Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Impressions from Harrogate Crime Writing Festival #2


A week or so has now passed since my visit to the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival and several highlights have stuck in the old grey matter.

As you may, or may not know, the people who attend the event are a happy mix of readers, writers, reviewers, press, publishers and agents. And unlike most other literary events I’ve been to, everyone mingles. Authors aren’t ushered off to a private space and only allowed out to go on stage to speak – if they want to they can hide in the “green room” – but most of them hit the bar with the crowd.

So, you end up speaking to a real cross section of the book public. Which is great fun.

If someone I met was unknown to me I hit upon a strategy of asking them in what capacity they were attending. 

This was not without its problems. I came unstuck a couple of times when the “stranger” in front of me turned out to be a pretty famous author (eeeek). No names, no pack-drill. What happens in Harrogate stays in Harrogate, and all that shit.

Let’s call one of them Stephen. ‘Cos that’s his name. His other name is Leather and I’ve been reading and enjoying his thrillers for over 20 years. Anywho, I was sitting chatting with MATT HILTON (great writer, and a man who is so nice I wanted him to adopt me) and he introduced me to this guy. I totally missed the name because of the hum of chatter all around me. I nodded, pretending to hear. As you do. When you're a frickin' numpty. Stephen laughed and said, you’ve never heard of me, have you?

When Stephen’s attention was deflected by someone else, I asked Matt – who’s he? When he told me I was mortified. I apologised later and explained that not only was I aware of him but I’d read a lot of his stuff over the years. Happily, Stephen doesn’t take himself too seriously and we ended up going for lunch the next day – and he even sneaked off and paid the bill before I could. How nice is that?

What’s extra clever about him is his commercial acumen. Many writers shy away from the business end of the business, but he is very much aware of it and was in the forefront of the e-revolution. He could see that e-books were going to be the next big thing and he positioned himself at the tail end of last year to cash in on the Christmas rush. I’m not sure of his sales figures in total, but he told me that he’s currently selling around 400 books a day. How about them apples?

I also caught up with the man with the coolest name in crime fiction, and the biggest hair - Stav Sherez, the author of The Black Monastery. It’s not often that I get feedback from authors about the reviews I write for their books, but Stav sought me out to tell me how much he appreciated mine. He took time to say that out of all his reviews, mine was the one that really “got” the book. How cool is that? Go  HERE  for my review over on crimesquad.com. And then go buy the paperback. It is that good.

(LATE POST - I just received an email from Stav to say that The Black Monastery is now available on kindle for the knockdown price of .99p. Crazy good value. Go KINDLE if you have one and you have 99p to spare.)

There's more. But I need to go and lie down after all that memory work.



  1. Don't lie down too long, Michael. Memories have a habit of hiding from you.

  2. Ha! Even famous people should have to wear name tags.

  3. I'd expect from you crime authors to hit the bar at some point :P

  4. Good advice, Chris. I cheated and took notes.

    L.G - that is so true. Some of their publicity photos are so dated it's impossible to recognise them.

    Dezmond - I have no idea where you would get an impression like that from #coughs#

  5. One thing Harrogate does differently from the big American conventions, as far as I know, is that only one event is programmed at a time. That must make for good bar and lobby conversation, since everyone has seen and heard the same speakers.
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

  6. Good point, Peter. And you'd think the ridiculously high prices at said bar would put a dampener on it - but no.

  7. Sounds great, got to get there one day.

    Excellent story about Stephen Leather. Have you tried any of his new supernatural thrillers?

  8. Yes, Ricky - I've read the first one in the Nightingale series. A cracking read.

  9. I was hoping you'd say that Michael. Cheers mate.

  10. You were in writer heaven, Michael. I always take your recommendations so I'm headed over to Amazon to get Stay's book. Takes courage or a lot of Scotch to just approach a crowd of famous writers in a pub. Good for you.

  11. Marley, be sure to let me know what you think wontcha?