HarrogateThere's something rather heady about the atmosphere at this particular event in the crime calendar. It manages to combine all the excitement, fun and inspiration... with a debilitating lack of sleep and a temperature that makes you slowly melt into the fabric of your own clothing. Everyone attending demonstrated some remarkable stamina as they drugged themselves with coffee and nicotine to counteract the sleep deprivation. So my hat comes off to anyone who was able to withstand the heat and make it through more than two event sessions in a row... or anyone who was wearing more than one layer of clothing. There should also be a mention of the 4:30am survivors. Who can doubt the fortitude and stamina of those people who then showed up for a 10am panel?

One thing really pleased me about the weekend - how things like this never cease to provide a pleasant surprise. Even when you're expecting a surprise (does that mean it's not a surprise anymore by definition?) you still get that feeling of surprise. I'm going to stop using the word surprise now. The various panels/interviews I'd mentioned before leaving were all great. I'd like to make particular note of "The Good Old Days" panel with James Oswald, Mari Hannah, Mark Edwards and Mel Sherratt. Very entertaining and gave me one of my quotes of the festival. James Oswald responding to the discussion on whether publishing is in a crisis today: "I've been hanging around the fringes of publishing for twenty years and it's always been in crisis."

J.K. Rowling interviewOf course the most memorable bits are the ones you weren't even expecting. Somehow I managed to fluke a front row seat at the J.K. Rowling (as Robert Galbraith) interview. Unfortunately photography was not allowed, so all I was able to get was empty chairs. The interview itself was great fun and addressed all the areas we had questions on, including why J.K. Rowling took the pseudonym Robert Galbraith and whether the use of characters in the publishing industry was inspired by real people. In case you're wondering, she was looking to see if she could get a book published exclusively on its own merits, and she only based the nice characters on real people. We were even treated to the knowledge that the Cormoran Strike series is planned to be much longer than the Harry Potter series was. Witty and charming, I still feel a little privileged to have been able to get up so close to the interview.

The other major high point for me was the panel on "The New Wave of Forensics." We were given a really entertaining and energetic discussion, as resident forensic advisor to the police, Dave "the semen expert" Barclay had us all rolling in the aisles. The depth of his knowledge, combined with his raw wit, used in an unyielding deadpan delivery was nothing short of hilarious. (Extremely informative too! I can never look at a sauna in the same way again now.) There were, of course, other great events which deserve a mention. The Broadchurch panel, the murder mystery dinner and of course - the farewell interview for crime fiction and writing giant John Harvey which concluded the festival.

John Harvey interviewed by Mark BillinghamNaturally the events and panels were only part of the experience. The chance to talk with some of the authors who you've read is great. You can't walk very far without getting into a conversation with somebody, whether they're a reader or a writer. Everybody is just so friendly (and tipsy?) at this event. You can't help but be touched by the warm and welcoming atmosphere. After getting over a little case of being starstruck, I managed to meet a couple of the writers I'd been hoping to meet. Though the best thing was discovering how many fellow readers and writers just have a fantastic sense of humour. (It's usually quite a dark sense of humour.) It's impossible to describe all of those laugh out loud moments I enjoyed... but one unpublished writer was telling me about a breakfast she'd shared with other aspiring authors. They were all discussing, in fairly gory detail, the pros and cons of different methods of murdering people. She then looked at me with a sparkle of magic in her eyes and said "THIS is exactly how life should be! It was wonderful." There were plenty of other lines that made me laugh, but this one stood out because of the excitement she clearly felt at being able to discuss darker topics in a such frank way. We should all be this happy at thinking those darker thoughts.

Mark BillinghamI also took a couple of books along to the festival to get them signed. After catching a terrified Mark Billingham to sign my first edition of Sleepyhead, I was able to hunt down the infamous cow chasing James Oswald. After accosting him in the drive of the hotel, I roared threats of violence at him until he signed my copy of Natural Causes. After realising the immediate danger of his situation, his shaking hand quickly scribbled lies about enjoying my company. As he scampered off, thankful to escape with his life, I was left wondering why I invented such a silly story. I think it's because he's such a thoroughly nice bloke, that if I told you how it really happened... it wouldn't be so interesting or funny. It's great to see his latest book is doing so well. I haven't had chance to read it yet, but I will... and if it's as good as his last ones then I'll be able to recommend that to everybody too.

One final thing which should never go unsaid: everybody who worked behind the scenes to put the festival together and ensure it ran smoothly can't be thanked enough. The programming chair for this year, Steve Mosby, paid tribute to them in his speech and I'd like to thank them too (along with everyone else who helped to put the events together and everyone who took part.) You've all done an amazing job and I'll be back next year.

James Oswald's signed book 

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