Monday, March 12, 2012

A few photos and thoughts from a crime-filled weekend

Well, it's been a fantastic weekend down in Wellington as the Writers and Readers Week part of the biennial New Zealand International Arts Festival kicked into gear. It was great to be surrounded by so many people, including authors from all over the world and hundreds of readers, who are passionate about books. There was a terrific energy in an around the Embassy Theatre and the other venues.

It was also amazing to see how much effort and organisation goes into things behind the scenes to make sure things run relatively smoothly, and that audience members and authors alike have a really enjoyable time. Kudos to Anne Chamberlain, Kathryn Carmody, the other official organisers and board members, and their large team of enthusiastic and helpful volunteers.

From an official standpoint, I was there to chair two sessions: "Norwegian Crime" with Jo Nesbo (pictured right) on the Saturday evening, and "New Zealand Crime" with Paul Cleave, Vanda Symon, and Paul Thomas on Sunday morning. I really enjoyed both sessions - it was great to chat to talented crime writers before an enthusiastic and engaged audience, who in each case seemed keen to ask plenty of questions too.

You can read Pip Adam's report on the packed-out Jo Nesbo session (which apparently drew the biggest crowd of any of the books events) on the Scoop news website here. You can also read Maggie Rainey-Smith's report on the same event here.

There was also a "Tartan Noir" session with Scottish author Denise Mina (one of four sessions Mina, who is also a graphic novelist, was/is involved in during the week), who was interviewed onstage by Jane Stafford. You can read Pip Adam's report on that session here.

I've often been told that one of the best things about such writers and readers festivals is the social scene, and the opportunity for authors and others to all hang out together outside of the panel sessions and other events.

That certainly proved the case in Wellington, where I got to meet and spend time with several authors, crime writers and otherwise. It was great to just 'hang out' with many people, from playing frisbee with New Zealand crime writers Paul Cleave and Vanda Symon at a waterfront park on the Friday evening (no swimming required this time), to having a few drinks with Cleave, Symon, British writer Robert Shearman (who famously returned the Daleks to Doctor Who in 2005), 2009's "golden girl of fiction" Eleanor Catton (THE REHEARSAL), and several others in a Wellington bar following the mayor's opening reception, and having dinner with Denise Mina, Cleave, and Symon on Saturday night (pictured above left).

There was a really good vibe all weekend, at least amongst all those I interacted with. I got to put many faces to well-known names, and meet a wide variety of writers and readers. I was blown away by many of the positive feelings about New Zealand crime writing from many in the wider local books community. For me, it certainly debunked some of the 'literary snobbery' perceptions that I've heard about in relation to the genre in New Zealand - writers and readers of all kinds were more than happy to come up to me and chat about crime writing, and many people mentioned how strong they thought the genre was becoming locally, from a quality standpoint. There was a real sense of enthusiasm and engagement across the board, and it was great to meet so many people who respect and enjoy quality crime writing, whether they write it (or read much of it) themselves or not.

Here are a couple of other photos from the festivities:

Vanda Symon, Eleanor Catton and Katie from Penguin at Matterhorn on Friday night.

Kiwi crime and mystery writers Yvonne Walus, Vanda Symon, Paul Cleave
and Paul Thomas after the New Zealand Crime session on Sunday morning.

Have you attended any of the Writers and Readers Week events at the 2012 New Zealand International Arts Festival? If so, what did you think? Comments appreciated.


  1. Craig that photo makes you look very tall? You must have played second row.
    In 1967 I stood between NZ All Blacks Waka Nathan [the biggest man listed at 5' 11" I have ever seen] who had a broken jaw, and Earl Kirton, who wasn't tall but looked very muscular. NZ did beat England a few days later without Nathan.

  2. I'm about 6 foot 2, so not really second row material. I'm more like a badly out-of-shape prop or loose forward right now.