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An Insider’s Harrogate from N J Cooper

There aren’t many authors better placed than N J Cooper to let us know what makes the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival so special. As a regular attendee since its beginnings and a member of the Programming Committee, she let us know what we can expect from the festival and why she’s looking forward to interviewing Susan Hill.

N J Cooper

‘When I was invited to the first crime writing festival in Harrogate in 2003, I was nervous – not because of any fear of public speaking, microphones or audiences, but because I was to take part in a quiz about Agatha Christie, about whom I knew more or less nothing except the obvious. I was a disaster on the quiz. But that didn’t turn out to be important. Other members of the panel were brilliant and the festival itself was enormous fun.

In those days the total audience was measured in the low hundreds, whereas now more than twelve thousand tickets are sold for the twenty-one events that make up the weekend’s programme. What has never changed since that first festival, in spite of its ever-growing international success, is the atmosphere. Far more friendly than many others, Harrogate doesn’t whisk its authors into yurts or priviliged hideouts of any kind. Writers and readers fill the bar, the garden, and the restaurants, making new friends, catching up with old mates, planning killer teams for the annual quiz, and generally celebrating the astonishingly varied genre in which we all revel.

I have been to almost every festival since 2003 and chaired it in 2007. I wouldn’t miss it now for anything short of nuclear fallout. It’s fun as well as illuminating, and I’d say it’s essential for anyone who wants to know what’s happening in crime fiction, who the exciting new writers are, where the longstanding favourites are going with their work, and who’s going to win the Theakston’s prize – and the quiz.

When Val McDermid, one of the originators of the festival and chair this year, invited me to interview Susan Hill I accepted at once. Our event takes place at 8.30 pm on Friday 19th July, and I’m looking forward to it more than I can say. As a great admirer of her work, I shall be trying to find out how and why she set out on the professional journey that brought her here, why she turned to crime, what it is about the supernatural that so engages her. I hope to learn more about the psychology of her detective, Simon Serailler, and how it meshes – or doesn’t – with her own. We will, of course, also discuss the difficult, important and emotive subject of her latest novel, The Betrayal of Trust. I can’t wait…’

Don’t miss the Special Guest Event with Susan Hill and N J Cooper on Friday 19th July at 8:30pm.

N J Cooper’s Karen Taylor novels are published by Simon & Schuster. Her Willow King series is republished by Bello.

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