You may have noticed that I’ve been somewhat absent from the T’interweb in general for the best part of a week … Oh, so you hadn’t noticed? Ah …
Anyway, I’ve been gadding about somewhat, taking advantage of the several days of hot weather that I fear will constitute summer this year.
As well as teaching a crime writing workshop at the Central Library in Derby on May 19th, and talking to two combined local writing groups over an extremely fine lunch at Soulby Village Hall on May 29th, I’ve been at the CrimeFest conference in Bristol.
This year was the fifth anniversary of the event, which grew out of Left Coast Crime in Bristol back in 2006. This year was the busiest yet, with sold-out tickets and standing-room-only panels. No doubt this was helped by the stellar line-up co-chairs Myles Allfrey, Donna Moore and Adrian Muller had organised.
And here are the CrimeFest Angels (left to right) Adrian, Donna and Myles, looking, I suspect, as you may not have seen them before …
As always, conferences like this are a heaven-sent opportunity to network and exchange information, as well as gossip, drink, and giggle. It was a great chance to catch up with old friends, like Lee Child, and Jeffery Deaver, and meet other favourite authors like Frederick Forsyth, Sue Grafton and James Sallis for the first time.
I was lucky enough to be on two panels at CrimeFest, one moderated by Stanley Trollip (one half of the writing duo the Michael Stanley with his partner Michael Sears) on Law or Justice? How does your Protagonist Choose? Also on the panel were Gerard O’Donovan, James Sallis and Andrew Taylor. In the emails that circulated afterwards I commented that I was honoured to be among such distinguished writers and felt I must have been included for light relief. To which Andrew Taylor responded that he felt I was there to add gravitas. (Nice sentiment, Andrew, but I know my role is simply to lower the tone …)
The second panel was the one that had me just a little nervous. I was tasked with moderating Lee Child, Sue Grafton, Brian McGilloway and Jacqueline Winspear on the topic of Kicking Ass: Spirited Protagonists and Tricky Situations. It was only as I was putting the panel info together, using my moderator’s Word doc from last year as a guide for layout, that I realised the format my introduction would take, listing the connections between the five of us.
(left to right: Brian, Sue, Lee, Jackie, & me, pic courtesy of Kate Kinchen)
It was a fun panel, absolutely packed out, and nobody objected when I warned before the audience Q&A that anyone mentioning a certain Mr T Cruise could pick a window because they would be leaving.
On the Thursday evening — and against my better judgement after dire performances in previous years — I was suckered into joining the quiz team of Faber editor Katherine Armstrong. Along with fellow authors Chris Ewan, Tom Harper, Claire McGowan and Tom Wood, I persuaded them to moderate our expectations by picking a suitably downbeat team name — The Greek Ministry of Finance. But to our amazement (well, mine anyway) we were a close second on the night, winning a bag of books and the DVD of Jim Sallis’s movie, Drive. All the more exciting for being totally unexpected.
It was a relief to meet my fellow judges from the Flashbang Flash Fiction competition and discover that they almost all agreed with my choice of winning entry. We had an entertaining dinner out on Friday night during which we all of us foolishly agreed to come back for a second attempt next year.
Of course, when it comes to what really goes on at such conferences, you have to be there. So, if you want to know why Simon Kernick is denying the comment he made to me in the bar on Saturday night, even though I took a photo specially, or why Adrian Magson won a Man-card (provided by Kate Kinchen) for his sterling moderating performance, or even who had the most awkward panelist going and how they avoided fisticuffs, you’re going to have to go along and find out. I should also mention that Peter Guttridge celebrated his birthday in fine style at CrimeFest, not only with cake and candles, but also by winning the Criminal Mastermind contest on the Sunday.
Finally, in what was to be a complete contrast to all the rushing about, I stayed with friends in Wiltshire on the way down and went out for a very stately and sedate pub lunch in their 1912 FN. All that and sunshine, too. Who could ask for more?
So, ‘Rati, what’s your favourite conference or convention? What makes it so special? If you haven’t been to one, why not and would you consider it? And if you are a regular, what do you feel you gain from the experience — besides a large bar tab and a lack of sleep?
This week’s Word of the Week is comity meaning courteousness or civility, from which we also get comity of nations, Latin comitas gentium, the international courtesy between nations in which recognition is accorded to the laws and customs of each state by others; a group of nations adhering to this code of behaviour.