According to various blogs and by other means, I discover that I was apparently at CrimeFest in Bristol this past weekend, sharing hotel and conversation space with lots of people, including all these authors, a heady experience indeed for a mere novice at this sort of dark gathering. The conference was like a scientific conference, but with the rather big difference that I didn't have to be shouted at or otherwise scorned by people whose research hadn't been published.The formats, however, were remarkably similar: most of the meeting took the form of panel discussions in which authors talked about the writing process and their books, but instead of poster sessions afterwards, there was a bookshop from which you were supposed to buy the books, and signing sessions by the panellists. Instead of keynote lectures, there were some very high-quality interviews; and instead of a prize for the best poster there was a prize for the funniest book (which was not won by Declan Burke but should have been, a view possibly coloured by the fact that his The Big O is the only book on the shortlist I had read, and has nothing at all to do with his very evident Irish charm. Read it, it is very funny). Enough, already, what were my highlights?
- Getting out of bed in the morning and wandering downstairs to my "place of work" for the day. Network SouthEast, eat your heart out.
- Hanging out with Karen of Euro Crime (is there anything she does not know about crime fiction?) and her band of crack reviewers, Norman Price of Crime Scraps, Crime Fic Reader of It's a Crime, and Declan Burke of
Lillyput's WorldCrime Always Pays.
- Meeting author-bloggers Martin Edwards (Do You Write Under Your Own Name?) and Meg Gardiner (Lying for a Living). Could Martin be as charming, erudite and kind as his blog persona, I wondered? Yes, definitely. Could Meg be as funny as her blog? Certainly: not only that, she is drop-dead gorgeous, runs a mean panel, has lots of insights to share, and has a fearsomely intelligent husband. (Not only did he instantly knew the answer to my opening gambit trick question: "Who is your favourite author?", but he has Network SouthEast pithily summed up at the drop of a hat.)
- Meeting authors new to me, in particular L. C. Tyler (The Herring-Seller's Apprentice), Ken Isaacson (Silent Counsel) and Colin Campbell (Through the Ruins of Midnight and others), enjoying conversations about crime fiction with them, stimulating my determination to read their books (despite my 300 already……, etc etc).
- Struck with admiration at Natasha Cooper, Laura Wilson, Ann Cleeves, Colin Campbell, Meg Gardiner and Donna Moore for the excellent panel discussions they moderated. (I missed several panels as they were held in parallel or triplicate, so there were probably lots of other good ones.) In particular I and the Euro Crime crew, out in force for Ann Cleeves's panel on translated fiction, were dead grateful for Ann's egalitarian decision not to award three bags of books (translated, natch) to the "person who asked the best question" but to allow the entire audience to share them out. Eurocrimers will be reading, reviewing and cycling our spoils to each other for further reviews via the postal service for quite some time to come.
- Very much enjoying the interviews I attended: Andrew Taylor talking to Natasha Cooper; Ann Cleeves to Karin Fossum; and Peter Guttridge to Ian Rankin. These interviews were all so individual, not a hint of formula: I appreciated how much work had gone into both the questions asked and the thoughtful and gracious way the subjects responded.
Well, that's probably about it. You would have had a longer post had you read this yesterday (Sunday) when I first wrote it. Unfortunately, at the end of the post, I pressed spell-checker which caused some hideous terminal loop, and the post was lost for all eternity.
It was a great meeting, full of generous and stimulating participants, whether authors, readers, camp-followers or a combination of all three. Even one as reclusive as myself throroughly enjoyed it. The websites of all authors mentioned in this post, and many more, can be found via this CrimeFest link.