I said I'd tell you how it went, so here goes...
The first day of the festival for me was the children's event on Thursday. 'Kids, spies and private eyes' was a Leeds Met University sponsored project involving 125 very excited 8 - 12 year olds, a smattering of crime writers, a senior CSI, a bunch of wonderful Festival staff and volunteers and a lot of exhausted-looking teachers. (It was the end of term after all). I worked with Martin Waites, Cath Staincliffe and Helen Pepper to devise a live Cluedo scenario that allowed the kids to take fingerprints, compare footwear impressions, look at a crime scene and write a press release. At times I wasn't sure my voice would hold out but everyone seemed to have a great time. Kat from the Festival office made a wonderfully seductive murderer. Thanks to her, and especially to the Sun Pavilion manager who smiled even when she was trying to get fingerprint powder mixed with orange juice off her bar...
But the best thing about the whole event was the magnificent Mark Billingham, who has just written a book for young people under the name of Will Peterson. He kept the room spell-bound for an hour with his readings and the Dad, the teacher and two children who performed a scene from his book had us in fits of laughter. Any children's librarians who are reading this - book him now!!!
The remainder of the Festival was only marginally more sedate. My role as reader in residence is to talk to readers, introduce them to authors they'd like to meet and suggest new writers for them to try. It was good to catch up with the group of Americans I last met in Shetland and to see people returning for their fourth or fifth year. One woman said to me: 'I came for the first time last year. Until then I thought I was a sort of freak in my reading taste. Now I realise there are loads of people like me, so I formed a crime book group.'
This year there were more overseas publishers at the Festival and I found my role had extended to introducing them to authors - it would be lovely to think that some writers had been offered a translation contract through chatting to European editors in the bar. It would be sad though if Harrogate turned into another trade fair. Its strength is that readers, publishers, agents and writers all mix.
Certainly all those categories were present at the Festival Book Group discussing Nordic Crime. Again we had an amazing turn-out and the group raved about Stieg Larsson, Leif Davidsen and Jo Nesbo. Johan a new Transworld author from Sweden gave a real insight into the history of Scandinavian crime-writing. Later I was interviewed by BBC4 about Henning Mankell's writing - there will be a documentary on his work in the run-up to the new adaptation starring Kenneth Branagh. The producer said that when they'd filmed in Sweden there was a pile of my books next to Henning's. It would be nice to think that they sold as well.
I'm off now to do an event in South Shields Central Library with fellow Pan Macmillan author Chelsea Cain. I won't be going out with them after though. Chelsea was at Harrogate and kept her editors up in the bar until 5.00 am...
CWA Duncan Lawrie Daggers
On Thursday evening the winners of the Duncan Lawrie Daggers were announced at the Four Seasons Hotel in London. I wasn't there in body - we'd planned a few days holiday on Holy Island - but I was certainly there in spirit. Like most crime writers I enjoy reading the genre too and I knew who I wanted to win.
On the Tuesday before the big day I chaired a panel of shortlisted translators at the Lit and Phil library in Newcastle. The new International Dagger recognises the translator as well as the author and Ros Schwartz, Peter Millar and Stephen Sartarelli provided a fascinating insight into the craft of taking a writer's work, transforming it into a completely new form and still maintaining the spirit and voice of the original. Ros Schwartz translates Dominique Manotti, one of my favourite authors, and I was delighted to hear, over a crackly mobile phone on Friday morning, that Manotti's THE LORRAINE CONNECTION had won the Duncan Lawrie International Dagger.
I've loved Frances Fyfield's books since she started writing. It's her courage that I admire the most. Each book is different, a new adventure for the reader. I still carry around in my head scenes that I read year ago and characters that I met. She's been nominated for dozens of awards, so it was fantastic to hear that this year she'd won the big one, the Duncan Lawrie Dagger.
Last year the short story awards were announced on a separate occasion - a mistake I think because the crime short story is difficult and worthy of proper recognition. Martin Edwards had been a friend since I joined the Crime Writers' Association in the 80s. I enjoy his novels but I think he's a truly great short story writer and THE BOOKBINDER'S APPRENTICE is one of the creepiest tales I've ever read. I knew it deserved to win, but would the judges share my opinion? They did and I'm thrilled. It's fitting that Martin, who has encouraged British short fiction through his work as editor of the CWA anthology, should have his own work recognised.
Tomorrow morning I'm off to Harrogate for the crime-writing festival. A chance to catch up with old friends. My Scandinavian agent and German publishers will be there this year, so I'll be interested to know what they make of the third Shetland book. I'll let you know...