Crimefest 2014

Life Of friend, Andrew Hill name drops his way through a round up of the 2014 festival, and he’s not wrong when he says you can access everyone there for help, or banter and chat. Here’s why it’s one of the UK’s best crime fiction festivals.

Once again the Ancient British deity Belenus saw fit to bless Crimefest in Bristol with his presence. It seems par for the course at this annual gathering of the Crime genre clan, with blue skies and the warmest days of the year so far.

Although my own trip up didn’t begin too auspiciously, perhaps I hadn’t made the proper libation, as I forgot a bag and had to return home to deepest Hampshire, I walked out on to the terrace by the bar in the Marriott to be greeted by familiar faces and I was immediately at home.

This was my second trip to Crimefest, having attended the previous year and it was like slipping on a favourite shirt.

Now celebrating its seventh year the convention has a familiar feel to its programme, with a veritable cornucopia of panels covering the ever widening scope that is ‘crime’.

Alexander & Alexandra Ahndoril a.k.a Lars Keplar talking about why “Two Pens are better than One”

Every morning starts with a ‘new author’ panel, introducing recently published writers to an engaged and eager audience. You can then dip a toe in the frigid waters of Scandinavian and Icelandic Noir with Quentin Bates, Lars Kepler and Yrsa Sigurdardottir, hear a ‘24’ style clock ticking during discussions on pace in modern thrillers with Matthew Frank, Simon Kernick and Belinda Bauer, or muse how much it would cost to get rid of, or at least torture, your least favourite person during a great panel on hired guns, with Mason Cross, John Gordon Sinclair (yes, he of Gregory’s Girl fame) and Mark Allen Smith.

The key thing is that there is something for everyone. Forgotten authors, sorted. How not to write yourself into a corner, check. Euro crime, oui/si/ja/da. Cosy crime and the Golden Age, of course. Spies and political thrillers, done. The list goes one and included books with protagonists who are the opposite sex from the writers, women as victims, police procedurals, historical crime fiction and death in foreign climes.

In addition you get stand alone interviews with the likes of Mark Billingham, one of the featured Guest Authors. Diamond Dagger recipient Simon Brett’s very funny interpretation of what literary greats may have come up with if they’d turned their hands to crime writing, of which T S Elliot and Dylan Thomas were my personal favourites. A great panel with Peter James, celebrating ten years of Roy Grace, which included his publisher, agent and PR and also a wide variety of authors, giving twenty minute solo spots, covering topics like the sympathetic villain, planning a best seller, or how to write a long running series.

Want something more interactive? Then get involved on Thursday’s Crime Writing Day. Learn about Self Publishing and eBooks. What Agents and Editors are for and what they do. Find out about how to develop plot and characters and even have your manuscript accessed.

Feeling brave? Then sign up for Pitch an Agent. Get mano a mano with the likes of David Hedley, Broo Doherty, Camilla Wray, or Jenny Hewson. These luminaries know their stuff and will give you great feedback on your submission and synopsis and might even want to see a full manuscript from you.

Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival programming chair & author Steve Mosby, looks on as James Oswald rocks the kilt before the gala dinner.

Along with the annual Pub Quiz, (we came fourth), multitude of awards, receptions and a Gala Dinner, you might get the feeling that there is something for every crime reader, aspiring writer, butcher, baker, tinker tailor, soldier or spy, (yes, there was a spy there! Okay he’s a former ‘intelligence’ officer, but you get my drift) and there is. But what you can’t get from the programme is just how damn friendly the event is and how accessible the authors are. I was frankly amazed at how helpful, thank you William Ryan, most authors are. How everyone seems to know everyone else and simply everyone knows, Mike Stotter, Ayo Onatade and Ali Karim. How well organised it all is, a ripple of applause for Myles, Donna and Adrian and their wonderful staff, please. How it was such a pleasure to see old friends and make new ones. This is a conference no right thinking crime devotee should miss.

I’ll be back next year and James Oswald, our conversation on the merits of Highland and Hereford beef will continue.


Andrew Hill


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