Another year, another Crimefest. (This is just my highlights of the festival. I'm sure I've missed things, haven't included other good panels I went to and have added a good helping of my own opinion on what I enjoyed. Feel free to share your opinions in the comments.)

 

"It's great to hear that the public's morbid fascination with psychopaths continues to rise"

 

There were some particularly interesting panels this year and it felt to me like I gained just as much from a few serious discussions as I did from these panels. (I know, I know... I'm normally laughing and joking about everything because I take things so lightly. Occasionally I will have a serious discussion, honest, and this was such an occasion.) There were multiple panels on psychopaths this year and you'd think that since I write about one, I'd be straight along to those. You would be wrong. It's great to hear that the public's morbid fascination with psychopaths continues to rise (good news for me), but I spend my days knee deep in the research, trying to get into the head of one so I can accurately portray my detective. So, quite frankly, that topic is the last thing I want to be thinking about!

 

A few of the highlights for me included: James Runcie's speech at the dinner on Saturday night, his interview on Sunday, the panel on realism in crime fiction, Rosie Claverton's spotlight address on "Mental health and murder" and the independent authors panel on Sunday. With all of these interweaved with some interesting discussions and immature jokes, it added up to a thoroughly enjoyable (but packed) weekend.

 

"It was a whirlwind twenty minutes and I felt like such a short time was really selling Rosie's expertise a bit short."

 

On the Friday morning (I arrived too late on Thursday. Insert rant about traffic and weather.) I saw Rosie Claverton's twenty minute spotlight called "Criminal insanity? Mental Health and Murder." It covered a few topics from the changes in mental health care, through the improved diagnosis for mental health disorders we now have available, to the overused clichés that appear in modern crime. It was a whirlwind twenty minutes and I felt like such a short time was really selling Rosie's expertise a bit short. Having had the good fortune to be able to speak with her one-on-one last year, this short talk showcased the breadth of her knowledge but unfortunately left her unable to really get into the sort of depth I know she's capable of. I, and others (given the packed room with people sitting on the floor at the front like they were back in preschool), demand more of this next year Crimefest! Perhaps a fifty minute session or interview? I think it'd be a crowd-pleaser.

 

 

Later in the afternoon I went along to the panel (above) on how realistic crime fiction is. This panel was a real treat thanks to the preparation of the moderator, Steve Mosby, who astonished the audience with unlikely tales of real life crimes. With the line between reality and crime novels so blurred by this, it was genuinely fun trying to guess if the improbable stories were real life or fiction. Apparently all these absurd things happen in Iceland according to Yrsa Sigurdardottir. Who knew?

 

That evening I heard that my friend Vicky Newham had won third place in the flashbang competition (never got to congratulate her in person and I'm still disappointed about that.) As she said in her own review of the festival: "Sadly, there were a few people I wanted to say ‘hello’ to over the weekend but either didn’t see or it wasn’t the right time." I can definitely relate to that. Still, I was really pleased to hear the news and it added a little cherry of happiness to my cake that was the evening.

 

"Every time anyone sees her speak or spends any time around her, they come away invigorated and motivated in a way that I've yet to see replicated."

 

The next day had a plethora of panels I went to, but it was the evening which was the real highlight for me. James Runcie gave the best after-dinner speech in history. A witty deconstruction of crime fiction versus literary snobs that explored a satirical list of ways to turn your crime writing into literary fiction. He had a rapt room that was almost in hysterics. I'm certain that, despite the success of his Sidney Chambers Grantchester Mysteries, this speech further increased the attendance to his interview the following lunchtime. He needs to come back next year! I hope the organisers can convince him.

 

Sunday morning saw me make it to the indie authors (pictured above) panel to hear a wide ranging discussion, punctuated by the everlasting enthusiasm of Joanna Penn. Every time anyone sees her speak or spends any time around her, they come away invigorated and motivated in a way that I've yet to see replicated. This panel seemed to have more involvement of the audience than any other. It wasn't surprising since the authors were all very positive about interaction with their readers. The big point from this discussion which I saw repeated several times across twitter was "your definition of success should determine the choices you make." Good advice! Hopefully I will follow it.

 

"you're required to keep drinking bourbon milkshakes until you like them according to the medical advice of Fergus McNeill." 

 

With the traditional Criminal Mastermind event cancelled, the final big event was Jake Kerridge from The Telegraph whispering questions to James Runcie. Once more Runcie serenaded a room with stories, whimsy and outrageously funny "indiscreet" confessions. (Not going to write those publically... but the audience is still expecting three hundred pounds in therapy fees.) This interview was a remarkable event, ending the festival on a big high for me, as I felt like I knew Runcie personally by the end of it. My only disappointment is that I never had the opportunity to speak to him without looking like a fanboy.

 

Despite this, I enjoyed mingling with the crowd each evening. I met old friends and made some new ones. The highlights from this were easier to remember: Steve Cavanagh has the finest set of funny stories ever to reach England, Luca Veste is still crying over the loss of Stevie G, Stav Sherez is possibly the finest example of humanity we have (intellectual discussion or knob jokes, he's got it covered), I was lucky enough to meet Crime Thriller Girl Steph this time around, there are more NUFC-induced depressives attending these things than I first thought, and finally, you're required to keep drinking bourbon milkshakes until you like them according to the medical advice of Fergus McNeill.

 

Roll on Harrogate!

 

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