It’s that time of year again – tickets are booked, cases are packed, and sun-glasses firmly in place. But wait, I hear you say, my passport has expired and I’m not beach body ready! Well, the good news is I’m not talking about a plane trip to Cannes, but a train journey somewhere even more exotic and sought-after. It’s time (drum roll)… for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, which this year is being held from 21st to 24th July.
Harrogate, as it’s more usually known, is one of the friendliest and most inclusive festivals on the circuit, and every year readers, writers and publishing folk descend on the town to talk books, swap gossip, and rub shoulders in the beautiful Swan Hotel. Bikinis are very much optional, but in case you’re wondering if the sun glasses will really be needed, even in July, they are essential for the inevitable post-bar hangovers. But last year had beautiful weather so they definitely serve a dual purpose.
The 2016 festival features more than 80 names, spread over the four days, so whether you’re filling your boots with a weekend rover ticket, or picking and choosing among the ticketed events, your only difficulty is likely to be narrowing down the list of what you want to see. There are a host of truly heavy-hitting headliners, and the author events kick off in style with Linwood Barclay in conversation with Mark Billingham. There are always a lot of laughs, in among the blood and guts, but an evening of Val McDermid in conversation with the stand-up comic Susan Calman promises to be particularly good.
My own list of must-sees includes Val McDermid’s annual New Blood panel on Saturday lunch time. Since its inception, it’s become THE place for new crime writers to make their mark, and every year it celebrates the host of amazing talent coming up through the ranks including (this year) my brilliant Harvill stablemate Abir Mukherjee.
I’m also hugely looking forward to the Domestic Suspense panel on Friday morning, with a stellar line up including Alex Marwood, Julia Crouch, Helen Fitzgerald, Paula Hawkins and Clare Mackintosh – although since it’s right before my own panel event on Golden Age crime, I’m slightly worried I’ll be crouched in a corner of the green room chewing my nails and trying to remember the name of Poirot’s doctor.
I’m not the only Christiephile on the programme, since later in the day, Sophie Hannah will be talking about her new Poirot novels, in the Hard Yards panel, with Laura Wilson and Simon Kernick – they’re going to be talking about what it takes to make a career as a crime author in what promises to be a fascinating discussion.
Plus, like any self-respecting crime writer, I’m always up for doing a bit of undercover research, so I’ll definitely be taking covert notes at the Science and Forensics panel on Friday afternoon, where Peter James will be picking over the tricky business of getting the science of crime right, with a panel of professionals-turned-authors.
The joy of Harrogate though is that it’s not just authors talking from stages – there are a whole load of interactive, evening events, from the Dead Good Reader Awards (voted for by you), to the infamously tricky Late Night Quiz with Mark Billingham and Val McDermid asking the questions… in between quite a lot of banter and laughs. And if you’ve still got energy after that, victors celebrate and losers drown their sorrows in the hotel bar. (Don’t forget those sun-glasses).
Are you heading to the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival this weekend? Let us know which events you’re looking forward to in the comments below!