Saturday, July 31, 2010

Crime writers called to the bar

The shortlist for the coveted, nay prestigious, CWA John Creasey Dagger (have I mentioned this already…) was announced at the The Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate.

It was my first visit to the UK’s biggest crime writing fest and I must admit I was very impressed. There were more crime writers than you could shake a stick at plus a host of publishers, agents and readers.

Over 8500 tickets were sold over the course of the weekend to hear the likes of Ian Rankin, Jeffrey Deaver, Karin Slaughter, Christopher Brookmyre, Joanne Harris and Jeff Lindsay give the benefit of their writing wisdom.

Simon & Schuster were represented by Chris Carter (The Crucifix Killer and The Executioner), Jeremy Duns (Free Agent and Free Country), Chris Ewan (The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam, Paris, and Vegas) and myself.

Most of the time the authors, including such luminaries as Val McDermid, Mark Billingham, Peter James and Stuart MacBride could all be found within a few feet of the bar. This was a practice that I found particularly laudable, allowing as it did maximum opportunities to mingle with readers. Some authors showed dedication beyond the call of duty by staying at their post until last orders and beyond. If that is what it takes to be a proper writer then I am glad that I have put in years of serious training on that front.

Despite being responsible for thousands of deaths between them, the assembled crime writers seemed a very friendly bunch. They were always accommodating to requests for chats, book signings and photographs and genuinely enjoyed meeting the people who bought their works.

My own event at the festival was on the Saturday evening when I hosted a table at the Come Die With Me: Murder Mystery Dinner. It was a fun event where as well as enjoying dinner we had to find the murderer of Mark Billingham among a quartet of literary suspects. With judicious employment of deduction, experience, criminal psychology and dumb luck, we had no problem in identifying the killer as being Stella Duffy. When our expert reasoning was allied to outrageous flattery of Stella’s outrageous shoes, we sealed overall victory. I consider the prize of an XXL Theakstons t-shirt, some literary pencils and an Ian Fleming mug to be my first award as an author. For the avoidance of doubt, yes the t-shirt was far too big.

If any crime fan gets the chance to go to Harrogate next year, when I know some stellar names are already signed up, then I’d heartily recommend it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Is this a dagger I see before me...

I’m trying to play this as cool as possible while desperately attempting an air of casual indifference. But failing. Badly.

Last Friday, the shortlist for the 2010 CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger was announced and, whether by error or design, my name was there. I did a little jig in the manner of Riverdance (the post-Flatley years naturally) and then quickly looked around to make sure no-one noticed.

I suspect, like the other seven writers who have been shortlisted, that getting a book published was itself the realisation of a dream and anything that comes after that really is a bonus. So I’m taking this for what it is, recognition from people who care about crime writing and who must think I’ve done something right. The eight are reduced to a final four on August 9 and my editor Maxine has left me in no doubt how important it is to make the cut. After all it will make the difference between her getting a new frock or not. Fingers crossed, Max.

Reading about the others on the shortlist is a depressing task because they all sound excellent. My hopes for a couple of duffers in there just haven’t materialised at all. The list is …

Acts of Violence, Ryan David Jahn
Cut Short, Leigh Russell
Martyr, Rory Clements
Random, Craig Robertson
Stop Me, Richard Jay Parker
Rupture, Simon Lelic
The Holy Thief, William Ryan
The Pull of the Moon, Diane Janes

Congratulations and good luck to everyone on the list. I’ve a fair idea how much hard work has gone into each book and sincerely hope that all do well both in terms of the dagger and beyond.