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Harrogate Programme Highlights 2015

by Eva Dolan

It’s almost that time again, murder and mayhem fans – two short weeks until the highlight of the English crime calendar, the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival, or Harrogate as it’s more usually known, because this is a friendly, inclusive event which doesn’t need to be addressed by its formal title. With bloodthirsty readers and deeply twisted authors all poised to descend upon the genteel northern spa town it’s time to take a look at what the long weekend has in store.

Now, we all know how hard it is to resist the sparkling conversation around the bar but the organisers have put together a programme fabulous enough to tempt you from the even most salacious gossip. Headliners this year include Mark Billingham in conversation with Eddie Izzard, talking crime, comedy and how they overlap (expect plenty of belly laughs), Harrogate favourite Lee Child being grilled by Rory Bremner (possibly channelling Tom Cruise), and BAFTA-winner Sally Wainwright discussing her hit shows Happy Valley and Scott and Bailey.

So that’s the big guns sorted, but what about the flick knives, the garrottes, the baseball bats with some nails banged through them?

One of the great joys of Harrogate is discovering new authors and for that Val McDermid’s New Blood panel is an absolute must. This year it features Renée Knight, Clare Mackintosh, Ben McPherson and Lucy Ribchester, providing a mix of domestic noir and historical thrillers, stratospheric successes and excellent new finds.

Having seen Steve Cavanagh own the room at Newcastle Noir earlier this year I’m hugely looking forward to the Irish Noir panel, where he’ll be lining up with the always entertaining Stuart Neville, Adrian McKinty, Brian McGilloway and Eoin McNamee to talk about the crime scene in Ireland. These authors run through the full gamut of the genre so there’s sure to be something for everyone.

Also high on my must-see list is the Yorkshire Pride panel, hosted by Brit Grit author Nick Quantrill, who will be wrangling Lee Child, Steve Mosby, Peter Robinson and Frances Brody as they get to grips with what makes the county so appealing to crime writers and what marks it’s left on the ones who leave.

Hot on the heels of that panel comes an intriguing off-programme event which sees the fittest and fastest of the crime contingent squaring up on the football pitch. It’s North vs South and some big names will be turning out to flaunt their silky skills.

With a whole host of evening events, including the Dead Good Reader Awards, a Sicilian-themed Author Dinner and the always hotly contested Late Night Quiz, not to mention the enduring appeal of the bar – did I mention the bar? – surviving until Sunday morning will be quite an ask. But how could you miss the Celebrating Patricia Highsmith panel? It seems only fitting that this most morally ambiguous and grumpy of authors would be scheduled to drag hungover fans out of the beds so early.

A huge thank you to the wonderful Eva Dolan for picking her Harrogate programme highlights! Will you be attending Harrogate this year? Let us know in the comments below…

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