For read­ers and authors, Har­ro­gate is the main event in the lit­er­ary cal­en­dar. Crime Scene finds out why it’s the genre’s big­gest fes­ti­val.

Crime Scene - - CONTENTS -

Authors Mark Billing­ham and Peter James on their fes­ti­val ex­pe­ri­ences.

The fes­ti­val is our big an­nual so­cial meet­ing, it’s our trade fair, it’s the place you have to be if you write crime fic­tion for a liv­ing,” Mark Billing­ham tells Crime Scene. “And it seems to get bet­ter every year – it’s a crack­ing fes­ti­val.” He’s been a main­stay of the Theak­ston Old Pe­culier Crime Writ­ing Fes­ti­val for years – and he’s a for­mer win­ner of its prize for best novel.

This year was a sell-out, with over 14,000 in­di­vid­ual tick­ets shifted over the four-day fes­ti­val – and big queues in the sign­ing tent. When they weren’t bask­ing in the York­shire sun, fes­ti­val­go­ers could at­tend pan­els fea­tur­ing authors in­clud­ing Martina Cole, Tess Ger­rit­sen, Paula Hawkins, Jef­fery Deaver, Val Mc­der­mid and Peter Robin­son. There were ris­ing stars on the New Blood panel, a French con­tin­gent in­clud­ing Pierre Le­maitre, and a fo­cus on African crime fic­tion.

Crime Scene catches up with Peter James as he’s tak­ing a quick break from his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as pro­gram­ming chair. “It’s been a huge amount of

work, but I’m re­ally lov­ing it,” he says. “I think as authors we tend to spend a lot of our year in our caves and are oc­ca­sion­ally let out. I’ve been to pretty well every lit­er­ary and crime writ­ing fes­ti­val in the world over the last 15 years and this is the best. You’re ac­tu­ally go­ing to min­gle with fans, have a drink with them. It all takes place un­der one roof, plus there’s only one panel at a time, so ev­ery­one goes to it.”

There was spe­cial recog­ni­tion this year for Mc­der­mid, who re­ceived the award for out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tion to crime fic­tion. “She’s done so much for the genre,” says James. “I think she’s done a lot to change the per­cep­tion of crime fic­tion.” James also ad­mits to be­ing a lit­tle jeal­ous of Clare Mack­in­tosh’s de­but, I Let You Go, which won the Theak­ston award for crime novel of the year. “It’s prob­a­bly about once in five years you get a book where you go ‘Fuck, I wish I’d writ­ten that’,” says James.

While he has to pre­pare for his panel in­ter­view with Martina Cole, Billing­ham is busy en­joy­ing the so­cial side of Har­ro­gate. Hav­ing won the se­cret poker game and hosted the quiz, he’s get­ting ready for the an­nual crime writ­ers’ foot­ball match. “As long as you have those events along­side the se­ri­ous dis­cus­sions about vi­o­lence or cosy crime or Scan­di­na­vian crime, I think that’s the se­cret to a suc­cess­ful fes­ti­val,” he says.

Tick­ets are al­ready sell­ing fast for Har­ro­gate’s 2017 fes­ti­val, which takes place on 20 to 23 July.

Peter James dis­cusses the role of real-life cases with his friend and ad­vi­sor, for­mer Chief Su­per­in­ten­dent Gra­ham Bartlett.

Peter James at the Dead Goodreader Awards.

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