Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Impressions from Harrogate Crime Writing Festival #1

Apologies go out to my three regular readers – like you care – about the bloggy silence from May Contain Nuts. It’s down to a mixture of sunshine, busy-ness and a serious case of getting my sloth on.

I’m also just back from the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival.  Did I have a good time? Hell, yeah!

Here’s an example of my good time. I arrived a good few hours before the first event of the weekend – which was the prize-giving for the Theakston Crime Novel of the Year award (Lee Child won) and a Lifetime Achievement Award was to be presented to P.D.James – and I got chatting to old friends at the bar over a glass (or two)of the old laughing juice. Anywho, time marched on and I was enjoying myself way too much and it kinda slipped my mind to go inside the conference hall. #hangsheadinshame

The next day I was up and about surprisingly early. All things considered. And ate heartily of the breakfast buffet.
There were some fascinating panels and speakers throughout the weekend. One that surprised me was Penned In, with a group of writers who had all spent time in prison. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one as I don’t really like True Crime. There is a danger of sensationalising and glamourising criminals and I don’t like the idea of these people profiting from their crimes.

Their crimes ranged from perjury to murder and what interested me was the redemptive power of the written word for each of the men speaking. Each of them were changed by their experiences and their ability to place words on the page were a huge part in this growth.  Gave me lots of food for thought. If you can come away from an event and you’ve learned something, or gained an insight – you can’t ask for much more, can you?

Another panel I enjoyed included Denise Mina (I could listen to her talking all day long – intelligent and witty) and Craig Robertson, the author of Random and Snapshot.

Craig has a similar hairstyle to me (the billiard ball look), he is about the same height and has a Scottish accent so I wasn’t THAT surprised when three separate people approached me after the event to tell me I had spoken very well. How they thought I managed to change out of a grey suit into jeans and a t-shirt and grow a goatee in the space of 10 minutes is anybody’s guess.

Bald men. We all look the same clearly.

(This is not me. This is Craig.)

The quiz on Saturday is always fiercely contested, but any team with me in it can consider itself seriously hampered. My contribution was nothing short of pathetic. The only answer I knew was Ian Rankin’s twitter name. But thanks to Russel D. Mclean, Chris Simmons and Cathi Unsworth and her partner, Mike we came in a respectable 5th.

The last event of the festival had Mark Billingham on stage interviewing Dennis Lehane. I’ve read pretty much everything that Mr Lehane has written so I was keen to hear what he had to say. He was composed, polished and humourous and an absolute delight to listen to.

Then it was out to the lawn for a coffee and a chat with the other crimesquad guys before heading north and real life.



  1. ah, we shall never make a proper blogger out of you Michael :)

    As a man of refined taste I must admit Craig is one dashing and handsome fella! And there's nothing more interesting than hearing Scottish accent!

  2. Dez, I have to agree with you on points 1 and 3 - as for point 2 - given that he's my doppelganger, modesty forbids.

  3. I'm with Dezzy on the Scottish accent. Americans go nuts for that stuff.

    Also, I'm quite jealous of the Dennis Lehane encounter. I think his novels are brilliant. Sounds like you had a great time.

  4. Sounds pretty cool. Maybe I'll get to one of these things someday.

  5. L.G. - it was great fun. Its a bit of an anticlimax to come home and real life.

    Ricky - you've got to get yourself down there. I had a brief hello from your buddy, Steve Mosby. He surprised me - looks SO young.

  6. See these handsome, egg-heads! Sounds a great time was had by all.

  7. It was lovely to finally meet you, our Michael :o)

  8. I'd need to juggle work & family but would love to manage it. If I remember rightly Mosby's first book was published when he was 27, must be mid 30's now, that's cool that you bumped into him. Did I not read somwhere that there is going to be a crime fiction festival in Scotland?

  9. Egg-heads, Rosemary? I'm going to have to put you over my metaphorical knee for that. Follicly challenged is the correct terminology, I'll have you know.

    Likewise, our Donna. And nice to know I'm your senior - by nearly 3 weeks! That means you have to do as I tell you.

    Ricky, I talked about the Scottish crime festival some months ago. It is likely to go ahead next September (2012) in Stirling. Full details have not been released yet. As soon as I know I'll pass the info on.

  10. Four! I'm back. Sounds like you were in your element, Michael. Talk about busting stereotypes, what an extraordinary experience with the Penned In workshop. If we just keep an open mind and watch for wisdom from unexpected places, eh? And I get the same thing. All redheads are apparently related.

  11. You trying to tell me you're not? Eeesh.