Two cities, two book festivals
I love travelling. When I was eight I discovered the word 'wanderlust' with a stab of recognition - though I hadn't done any wandering at all at that stage. I find stations and airports exciting, places of dreams and immense possibilities. Just as well because I've spent a lot of time in both recently.
At the end of October I found myself in Adelaide for the Body in the Garden Festival. This was an intriguing concept - to bring together crime writers and gardening writers in the city's beautiful botanic gardens. The title of the first lecture was: The Body in the Garden - Crime Scene or Compost, and that set the tone for the whole weekend. Quirky, engaging and laced with a touch of black humour. I'd been to Adelaide briefly before, and this time found it very human, friendly and easy to find my way around. Although I had four different panels over the three days I still had the opportunity to explore the town and friends got me out to the hills and to the beach. The view from Mount Lofty set the whole city in its context.
I think the success of a festival depends on its organisers and Rose and Penelope were magnificent ambassadors for Adelaide and its culture. Their personal commitment meant that we were greeted at the airport, introduced to readers and writers and from the beginning felt as if we were with friends. I enjoyed meeting the gardeners as much as catching up with my old partner in crime Håkan Nesser, and listening to some fine home-grown crime-writers speaking and reading too.
Less than a week after arriving home from Australia I was flying into Belfast for the Killer Books Festival in Derry. This was crime-writing's contribution to Derry's UK City of Culture status. Of course it's very different from Adelaide (less sunshine, chillier and a lot more history) but the warmth of the hospitality and the commitment of the organisers was the same. I first got to know Brian McGilloway when we toured Scotland with a third author a while ago, and admired his books and his good-nature. All the writers he'd invited to appear had something interesting to say. This was much less about selling their own books than sharing a passion for a form that can be broad and thought provoking. It's impossible to visit Derry without being required to think. The places that appeared on newsreels just a short time ago are visible from the city walls, and slogans and murals are still painted on houses and walls. I'll get a lot more out of Brian's books after visiting the place where they were set.
In less than a fortnight's time I'll be on my way to Reykjavik for Iceland Noir. Another new place to explore. I'll be writing about that next month.