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Thursday 6 June 2019

CrimeFest 2019 by Lizzie Sirett


The International Crime Fiction Convention
was held this year in a new venue at the Mercure Grand Hotel, Bristol. 

Over the four days there were 47 panels, several half hour spotlights by single authors and one to one interviews. 
You will not be surprised to know that I only managed to attend a fraction of this plethora of goodies on offer. OK, yes I was in the bar for a certain amount of the time but conferences like this are a marvellous opportunity to catch up with friends. And it appeared that many of my friends were in that place. I would like to offer you just the highlights but basically the four days were one giant highlight.

There are now several major crime fiction conferences/festivals in the UK.  All are good, but CrimeFest is
unique in that if you are a published author and register for the conference by a specific date you will be offered a place on a panel (currently I think this is not open to Indie authors).  At all other UK conferences/festivals a place on a panel is by invitation only. For a mid-list or new author without the chance of getting in front of an audience a conference weekend can be a costly business. At CrimeFest this year there were three panels of new authors, and I counted in all 150 authors attended. What a delight to get a chance to talk with many  new and established writers.

The first panel on
Thursday was one of
Debut Authors: An Infusion of Fresh Blood.
I was at this point still on the M5 but my colleague Radmila May was able to attend this panel and you can read her report below.
I did however attend the Quiz at 8pm in the Ballroom.  I was hosting a table for newbies. These are lovely new people who have not been to CrimeFest before and look to us old-timers to show them the ropes. Our Quiz Master was Peter Guttridge who I have always held in high esteem.  But things can change! A fun evening but I prefer to draw a veil over our team’s result.

Fresh Blood at Bristol Crimefest 2019
Report by Radmila May

Bristol Crimefest is one of the biggest crime fiction gatherings in Britain where crime writers and addicts gather to discuss crime fiction and to hear crime writers from Britain and elsewhere talk about their writing. At the 2019 Crimefest there were some really big names including John Harvey (this year’s Featured Guest Author), Robert Thorogood (scriptwriter of the Death in Paradise TV series), and Ashley Jensen, Julia Gilbert and Barry Ryan (star and creative team for the forthcoming Agatha Raisin TV series on episode of which we were privileged to see.

But important as those and other writers be, there is one annual sequence that is at least as important and that is the Fresh Blood panels in which debut authors meet their crime-loving public, often for the first time. At this CrimeFest on Thursday, Friday and Saturday respectively there were three panels each featuring new writers. The featured titles are all available from Amazon or other retailers.

Fresh Blood on Thursday

The panel was introduced by Jake Kerridge, the well-known journalist and critic. He began with Rachael Blok who has a crime series set in the cathedral city of St Albans, featuring Dutch DCI Jansen, beginning with Under the Ice in which a girl’s body is found in a local lake at Christmas. Her next, The Scorched Earth, will be out later this year. Clare Empson’s first novel, Him, reveals the darker reality underlying the apparently bucolic West Country landscape. Clare’s second novel, Mine, is due out in August. Former soldier Stuart Field, now working for a security firm in Germany, described his novel, Steel and Shadows, to be followed by a second one shortly, as a ‘high-octane thriller’ with NYPD detective Sam McCall who links up with the mysterious John Steel in a plot involving Russian gangsters, creepy psychiatrists and the homeless community. Judith O’Reilly is a former Sunday Times journalist and TV political producer. Her Killing State is a dystopian, fast-paced, action thriller set in a post-Brexit world where the protagonist, assassin Michael North, accustomed to killing only bad people, is ordered to kill a good woman. The second in the series, Curse the Day, will be published soon. Finally, B P Walter has spent most of his working life in bookshops. His novel, A Version of the Truth, has two timelines in which a devastating secret from the past will shatter a present-day family.

Fresh Blood on Friday

This panel was also introduced by Jake Kerridge. Fran Dorricott was the first on and she talked about her debut novel, After the Eclipse, a psychological thriller in which two girls go missing after two eclipses sixteen years apart; it deals with loss, sisterhood, and the evil that men do. Melanie Golding’s Little Darlings is part-psychological thriller, part dark fairy-tale, inspired by stories of changelings and has been described as addictive and haunting. Strangers on a Bridge by Louise Mangos is set in the Swiss Alps: Alice saves the charming Manfred from throwing himself off a bridge but when he grows increasingly and dangerously obsessed with her neither the police nor her husband believe her. Louise’s next book will be The Art of Deception. In Vanessa Savage’s debut novel The Woman in the Dark Sarah and her family have moved to Wales where they are restoring an old house. But the house harbours terrible secrets which could destroy Sarah and her family. Vanessa’s next novel is The Woods. Last on the panel was Laura Shepherd-Robinson whose Blood and Sugar is set in the Deptford docks in 1781 and has a background involving slavery and the growing campaign for emancipation. It has been described as harrowing and authentic.

Fresh Blood on Saturday

For this third panel for debut authors, the discussion was once again led by Jake Kerridge. He began with Dominick Donald who, after reading history, went into the army, and from there sent on to being a lecturer, a U.N. official and an editorial writer, then, after a Ph.D., an advisor on political risk. His novel Breathe is set in London in the 1950s at the time of the famous smog. It was partly inspired by the infamous Christie murders. It was Sunday Times Book of the Year. In Fiona Barton’s The Chemical Detective, set in Slovenia and Chernobyl, explosives expert Dr Jacqueline Silver attempts to expose the deadly trade in chemical weapons. Then came Olivia Isaac-Henry whose Someone You Know, involving the disappearance of a 14-year old girl and the effect on family dynamics, has been very highly praised. Carolyn Kirby’s The Conviction of Cora Burns, is set in Victorian Birmingham and questions whether the roots of violence lie in our hearts or the scars that life has inflicted on our psyches. Marcelle Perks’s Night Driver is set in Germany and features a lorry driver who is also a serial killer, the trade in illegal human organs, and a main protagonist who is heavily pregnant.

Good luck to all these crime writers of the future.


Photos  by Lizzie Sirett

I would like to say that I was up with the lark on Friday - but of course I wasn’t.  I am not an early riser. I did however make several panels.  The 10.10am panel that morning was:
               Deadly Enemies, Fickle Friends : Who can you Trust?

On the far left in the photo is Chris Curran, latest book, All the Little Lies.
Lisa Hall, Have You Seen Her.
Jacqui  Rose, Sinner.
Emily Koch
If I Die Before I Wake.
Far right is
Cara Black author of Murder On the Left Bank.
                  Don’t Make Me Laugh: Humour in Crime Fiction

                                                     was at 11.20am  

Far left is Mike Ripley, author of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
Next to Mike is Ruth Dudley Edwards , Killing the Emperors. 
M B Vincent is the author of Jess Castle the Eyeballs of Death. and Helen Fitzgerald Worst Case Scenario.
The participating moderator was
Peter Guttridge - Swimming with the Dead

Crossing the hotel foyer I spotted the wonderful David Headley, Bookseller, Literary Agent and Publisher, who is now along with author Adam Hamdy giving us in September a new conference set in London aptly named Capital Crime. 
 With David is author
Alison Joseph who interviewed the guest of Honour John Harvey on Saturday at 15.10.

Far right I snapped
Ayo Onatade and Ali Karim
enjoying a panel.

 On Saturday I attended the 10.10am panel
Unlikely Alliances: Partners, Sidekicks and Friends.

 L C Tyler, seen far left, was the participating moderator.  Although Len’s acknowledged comic series features Ethelred Thressider, a writer and his Literary agent Elsie Thirkettle, his second historical series, also has a strong element of humour.  His latest books in both series are: Herring in the Smoke and The Bleak Mid-winter. Len observed that following the Golden Age ‘The Sidekick’ became a necessary appendage.

Vaseem Khan, who writes the Inspector Chopra series, and whose sidekick is a baby elephant said that solo cops need someone to bounce their ideas off. Asked about his choice of elephant for a side kick he said that the elephant is a symbol of India, and there is not a lot of crime fiction set in India which has changed amazingly over the years, but still has vast poverty and class differences.  He provoked much mirth when explained that Inspector Chopra lives on the 14 floor of a tower block– not easy for an elephant sidekick. His latest book in the series is Bad Day at the Vulture Club. Asked what he was going to do when the elephant grew up. He replied ‘He is not growing  up any time soon’.

Lynne Brittney visited the place where Agatha Christie wrote a range of stories when she was married and bounced ideas off her husband,  but they were only published when her marriage failed. Mr Quinn supernatural sidekick, was seen only  by the detective and the reader. Lynne’s books have a team of six as the police at that time did not accept women. So the police Inspt sets up a special team. Mayfair 100.  Set in the 1920’s when delicate ladies will talk only to a lady of her own class. It is a period in history when post-war society was in a bad way and breaking down. Lynne’s most recent book is A Death in Chelsea.

M W Craven observed that a side kick is a way to have dialogue. Len asked if Mike’s time managing teams in the army or the probation office had helped.  Yes, said Mike as he got to understand the conflicts between departments and different agencies. The army has the tightest teams. Asked ‘Do resembled your character?’  Mike replied ‘yes Fluke’.  (DI Avison Fluke was the protagonist in an earlier series written as Mike Craven. His  latest book is The Pupped Show.  The second in the series also featuring Washington Poe, Black Summer will be published in July.

T E Kinsey observed that duos in TV - Sweeney, Morse, Randal and Hopkirk (Deceased), Cagney and Lacey - are usually opposites. It appears more entertaining to have an antagonistic couple, but in fact the ideal on TV is  two major and two minor characters for a series, who are  contrasting alliances. His series features Lady Hardcastle and Florrie the maid. Class barrier - one upperclass and one servant. Can they be friends? They have previously been spies and they maintain these positions. Although Tim says ‘The series doesn’t need a sidekick the reader is the sidekick’. Tim’s latest book is The Burning issue of the Day.

The consensus seemed to be that unlikely alliances work.

The Gala Dinner was held on the Saturday at 7.30pm.
It was indeed a splendid affair. 

The Toast Master was Robert Thorogood who kept us entertained.
And the food was good.

On the photo far right from left to right
Simon Brett, Felix Francis,
Ruth Dudley Edwards,
Lizzie Sirett and John Sirett.

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