About a week and a half ago I posted, with some excitement, that I was about to head off to Harrogate for the Crime Festival. Since I returned, life has been a little hectic, so it’s only today that I’ve had time to properly reflect on the experience.
In case you’re wondering, it was all good. Apart from the rain but, hey, it’s the summer in Yorkshire, what can you expect? Weather aside (and it wasn’t raining that much), the only negative aspect was that it wasn’t long enough. At least, my visit wasn’t. The festival starts on Thursday, but I didn’t get there until mid-afternoon Friday, so I can only blame myself.
And why was there not enough time? Because there are loads of people there, and I wasn’t able to catch up with everyone I wanted to. There were authors and book bloggers I hadn’t seen for ages, and it could be another year now before the next opportunity crops up. Better that, though, than twiddling your thumbs and wondering whether you’ll find someone to talk to.
At the end of the 2022 festival, the last person I spoke to was Zoe Sharp, author of the Charlie Fox series that I’ve become a big fan of over the last few years. As I walked into the beer tent (I’m sure it has a more formal title, but that’s how I always think of it), Zoe was the first person I saw. For an instant, I did wonder if she’d actually been home in the meantime. Whether she had or not, it was a lovely surprise, though our exchange was brief in that moment. It was the following day before we managed to have more of a chat, and it was great to catch up.
Not long after getting our drinks (you don’t go in the beer tent for a dry afternoon, do you?), I bumped into an old friend, Louise Jensen. Louise and I originally met shortly before her first book was published. We were at a writers conference, and ended up sitting next to each other during a panel session. Strange how a chance encounter can develop into a friendship. Though, along with many other things, covid had interrupted it. Friday at Harrogate was the first time we’d seen each other in over three years. Our catch-up was also interrupted by a book blogger who was clearly an ardent fan (of Louise, not me!), and seemed to miss the cues we were trying to give off that we wanted to carry on with our private conversation. Perhaps it was inevitable at a crime festival that we’d encounter someone displaying stalker tendencies.
Of course there were others I met and chatted to. Some were brief, like Steven Kedie, who I recognised but hadn’t spoken to before. He’d invited me to participate in his blog (Eight Albums – you can check out my contribution here) quite some time ago, and I had also read and enjoyed his novel, Suburb. Unfortunately, I’d got a drinks order in my hands that needed delivering, but our encounter was satisfying all the same. Others were longer. Donna Morfett and Sharon Rimmelzwann had been at the 2022 event, and I’d got to know them there. According to Donna, I am one of the nicest blokes in the world – but I do get the impression she has a long list that fall into that category! As with last year, we bumped into each other several times, and they were the last people I spoke to this year, a conversation that lasted the best part of two hours.
Along the way, there was encouragement and introductions to useful contacts, as well as meeting some new authors, who are now on my TBR list. For me, this is the core reason for going to Harrogate. But there were the panels and interviews as well and, among others, I got to see the following:
- Steve Cavanagh – if you haven’t read anything by him, put that right as soon as you can. His Eddie Flynn novels are fast-paced and twisty. And I’m long overdue reading more of them.
- Jeffrey Deaver – who prefers Jeff, apparently. I hadn’t seen him before, even though I’ve been reading his books for at least 20 years. He didn’t disappoint.
- Ann Cleeves – she of Vera and Shetland fame, neither of which I’ve watched. Nevertheless, she is an author I’d seen interviewed before, and was well worth listening to again.
- Mark Billingham – always good for a laugh, and brought the house down with his story about a funeral. You had to be there…
- Antti Tuomainen – not an easy name to say with your mouthful, but an author with a great sense of humour. I’ve seen him speak before, and am kicking myself for not reading any of his books yet – one of which is currently being made into a movie with Steve Carell
- Chris Brookmyre – always engaging, and another reminder that I haven’t read one of his books for several years. I was introduced to his work many years ago by, of all people, my solicitor. I’ve never read a bad book by him, but my favourite is stlll The Sacred Art of Stealing. If you’ve not come across him before, check him out.
- Lee and Andrew Child – need I say any more? Of course I do. But maybe another time. In the meantime, a picture paints a thousand words.
Harrogate Crime Festival. Always a great event. Perhaps inevitably, I’m already planning next year’s visit. And I think it’ll start on the Thursday…
Will I see you there?