Wellington-based crime novelist and TV screenwriter Neil Cross (BURIAL, ALWAYS THE SUN, Spooks, Luther) was joined on the authors' panel by internationals Gil Adamson (author of ‘literary western' OUTLANDER), Audrey Niffenegger (THE TIME TRAVELLER'S WIFE), and Kamila Shamsie's (political saga BURNT SHADOWS), but from the early reports, and attendee comments, the darkly comic Cross was the star of the show.
Local writer Maggie Rainey-Smith was in the audience, and has written an informative report on Beattie's Book Blog, for those like myself who couldn't make it along.
"Everyone on the panel was particularly ‘nice’ which isn’t always such a good thing, and it was a relief to me when Neil Cross took the chatter ‘off-piste’ now and then, small humorous tangents, but at a Gala opening, you need these sort of passionate distractions," says Rainey-Smith.
A little later in her report of Beattie's Book Blog, Rainey-Smith says, "Neil (I’ll admit I’m smitten) Cross lead writer for Spooks, long-listed for the Booker, crime novelist, memoirist, talked about the difference in writing about a baddie for the screen versus a baddie in a novel. He said that if you cast someone that the audience loves in the role of the baddie on screen, then they’ll like them – but in a novel, you have to develop psychological depths, make them human, to make them likeable. This, as Kate de Goldi pointed out, is the compelling aspect of Neil’s writing, the way he seduces you into caring about his characters who commit (even a multiple killer)."
There are plenty of other nuggets in the report, which you can read in full here. Some of the attendee comments that have been already been added are also pretty interesting.
For those who missed the Gala Opening, but are in the Wellington area this weekend, I recommend you head along to see Cross on Sunday. He is doing a Writers Upfront at 2:00pm - a conversation with Noel Murphy, about Cross's work. I was fortunate enough to interview Cross last year for an article in Good Reading magazine. He is a fascinating and very interesting guy, and I recommend anyone who can, to head along and listen to him speak.
It's great to see a 'crime writer' being included in such a literary festival, and then being received so well by the audience - hopefully this might be something of a lesson for some of the other books festivals around New Zealand - and we will see more crime writers, Kiwi and international, featuring in future line-ups.