At Crimefest in May we had a meeting of the Crime Writing Association Icelandic Chapter. (At least we sat in the corner of the bar and had a drink). I was there because I reckoned that Shetland was as close to Iceland as you could get and we were joined by Susan Moody, whose son lives in Iceland, Michael Ridpath and Quentin Bates, who set their books there (Quentin is married to an Icelander) and Icelandic crime-writer Ragnar Jonasson. The idea was floated that Iceland would be a wonderful place to hold a festival, and I said that I'd certainly be up for it... As I said in my last post, I love to visit new places.
Fast forward to the end of November. I was on an early flight from Manchester, flying into Keflavik, and a landscape that was similar to Shetland. 'Oh my God,' said the American woman next to me, 'it's a wasteland.' She meant that there were no trees and the volcanic rock was black. The coach from the airport took us to the bus station in Reykjavik and off-loaded us into smaller mini-buses to get to our hotels. I managed to get into the wrong one, but the driver went well out of his way to take me there. This was a great introduction to the Icelandic people. They were unfailingly hospitable, warm and helpful. Ragnar had organised a couple of press sessions that afternoon - including a TV interview in a cemetery - then there was a reception at the British Embassy, a reading in a bar with other Brits and Icelanders and a screening of the pilot of the BBC show SHETLAND.
Friday was free for tourism and Sophie my publicist and I had signed up for the Golden Circle tour. We slid across the icy walkways to see the dramatic Golden Waterfall, and to experience the geysers shooting hot steam and water into a snowy sky. The mist came down as we drove back to the city and provided a suitably atmospheric background in the run-up to the main action. Ragnar had invited a few of us to dinner that night and then Yrsa Sigurdardottir, the international best-selling thriller writer, hosted a party afterwards. I was so shattered that I didn't quite make it there...
The festival proper was held in the Nordic House, a lovely little arts centre close to the water. Other intrepid British and Irish writers, bloggers and readers had made it to Iceland. Jake Kerridge moderated beautifully and Zoe Sharp, Melanie McGrath and William Ryan entertained us. John Curran was very waspish on the subject of Christie TV adaptations. The highlight for me though was to meet Arnaldur Indridason. I've loved his books for years, since the publication of Jar City.
The climax of the evening was a Christmas buffet dinner in a hotel in Reykjavik. The food was terrific, there was wine, conversation and a quickfire quiz. Later people went off on a tour to search for the Northern Lights, but I had an early flight the following morning and left them to it.
Huge thanks to Quentin, Ragnar and Yrsa for making this festival such a friendly and well-organised event. They've promised a repeat performance next year. They can't guarantee the Northern Lights, but if you can make it, I'm sure you'll have a terrific time.