I am just back from a truly enjoyable trip to Harrogate, for the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. This is a major event in the crime calendar nowadays, and although there are not as many authors featured as at, say, Crimefest, because the focus tends to be on the big names,the organisation and profile of the week-end is genuinely impressive. Sharon Canavar and her team do an excellent job. I also seized the chance while in Yorkshire to spend quite a long time at an excellent book fair at Ilkley. Inevitably, I succumbed to the lure of buying several future Forgotten Books.
For me, the stand-out event at the Festival was "Come Die With Me", a combination of dinner and murder mystery organised by my old friend Ann Cleeves. Ann first ventured into murder mystery events quite some ago, with "The Body in the Library", which I've seen several times. Her latest mystery was geared specifically to the Harrogate Festival, while drawing on characters from her novel The Glass Room, and the connection between the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate, and Agatha Chrstie, who was found there after she went missing in 1926.
The four characters in the mystery were played by N.J.Cooper, Cath Staincliffe, Jeremy Trevathon (a senior publisher with PanMacmillan) and Jon Morrison, an actor who appears as DC Kenny Lockhart in Vera. I had the pleasure of sitting between Jeremy and Jon, who were very good company, as well as terrific performers in their parts.
A nice feature of the event was PanMac's promotion of the Bello:Best of British Crime omnibus, to which I wrote an introduction, and which I mentioned here last week. It was the first time I'd seen the book in physical form: another addition to the bookshelf! Also on our table was Professor Lorna Dawson, an expert in soil science and forensics, who has helped Ann with some of her research.
After the dinner was over, there was time to celebrate with Margaret Murphy, following her CWA short story success, and to chat some more with Jon and Lorna. All very agreeable and as a result I didn't go to the quiz this year. But I bumped into Stuart MacBride, who told me something about the Specific Gravity round robin story that I hadn't realised - there's a hidden message in the final chapter, but it's very well hidden!