Bristol held the annual Crimefest for 2016 last weekend and I thought I’d use this Bank Holiday evening to write a little reflection. It was great fun and very relaxing at the same time. Every year the people behind the scenes run the events smoothly while providing any and all help attendees need in a friendly manner. They can’t be thanked enough for this. One of the other things which is becoming a bug of mine at these events... there’s never enough time! Already I’ve been on Twitter apologising to friends I didn’t get to chat with. It’s crazy. We had a whole weekend for goodness sake!


Now, in TotalBiscuit style, I will proceed to blather on for several paragraphs about what I enjoyed in a vaguely chronological order. Upon arrival one of the hotel staff complimented my hair. An excellent start! (In my experience, you can never say enough good things about somebody’s hair.) He proceeded to suggest I looked like Kurt Cobain. Since I like Nirvana, I’ll take that as a compliment. I’d been looking forward to this festival because Ian Rankin would be interviewed and I thoroughly enjoy most of what he writes. I’m probably the only person who, despite liking both Rebus and Fox, actually prefers Fox to Rebus.


"We got to hear Hugh Fraser give a heartfelt plug for the chocolate digestive biscuit."


Friday was quite a chilled day. Nothing really appealed to me until around late morning. The panel on political machinations and crime in high places was very thought provoking. However my highlight for the day came just after lunch in the morality panel chaired by the forever-joking Kevin Wignall. It was standing room only, with much of the back of the room filled, as we got to hear Hugh Fraser give a heartfelt plug for the chocolate digestive biscuit. I later discovered that he was particularly pleased to have done this. The panel, described by Kevin as a collection of leftovers who they didn’t want on other panels, still gave a very interesting discussion on the more serious implications of morality. Emma Kavanagh made a point that really stuck with me about how morality was a separate issue to the creation of a well rounded character. She talked about how the character’s own problems would shape the character and define their own morality, while in their imperfections demonstrate that, regardless of moral imperative, they are just human.

 The Morality Police - Supporting Choc Digestives since 1950


I reflected on this later as something I seemed to be inadvertently doing with my own protagonist, Victor Trimm. Typically we dismiss psychopaths as merely horrible people, and while I think Victor is quite vile and unfeeling in some respects, he demonstrates his humanity in other ways. That ability to compassionately empathise with others is something he lacks, but it’s something I can use to relate to the humanity within someone who lacks it.


After that panel I ducked out for a bit to do my workout and grab a snack before the evening. The facilities for exercising were very poor in my opinion and the cost was a total rip off. I might find a local gym that allows for an individual session (without sign up) next time. The announcement reception was another highlight for me as I got to meet one of the gentlemen who was shortlisted for the short story competition. I got to know him a little bit and wished him the best of luck. Unfortunately he didn’t win. The award was taken by Peter Guttridge. He seemed a little down about this and I tried to remind him that there was no shame in being beaten by one of the professionals. I went on to point out how simply being on the shortlist was a tremendous achievement in its own right. It didn’t seem to dull his disappointment much. I wonder why we can feel so defeated despite making great achievements? I suppose that’s a question for Spurs fans too.


"Rebus is finally suffering some of the health effects of his poor life choices!"


Later on I nabbed some dinner from the fish and chips place across the road. The food there is good, so I’d recommend it to anyone next year as somewhere to check out. They’re very professional, and the place itself looks really modern and new. Then the kid behind the counter who looked like a skater proceeded to ask me “I’m sorry, but has anyone ever told you that you look like Kurt Cobain?” I’m seeing a trend here. I only changed it last month and this is the third time that’s happened. Not sure if I should rethink this.


Saturday proved to be a wonderful day. Well, apart from the weather... though we did get some sunshine. Anyway, the day really got going for me during the panel on spy thrillers. They tend to say many of the same things each time with these panels but I still enjoy hearing people discussing the murky world of espionage. With all trappings of characters who have a sliver of ice in their heart and a morally dubious outlook that is justified for the greater good, it tends to make cracking reading and conversation. What struck me about this panel was the diversity of opinion on justification for moral actions within the community. Helen Giltrow was absent, but Messrs Conway, Cumming and Heron didn’t struggle to fill the time. Simon Conway, in particular, had some very interesting tales to share from his extremely varied history. A wealth of experience like that tends to provide great inspiration for stories.

Rankin's Reading

So then it was the first of the big events. Ian Rankin treated us to a reading of the opening few pages of his forthcoming book “Rather Be the Devil.” Rebus is finally suffering some of the health effects of his poor life choices! I was glad to hear him talk about his wife pointing this one out. It’s something that’s been in the back of my mind as I’ve followed the series. Since Rebus doesn’t seem to exercise since his army days while smoking and drinking with great abandon (though never to alcoholic levels... though I have heard some people oddly refer to him as an alcoholic – despite the fact he shows none of the signs of an actual alcoholic), I would have thought by the time he hit 50 he’d be suffering some of the nasty effects of aging without taking care of himself. I look forward to seeing where this goes.


After this, I learnt something new. The reorganisation of the Scottish police force has altered the way murder investigations will be run. A brief explanation from Rankin told us that local forces wouldn’t run these investigations and would put up a team sent from the headquarters where the top brass are located. This has subsequently pissed off every procedural crime writer who bases their detective in Scotland. Never fear! Ian will be having a dinner with the Chief Constable shortly to sort all this nonsense out. Or maybe he’ll just have the dinner.


"It’s no wonder there are some writers who simply set up shop next to the bar"


So I caught up with a few friends at this point, emphasis on the “few.” One of the things about these festivals is that there never seems to be enough time to speak with everyone. The number of Twitter messages I sent after getting home this time was crazy. While some were to new people I’d met for the first time (not all of whom are on Twitter) the majority were to those I’d missed the chance to catch up with. It’s no wonder there are some writers who simply set up shop next to the bar and only go to the panels they participate in. After catching up, I’d previously organised dinner and a night out with some old university friends. Returned late and hit the hay.


Sorry I haven't a cluedo
Susan Moody was the only one with a clue

Feeling up authors is wrong


Sunday is always the short half day to round things off. An interesting Indie Alternative panel, followed by breakfast and packing up ready to go sorted me out until lunchtime. Then, the grand finale – I’m sorry I haven’t a Cluedo. Based upon the popular I’m sorry I haven’t a clue, the spectacle of this farcical “quiz” provided laughs all around for everyone. Of particular note was the round in which two members of a team would try to identify a mystery author through feel alone. After all the jokes, the ladies came out victorious and rightly so as Susan Moody seemed to answer all the questions. I also got one of the charades for the audience so I was quite chuffed about that. (The Talented Mr Ripley for those who were wondering.) Alas, after this, it was time to leave. Goodbyes were said and all that remained was the long drive home.


Oh, and at some point before that I bumped into Captain Hastings. Tremendous chap! Kept talking about chocolate digestives...

The Chocolate Digestive Advocacy Group
Kurt Cobain and Captain Hastings

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