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Killing Time at the Crimefest

Last week, I braved the dreadful M62 roadworks and made the arduous two-hour trek over the Pennines to North Yorkshire to visit the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival being held at The Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate for the 13th year. There was a promise of sunshine and the chance of spotting one or two famous faces from the publishing world, so I was hoping the white-knuckled drive would be worth it.But, wait, there was more . . .

Amazon Publishing had arranged a dinner for all their Thomas & Mercer authors for the second day of the four-day event and, naturally, once the mention of free food had hit my ears, I was hooked. Comped meals is definitely one of the bonuses of being signed to T&M (and maybe the best bonus, if you’re a foodholic like me), and it was too good a bait to pass up. Buy me dessert and we’ll be friends for life. Our last T&M get-together at the London Book Fair in April for cocktails and canapes saw a big turnout, with plenty of nibbles on offer and faces to pin to names, and I was looking forward to filling my belly, plus catching up with a few good author friends I’ve made this last year, as well as making some new ones.

Hungry, I arrived in Harrogate around 2 pm (the meal was arranged for 8 pm), which meant I had to kill time at the Crimefest. I hadn’t bought tickets to any of the events and talks (basically because I’m a miser), but I had arranged to meet up with Alan McDermott sometime in the afternoon. Luckily for me, Alan was available and we hooked up outside the Old Swan for a pint or two. We found ourselves a picnic table right outside the pub entrance and spent the rest of the afternoon people-watching while we talked and put the world to rights.

The place was busy, with droves of crime authors, their bright-eyed entourages (and the odd fanatic in search of a signing) all hanging around, both inside the Old Swan and outside (where a large marquee had been turned into what we Brits call a beer tent). Our prime position provided us with the opportunity of spotting any recognizable faces as they wandered past, either on their way to the barbecue or the hotel lobby, and thanks to Alan’s eagle eyes, I got to meet Mark Edwards, Mark Billingham, Val MacDermid and Lee Child, with photo-ops to boot, turning me into a bit of a stalker for the afternoon, which was strangely good fun.

Then it was time to eat, and I didn’t need telling twice. Hurriedly, Alan and I made our way to the White Hart Hotel where the T&M dinner was to be held, and we met up with our T&M Editor Emilie Marneur, together with Eoin Purcell, the Head of Amazon Publishing UK. Our friends Mel Sherratt, Paul Pilkington and Karen Charlton were already there waiting for us, as well as Casey Kelleher and Helen Smith, both of whom I’d met only briefly once before. I was introduced to a few other T&M authors, including Jay Stringer and Alexandra Sokoloff, and then it was food all the way, and I was a happy chappy at last.

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