Sunday, July 20, 2014

Peculier times in historic Harrogate

This time two years ago I was enjoying the sunshine and book-loving banter amongst a fun-loving crowd of crime fiction readers and writers at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate in the north of England. I'd watched the festival grow from afar over the past decade, and was very jealous of those who got to attend what always looked like a wonderful weekend. So when a friend's UK wedding fell within a week of the 2012 festival, I took the chance for a trip northwards.

Right: Thriller writers Paul Cleave (New Zealand), Simon Kernick (England), Val McDermid (Scotland) and myself. 

Harrogate was even better than I could have anticipated. The town itself is delightful, an historic spa town in Yorkshire, with pretty botanic gardens, cobblestoned streets, and a great, laidback vibe to it. Perhaps too peaceful for a crime writing convention? Well, considering the Grand Dame Agatha Christie set many of her murderous mysteries in quaint British towns, it might be very fitting. The festival always takes place at the Old Swan Hotel, an ivy-covered edifice with lovely grounds.

Other than the fact it's a festival all about crime writing, meaning there are a plethora of fantastic events to attend, one of the best things about the Theakston Festival is the interaction between readers, reviewers, and authors. There are plenty of opportunities for everyone to mix at the bar, and hang out in the grounds in the sunshine. Many attendees stay at the Old Swan Hotel itself, with others at nearby accommodations a short walk, or stumble (given the late night antics the festival is famous for) away. This just creates a very collegial, inclusive vibe, where readers feel less intimidated to go up and chat to one of their favourite authors.

I would highly recommend any crime fiction fan who gets the chance, to attend the festival. I'll definitely be looking to head back there again, hopefully in the not too distant future.

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