Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A clutch of Daggers at Crimefest

Craig Sisterson, Quentin Bates, Lilja Sigurdardottir,
Michael J Malone, and Barry Forshaw at Crimefest
Last Friday I made a spontaneous day-trip to Bristol for Crimefest, the annual crime writing convention. In recent years I'd gone for the entire four days, but this year I had to miss it due to other commitments. But then a last-minute window opened for a day trip.

So I hopped on an early train from London, and spent a full day there loitering with some of the world's finest criminal masterminds, before making a late-night getaway (and an eventual 2am return home to South London).

In between I had a terrific time catching up with a dozens of authors, publishers, reviewers, and others. There's a great atmosphere at Crimefest, with an exciting array of topical sessions, as well as lots of good times just hanging out in the bookshop, bar, and lounge areas, meeting and chatting to different crime-lovers. Like many crime festivals, there's a really great atmosphere, so whether you're a writer or reader, a newbie or an old hand, you'll be welcomed in and find yourself engaging with lots of people who share a love of good crime and thriller writing.

Even just being in Bristol for about 12 hours, there were too many highlights to mention. But to give you a flavour of what goes on at Crimefest, here are a few snippets, new memories created:

  • Meeting American crime writer CJ Box for the first time, and spontaneously setting up an interview, only for us both to get caught up in chatting about the frontier nature of the United States and New Zealand, what we love about the great outdoors, and much more. And a random fact: according to CJ, much of the 'wild game' served in US restaurants isn't that wild, due to hunting and commercial use restrictions, so the 'elk' I ate at a game restaurants in Jackson Hole years ago may have been - of all things - imported New Zealand red deer. 
  • Wandering into the downstairs bar during a lull in proceedings (many of the sessions were jam-packed), and ending up having a drink with Peter Guttridge and Stanley Trollip (half of Michael Stanley), leading to a long chat with Stanley about what he loves about living in Minneapolis, and kicking around ideas of how to approach setting up crime writing festivals in New Zealand and South Africa - neither of our countries have crime festivals yet. 
  • Meeting the German crime writers who were at Crimefest thanks to the efforts of Dr Kat Hall, who'd last year hosted a mini-session giving an overview of German 'krimis'. This year Melanie Raabe, Mario Giordano, Merle Kröger, and Volker Kutscher were there in person. It's great to see the evolution of Crimefest as it embraces a broader range of international authors, and the hard work of people like Kat paying off. I think we all benefit. 
  • Catching up with my fellow Ngaio Marsh Awards judges Yrsa Sigurdardottir and Peter Rozovsky (Yrsa is a current judge, Peter was a founding judge back in 2010), along with 'half-Kiwi' thriller writer CJ Carver, who's entered in this year's awards. Hopefully, like Kat has done with the German writers the past couple of years, we'll be able to get a bit more attention for great Kiwi crime writing at various British and European crime festivals in future. 
  • Running into fellow critics, awards judges, and event organisers like Mike Stotter, Barry Forshaw, Ewa Sherman, Jacky Collins, Sarah Ward, Quentin Bates, and the irrepressible Ali Karim. My knowledge of crime writing is always challenged and expanded by the conversations we have about various authors and books - and we always end up coming up with all sorts of grand ideas for the future - hopefully some of which will come to fruition!
  • Celebrating with the fine authors and publishers who made the CWA Dagger long-lists announced on the Friday evening (see full list here), and commiserating with some of my top reads of last year who missed out on being recognised. (And having some fascinating discussions with some of the CWA judges about the awards). I've been involved in judging the national crime writing awards for three different countries, and it's always interesting to learn how different things work, and a good reminder of differing tastes.
  • Finishing my day with late-night fish'n'chips with Peter Rozovksy and new-to-me British crime writer Lloyd Otis, whose debut crime novel Dead Lands will be out in October. There aren't enough black voices in crime writing, in Britain and elsewhere (a recurring discussion I've had with several people in several countries lately) so I'm excited to read Otis' debut. 
After all the festivities, I took a late-night train back to London, passing the time by finishing Glen Erik Hamilton's third Van Shaw adventure, Every Day Above Ground. A great day all around. 

Here are some more photos:

The irrepressible Ali Karim interview-bombs CJ Box and I

Three nationalities of Ngaios judges, new and old:
Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Craig Sisterson, and Peter Rozovsky

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