CRIMEFEST 2013: a day in Bristol

Posted: June 8, 2013 in notes

I only attended the Saturday of Crimefest in Bristol but it was such an enjoyable day that I am sure, health allowing, I will sign up for the full experience next year. I took an early train, and after performing like Bob Beaman to get on to the Cross Country carriage; an hour later I arrived in Bristol in time to attend the first panel of the day.  Is it beyond the British rail system to put the edge of the platform somewhere in the vicinity of the train, rather than tell everyone to mind the gap?title_bob

The 9.00 am panel was Fresh Blood: Debut Authors with Alex Blackmore, J.C.Martin, Fergus McNeill and Tome Vowler expertly moderated by Rhian Davies. It is obviously much more difficult to bring out the personalities of fresh blood debut authors than some grizzled veterans of these events, and Rhian managed this very successfully. Their respective books were  set in London/Paris about corporate greed [Alex Blackmore], in London during the run up to the Olympics [J.C.Martin], in Bristol featuring a serial killer, who dumps a body at Severn Beach [Fergus McNeill] and a mystery on Dartmoor [Tom Vowler]. 

The next panel was Cold War: An Infiltrating Chill with Tom Harper, John Lawton, Aly Monroe and William Ryan moderated by Martin Walker. I have read all of Aly Monroe’s Peter Cotton spy series, and all of John Lawton’s Troy books so really enjoyed this panel. I must say I was inspired to read the other panel members books after the intelligent discussion. I learned from the participants that spies like talking about themselves especially to journalists; and confirmed in my mind that the current civil war in Syria is not only part of the complex 1,400 year old Sunni-Shia conflict within Islam, but also a proxy war continuation of the Cold War.  I was introduced by Rhian to Aly Monroe, who was charming, and John Lawton, who remarked on my genuine South London accent. An example of the total failure of P1000695those expensive elocution lessons in my youth. 

It was then time for Rhian and I to catch up with a long lunch in the sunshine on College Green. I noticed boarded up shops, a demonstration against the “bedroom tax” and was offered a free lunch in order to bring to our attention the plight of the hungry. Bristol always was a city with a social conscience and a blend of the wealthy and the poor.

Back in the Marriott Hotel venue we went to Creating Sherlock with Mark Gatiss [Mycroft Holmes & co-producer] Steven Moffat [co-creator & producer] and Sue Vertue [producer] interviewed by Nev Fountain. I am old fashioned and although I can appreciate this updated series but in my opinion it can never match the Granada TV series which ran from 1984-1994 with Jeremy Brett as Holmes and Edward Hardwicke as Dr Watson. It must be my age. Of course when the updated Sherlock was originally cast they did not know that Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman would become such big movie stars. Their availability in future might be the factor that ends the series prematurely.

The next event featured Felix Francis and the lovely Samantha Norman interviewed by Peter Guttridge about keeping the legacy of their parents Dick Francis and Ariana Franklin alive and well. I have read all of the Mistress in the Art of Death series by Ariana Franklin, real name Diana Norman, so I was particularly pleased that Samantha intends to finish an uncompleted novel, even though her mother kept all her research notes in her head. Felix Francis said his and his father’s books are classified as easy reads, but it was very hard work to make them easy reads. Felix Francis also told us he delivers three copies of his new books to Buckingham Palace, one for the Queen, one for the Prince of Wales, and one for the Princess Royal. What did shine through at this interview was love and respect both authors felt for their parents.

The final panel of the day was entitled The Changing Face of London and had a fascinating mix of authors moderated by Alison Joseph. Patrick Easter writes about a river surveyor on the Thames in the late 1790s. Andrew Pepper’s books are set in the 1840s featuring Pyke head of the Metropolitan Police’s new detective branch. John Lawton’s superb Troy series is a social history of England from the 1930s to the 196os. Hanna Jameson despite her youth writes about a contract killer and the very violent world of modern London. John Lawton mentioned that when he came to live in Stepney in 1973 there were still bomb sites from the Second World War. I remember bomb sites all over South London and Bristol in the 1960s, and as Britain received the largest amount of the Marshall Aid I always wondered why it took so long to rebuild our cities. 

Crimefest was for me a stimulating day and any minor niggles were outweighed by the opportunity to meet up with old friends, meet some  people who were previously only online friends, and to chat to authors whose books I had enjoyed.

The only major problem was I could foresee was wanting to read some of the new to me authors appearing on the panels. That TBR mountain may well grow larger.  

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Norman – It sounds as though you had a great experience! Thanks for sharing about the panels you attended – they sound so interesting. I’m really glad you got the chance to attend.

  2. Norman, thanks for the really kind comments and thanks for lunch! It was lovely to see you as ever and I was so pleased to be able to introduce you.

    I thought Aly and Lawton made an excellent double act on that panel to be honest. So much interesting stuff to impart from everyone!


  3. Bill Selnes says:

    Norman: What a grand day for a lover of crime fiction. There is nothing comparable in my part of Canada.

  4. Philip Amos says:

    Norman, what a splendid account of your day! I thank you greatly, for illness and other matters have put me so much out of touch with the crime fiction world of late. I made a note of Andrew Pepper, and also a note to check whether John Lawton has published anything recently. I am devout in my admiration for the Troy series, one of the best-researched, best-written, and often singularly subtle and enigmatic series in the history of crime fiction. I’m very happy you had such a great day — you deserved it. No better crime fiction blogger than you, my friend!

  5. kathy d. says:

    What a nice report on one day at Crime Fest. So appreciated over here across the pond although this reader is not as knowledgeable about British history, including during WWII and post-war period, as the writers and British readers are.
    The point about the Syrian conflict as a continuation of the Cold War is a mighty one, which I’ll have to ponder. I think that is an excellent observation.
    I have not read John Lawton’s novels set in WWII as I avoid that period, but I read an essay he wrote about anti-Semitism among the British upper classes and within the government itself and I thought it brilliant, learned a lot.
    And I’m so glad to hear about Samantha Norman’s finishing up her mother’s last book; how wonderful for those of us who were fans of Ariana Franklin and her protagonist, Adelia Aguilar.

    Maybe someday as communication technology upgrades become more widely used my dream will come true: Crime Fest will be streamed online.

  6. Norman Price says:

    Thanks Margot, Bill, Philip and Kathy for your comments.
    I did feel I enjoyed this Crimefest more than previously, because of Rhian’s introductions, the excellence of the panels, and the fact I did not have to worry about driving and parking.

    Bill I know how you feel, we are a bit isolated down in the West Country with so many events occurring in London, Hay on Wye or Harrogate.

    Philip, nice to hear from you again. I did mention to John Lawton that some of the Troy series admirers were of advancing years, and he should speed up the writing process. 😉

  7. kathy d. says:

    I suggest you read Norwegian by Night, quite a brilliant book by Derek B. Miller. It’s full of Jewish humor, but also history, observations on loss and aging, the human condition and more. I’ve laughed a lot and now I’m tearing up. I hope Derek B. Miller gets recognition for this incredible work.

  8. Norman Price says:

    Thanks Kathy I will try Norwegian by Night after I have sampled the Int dagger and Ellis Peters shortlists.

  9. kathy d. says:

    Look forward to your reviews. I don’t think I’m reading any of the Dagger nominees without reading more reviews — except of course, the one by the French medieval historian and genius, Fred Vargas.
    The level of violence is so great in several nominated books that I hesitate until I read more about them at respected bloggers’ haunts.

  10. Peter says:

    Nice to see you mention Aly Monroe. She was one of my discoveries at this year’s Crimefest.
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    “Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home”

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