New to the event timetable this year, put together by the lovely Mike Linane and colleagues, (who are also the minds behind Deal Noir & Bodies In The Library), Morecambe and Vice is 2017’s welcome and intriguing addition to the calendar for fans of all things crime fiction.
As a newly signed author for Williams & Whiting, LifeOfCri.me friend Andrew Hill, was in attendance to report back on his experience of this new addition. Hopefully it will continue and grow as many such festivals have and become another amazing celebration of all things crime fiction related…….
I knew it was going to be a great crime writing festival when Eric Morcambe appeared to me in a dream, just the night before I was due to leave
‘I come with a message from Agatha and Christie,’ he said, touching his right hand to his glasses.
‘Agatha and Christie?’ I asked.
‘Yes, a slight accident whilst sharpening a pencil.’
‘What’s the message?’
‘There’s a crime writing festival in a seaside town that shares the same name as me,’ he replied.
‘I don’t know of a seaside town called Bartholomew,’
‘Morecambe, you fool.’
‘Oh, right. So what?’
‘Go forth to Morecambe, go fifth for all I care and watch these crime writers to learn about the books what they wrote,’ he ordered.
So I found myself on Friday lunchtime, nursing a pint at the bar of the art deco Midland Hotel. This iconic building overlooks Morecambe Bay and I recalled that they had shot an episode of Poirot here.
The first event at Morecambe & Vice, was a crime writing masterclass with the prolific Leigh Russell.
With about ten of us in attendance, we looked at the use of language, creating pace and characters and setting up the twist. It worked well for me, as I’d had a voice talking to me for a few weeks, but hadn’t put anything on paper. A simple five minute exercise was all it needed.
Everyone who took part seemed to agree that this event was a gold-plated opportunity to tale a serious look at the inside track on installing some creativity and discipline into your writing.
The Murder Mystery Dinner was next and what a great production by such a talented group. They sang, danced, acted and left no double entendre unturned. The diners seemed to enjoy the food and performance equally and vied to uncover the killer of the Master of Mystery Mansion with varying degrees of detection and pure guesswork. As Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s team uncovered the culprit, I suspect that some insight into the criminal mind certainly helped.
Day 1 of the panels began with If I Ruled The Crime Writing World and Delores Gordon-Smith and Leigh Russell discussing the Van Dine’s 20 Rules For Writing Detective Stories and fairly quickly came to the conclusion that even Agatha Christie was prepared to break them.
Next up was Local Legends: I Did It My Way. A.S. Chambers, Beth Jones, Zoe Sharp and Moderator, Kevin Wignall talked about their connections to the area and the changes in publishing that they’re bearing witness to.
Panel 3 invited Alison Baillie, Harry Brett, Elly Griffiths and William Shaw to discuss use of the coast in their writing, the transient nature of the population and landscape and why it’s always advisable not to include a Desert Warbler in your story.
Putting On The Blitz examined pour enduring fascination with the Nazi’s, why they make such attractive villains and the dreadful crimes they committed, with musings from Howard Linskey, Chris Petit and Luke McCallin, ably chaired by Guy Fraser-Sampson.
Yrsa Sigurdardotir was put under the spotlight by the ever-witty Kevin Wignall during These Boots Are Made For Walking. They touched upon Yrsa’s show collection and examined the pain and pleasure of having your book made into a film.
The discussion in Those Were The Days found Nicola Upson, Dolores Gordon-Smith and Andrew Wilson chatting about the importance of period in their writing and the importance of ‘getting it right’.
I Will Survive was effectively a new blood panel, with first time authors Fiona Cummins, Mark Hill and Phil Rowlands giving aspiring authors and readers some insight into the journey the three of them endured to get published.
The last panel of the day saw a gathering of the Killer Queens, again wonderfully guided and egged on by Kevin Wignall. Elly Griffiths, Babara Nadel, Leigh Russell and Sarah Ward were generous in sharing their thoughts and stories about their work.
The evening closed at Morecambe Library with live version of Cluedo, which was thoroughly enjoyed by all who took part.
Opening up Day 2 was There’s A Time And A Place For Everything. Elly Griffith poked and prodded Jeff Dowson, Guy Fraser-Sampson, Simon Michael and William Shaw into revealing what prompts and inspires them to write what they do.
There was only one person to interview Yrsa and Lilja Sigurdardottir for Foreign Bodies and that was Quentin Bates who wheedled out Yrsa that she would only be marooned on a desert island if she could have Kevin Wignall with her to keep her amused. Quentin also teased out of Lilja that she was a fighting cock trainer in her past, but no portrait of her hangs in Iceland’s National Gallery. No wonder that the two ladies declared Quentin an ‘National Treasure of Iceland’.
Pity any criminal present as the long arm of the law was well-represented in May The Force Be With You. Ex-coppers Paul Finch, Michael Fowler, Paul Harrison and Matt Johnson discussed policing old a new, the challenges of ‘keeping it real’, whilst not sacrificing the story and how the budget cuts are making things so much more difficult for todays Forces. I’m sure that, given half a chance, they could have talked for a few more hours.
Former Superintendent Graham Bartlett has been Peter James’s advisor for some years and he sat down with C.S.I. Kate Bendelow to talk Facts Before Fiction. They talked about what are the common mistakes made by writers about Police and Forensic procedure, liberally dusting their chat with real events and insights.
Sadly, I had to start making my way home at that point. It’s a long way from Morecambe to West Sussex and thanks to road works and traffic it took me seven hours. But, I did speak to friends who managed to catch Sophie Hannah holding forth on Agatha, Poirot And Me, Simon Brett in conversation and performing The Girl With The Unpronounceable Name and Crime In Rhyme and they were unequivocal in their praise for the informative and entertaining final panels.
A few last words about the venue. The Winter Gardens is a Victorian joy and opened in 1897. It’s gob-smackingly gorgeous and has been graced by so many famous names over the years Oh and it’s reported to be haunted too. Perfect spot for a crime writing festival.