Report by by Julia Davey
Mystery Fest 2019, the key crime and mysteryliterature event of this year’s Portsmouth Bookfest - in collaboration with Mystery People - took place at Portsmouth Central Library on Saturday 9 March. The day was a huge success enjoyed by a talented panel of local, national and international crime writers, book reviewers and a literature loving audience.
The day took off with a panel discussion entitled In the Reviewers’ Hot Seat, with crime novelists
‘It was like turning on a tap. The first book I wrote just for myself, but ended up getting it published with a three-book deal.’
Diana Bretherick, who has a PhD in Criminology , recalled that she has always been fascinated about why people commit crimes and also about the historic views, not given full support today, of Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909) who considered crime is all about nature and that some people are simply born ‘bad’. Today it is acknowledged that criminality in an individual usually stems from a combination of nature and nurture, that no-one is simply born evil. The panel highlighted the importance of a well-rounded character.
Regarding morality, Leigh Russell said she goes to ‘the heart of the matter in a way that is non-judgemental with a moral compass throughout’ and is ‘intrigued by what is it that pushes someone to kill someone else.’ She considers William Shakespeare one of the greatest crime writers. Donna Fletcher-Crow explained her Christian upbringing ensures that morality and respect for human life are very much reflected in her books and Carol Weston added children in fiction must be dealt with very sensitively whether they are innocent victims or involved in crime. In her novel About the Children, Carol emphasised the children are never killed ‘on screen’ within the text, but instead any child murders are given requisite background in the prologue.
|Simon Brett and Jeff Dowson|
Richard Miller, who has been a Portsmouth Library Volunteer for over ten years, told me after the monologue that ‘Simon Brett is quite simply a genius. Brilliant words, incredible rhyming, strong storyline and very funny.’
|Linda Regann with Lesley Thomson|
|G J Minette and Cristine Hammacott|
‘It has been a fantastic day with wonderful informative content and very enjoyable.’
Member of the public Angie Gardiner from Southsea was equally enthusiastic saying ‘The variety of talks and the different way of presenting from the panels, to monologue and interactive PowerPoints made Mystery Fest a very enjoyable and brilliant day. Clearly a lot of hard work to get it organised so well.’
Mystery Fest was creatively programmed and co-ordinated, by Hampshire crime writer, reviewer, and expert on the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, Carol Westron and included lively and informative debates, tips on writing crime fiction and four presentations on: crime fiction research, studies of two real life murder cases investigated by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the Victorian crime novel Susan Hopley and an exploration of fiction involving Bodies in the Library.
Photographs courtesy of Jack Halsall.