That all goes on in the evening. Over alcohol. Of course it does. Duh!
So, I won’t be making that mistake when I go to the 23rd Mystery and Crime Weekend at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, in August. Then, I’ll be re-visiting my undergraduate days (at a different college) and living in!