Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Four years down, one sleep to go...

Well, we're just about there. Tomorrow morning The Press Christchurch Writers Festival 2012 officially kicks into gear, after a four-year absence. It will be terrific to see the crowds turn up for such a terrific celebration of reading, books, and authors. Back in 2010 a truly terrific festival had been planned - including the first-ever presentation of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel at an evening involving local crime writers along with Australian crime writer Michael Robotham and British thriller writer Simon Kernick - only for disaster to strike in the form of the September 2010 Christchurch earthquake. 

At the time, it was a real shame that the festival had to be cancelled, but we were all just grateful that buildings were the only things that had been damaged and lost, not people. Unfortunately that wasn't the case when a further devastating earthquake struck the following February (those further 'quakes also quashed plans for a replacement mini-festival that May). 

As Christchurch, New Zealand's second-largest city, continues to get back on its feet, it's great that events such as The Press Christchurch Writers Festival are returning, providing local book lovers with a great opportunity to further engage with the wonderful world of reading over four days filled with stimulating sessions, intriguing authors, and a true atmosphere of creativity and passion. I've been incredibly busy here with a variety of work and extracurricular things, but I am really looking forward to heading down to the festival - it's always terrific and inspiring being surrounded by passionate, book loving people. 

There are a myriad of terrific sessions and events on offer for festival-goers in 2012 - dozens of interesting authors will be in attendance and making appearances. You can view the full programme here or the festival calendar here, but for our purposes I have highlighted the crime fiction-related sessions below.

Friday, 31 August 2012 - 10am and 11.30am - ANNE PERRY INTERIORS: 
To accompany the publication of Joanne Drayton’s biography, THE SEARCH FOR ANNE PERRY, Dana Linkiewicz’s remarkable 2009 documentary, Anne Perry: Interiors, will screen during the festival. Renowned but reclusive crime writer Perry, whose 50 books have sold more than 25 million copies worldwide, was unmasked as notorious teen killer Juliet Hulme following Peter Jackson's Oscar-nominated 1994 film Heavenly Creatures, about the 1954 Parker-Hulme murder that shocked the world. The film will also screen at 3.30pm on Sunday, 2 September 2012.

Saturday, 1 September 2012 - 12.30pm - FATAL ATTRACTION
Award-winning crime writers Michael Robotham (Australia) and Paul Cleave (New Zealand) are joined by up-and-coming crime fiction star Ben Sanders and acclaimed novelist Julian Novitz for a panel discussion addressing why literary distinctions are made between crime and thrillers and so-called 'literary fiction', and whether books that turn on a mystery, even when brilliantly written, are victims of their genre.

Saturday, 1 September 2012 - 3.30pm - AN HOUR WITH JOANNE DRAYTON
The 1954 Parker–Hulme murder in Christchurch riveted New Zealand and the world. How do you live your life after such an event? How do you make sense of the guilt? Much-praised biographer Joanne Drayton has written THE SEARCH FOR ANNE PERRY, the story of former teenage killer Juliet Hulme, who has reinvented herself as an internationally renowned crime author. Joanne had unprecedented access to her subject and the result is "an enthralling, compassionate and original biography of a remarkable Drayton talks with Christchurch writer, broadcaster and editor Liz Grant.

Saturday, 1 September 2012 - 7.30pm - THE GREAT NEW ZEALAND CRIME DEBATE and the presentation of the 2012 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel
Two fiendishly clever and articulate teams debate the proposition that, as Kipling put it, ‘The female of the species is more deadly than the male’. Lining up to attack and defend this statement are: Ursula Cheer, Professor, School of Law, University of Canterbury, Lianne Dalziel, Christchurch East MP and lawyer, Jonathan Forsey, Special Counsel at Duncan Cotterill, Chris McVeigh, a Queen’s Counsel and writer, Michael Robotham, Australian crime writer, and Vanda Symon, Dunedin crime novelist. Crime fiction aficionado and literary blogger supreme, Graham Beattie will chair the debate. Robotham will present the 2012 Ngaio Marsh Award following the debate.

Sunday, 2 September 2012 - 3.30pm - ANNE PERRY INTERIORS
A further screening of the documentary.

So that's not a bad crime fiction line-up (okay, I'm a little biased, since I'm involved - but it's great to see New Zealand books festivals embracing crime writing more and more in the past year). And of course there are many other terrific events for book lovers over the course of the weekend (see here for full calendar).

I know many Crime Watch readers, spread all over the world, won't be able to attend - but hopefully we can bring you some reports, news, and maybe even interviews with some of the writers, over the coming days. And of course, we'll let you all know as soon as possible which of Paul Cleave, Neil Cross, Ben Sanders, and Vanda Symon walks away with the exquisite hand-crafted Ngaio Marsh Award trophy, designed and created once again this year by terrific local sculptor Gina Ferguson.

For those of you who are in the Canterbury area this weekend, I hope you will come along to the Festival. Please do feel free to come up and say hi. I'm more than happy to chat anytime about books, and love to meet likeminded people who love reading!

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