The demand for everything from cosy mysteries to horrible, grisly murder is why the crime fiction wave just keeps rolling. And so does the annual calendar of crime writing festivals where readers get to meet their favourite writers and forensically examine many aspects of a deadly genre that shows no sign of dying. Here’s my pick of the early-season highlights.
DEAL NOIR, Deal, Kent – March 25
Scene of crime: This small but influential one-day festival goes from strength to strength, entering its third year with a packed programme set in an attractive coastal town with sweeping views of the English Channel.
Prime suspects: Writers include Susan Moody (Penny Wanawake and Cassandra Swann series), Quentin Bates (Thin Ice), CrimeThrillerGirl blogger Steph Broadribb (Deep Down Dead), Fiona Cummins (Rattle), crime fiction expert Barry Forshaw, “Captain Hastings” actor Hugh Fraser (Harm, Threat, Malice), Guy Fraser-Sampson (The Hampstead Murders), Mark Hill (DCI Ray Drake), SJI Holliday (the Banktoun Trilogy), Barbara Nadel (the Ikmen series, Hakim and Arnold mysteries), HI-DE-HI actress Linda Regan (Guts For Garters), William Shaw (Breen & Tozer), and Sarah Ward (DC Childs).
BOOKS BY THE BEACH, Scarborough, N Yorks – April 26-May1
Scene of crime: There’s crime embedded deep in the fourth of this wide-ranging book festival in a resort that also offers fantastic beaches, traditional amusements and a sea life sanctuary.
Prime suspects: On April 29 Thriller Girls Louise Doughty (Black Water, Apple Tree Yard) and Erin Kelly (The Poison Tree, He Said/She Said) are at Scarborough Library Concert Hall. On April 30 Barry Forshaw talks about his new book American Noir and the writers and stars he has met including James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell, Lauren Bacall and Alfred Hitchcock. You’re invited to attend in gangster costume.
On May 1 Forensics And Felony is under analysis with Mark Billingham (Tom Thorne, In The Dark) and Dr Stuart Hamilton, a forensic pathologist who has advised on Midsomer Murders, Casualty, New Tricks and Silent Witness.
CHIPLITFEST, Chipping Norton, Oxon (April 27-30)
Scene of crime: This picturesque town in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds looks like a set from Midsomer Murders which makes it ideal to host a prestigious literary festival with a strong criminal element.
Prime suspects: Rebus creator Ian Rankin is interviewed by festival patron and fellow crime writer Mark Billingham. CWA Dagger In The Library winner Sharon Bolton (Dead Woman Walking) talks to Clare Mackintosh (I Let You Go). Other speakers include Martyn Waites-Tania Carver (Joe Donovan) and John Mitchinson, co-founder of Unbound, who will talk about crowdfunding as a new way of publishing.
NEWCASTLE NOIR (April 30-May 5)
Scene of crime: This festival aims to promote crime fiction in all its disguises from all over the world in the magnificent setting of the Literary & Philosophical Society’s independent library (www.litandphil.org.uk). Sessions include Murderous Newcastle, Geordie Crime, Femmes Fatale, Presenting The Case and Action Thriller.
Prime suspects: Attending authors include David Young (Stasi Child), Mari Hannah (Kate Daniels), Lilja Sigurðardóttir (Implicated), Howard Linskey (Behind Dead Eyes, No Name Lane), Steph Broadribb, Luca Veste (Murphy and Rossi), William Ryan (Captain Korolev) and Sarah Ward.
CRIMEFEST, Bristol (May 18-21)
Scene of crime: One of the big beasts of the crime festival world, CrimeFest features more than 100 participating authors plus many others along for the craic. Sessions include Debut Authors: An Infusion Of Fresh Blood, Shhhhhhhhhh!: Keeping Secrets And Telling Lies, The Hunter Hunted: Running For Your Life, What Are You Hiding?: The Dark Side Of Human Nature, Traditional Mysteries: How Cosy Can Murder Be?, How Many Deaths?: The Appeal Of Serial Killers In Crime Fiction, Ticking Clocks: A Race Against Time, Partners In Crime: Male/Female Police Duos, and Nightmares And Trauma: Putting Your Characters Through The Mill.
Prime suspects: Participants include Quentin Bates, Louise Beech, Sharon Bolton, Steph Broadribb, Ann Cleeves, Mason Cross, Julia Crouch, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Barry Forshaw, Hugh Fraser, Elly Griffiths, Peter Guttridge, Lisa Hall, MR Hall. Adam Hamdy, Paul Hardisty, Tom Harper, Sarah Hilary. Anthony Horowitz, Jake Kerridge, Michael J Malone, Thomas Mogford and Susan Moody.
BODIES FROM THE LIBRARY, British Library (June 17)
This is the third conference celebrating the Golden Age Of Detective Fiction Writers including Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L Sayers, John Dickson Carr and Margery Allingham.
THEAKSTONS OLD PECULIER CRIME WRITING FESTIVAL, Harrogate (July 20-23)
Scene of crime: International bestselling authors and fans mingle and relax in the bar, halls and tent at the gathering that is the apex predator of crime festivals. Last year sold out 14,000 tickets and reached 8.2million Twitter users making it a world class event.
The atmosphere is enhanced by the venue, the Old Swan Hotel, which is where queen of crime Agatha Christie hid for 11 days under a false name in 1926.
Prime suspects: Top names at this 15th festival, chaired by Elly Griffiths (Dr Ruth Galloway) include Lee Child, Ian Rankin, Kathy Reichs, Stuart MacBride, Peter May, Arne Dahl, Vera creator Ann Cleeves with actor Brenda Blethyn who plays the role on TV and Grantchester author James Runcie with actor Robson Green who plays Inspector Geordie Keating.
▌The golden rule of production journalism is never to sub your own copy so apologies for any errors or omissions. I hope to revisit the crime festival scene for the autumn/winter events later in 2017 – Bill