OIR: Mystery at the Old Swan Hotel – by Private Investigator Karen Weatherly

Article published on August 5, 2015.

So now I’m into crime but before you call the cops, let me explain.

I’ve just spent 4 days at the Theakstons “OLD PECULIER Crime Writing Festival”in Harrogate. The festival is staged at the Old Swan Hotel and as this was the hotel where Agatha Christie was found to be staying when she mysteriously disappeared it seems very appropriate.

The festival itself ran from the Thursday 16thJuly through to Sunday 19th lunchtime and was a treasure trove of authors, broadcasters, comedians, script writers, forensic scientists and of course readers all with one thing in common – they are fans of crime writing.

All aspects of writing about crime were covered – Historical with author panel Christopher Fowler, Lindsey Davis, Manda Scott, William Ryan and Elly Griffiths – Yorkshire Pride with a collection of local authors / devotees of the county including Nick Quantrill, Steve Mosby, Peter Robinson, Frances Brody and Lee Child.

Another group of authors Andrew Taylor, Martin Edwards, Sarah Hilary, Peter James and Peter Swanson celebrated Patricia Highsmith and her work. These are just three of the author panel events I attended and enjoyed. There were many more and listening and talking to those around me it seemed that everyone enjoyed what they had heard and seen. There was even a session with tea and cakes and conversation about books – what more could a book lover desire!

For those “would be” writers there were a number of crime fiction creative writing workshops and a session called “New Blood” gave selected new talents an opportunity to discuss their debut novels .

Intermixed with the panel sessions were Special Guest interviews with authors such as Sara Paretsky in conversation with Val McDermid, Mark Billingham talking to Eddie Izzard, Lisa Gardner in conversation with Ann Cleeves, M.C Beaton with Fred MacAuley and Lee Child interviewed by Rory Bremner. All of the sessions I attended were very entertaining and I learnt some fascinating facts, too (did you know that the name for Lee Child’s main character Jack Reacher came from the fact that when he was shopping in supermarkets he was always being asked by other customers to reach up for them for an item off the top shelf. His wife jokingly then said he could always get a job as a reacher and he liked it so much that he gave his main character the name)

Something slightly different was BAFTA award-winning tv screenwriter and producer Paul Abbott talking about his writing (Cracker, Shameless, Clocking Off, No Offence to name but a few of his works). The final interview was Barry Forshaw talking to the author Arnaldur Indridason, known as the uncrowned “King of Icelandic fiction”.

On the first evening of the festival, the winner of the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award was announced: Sarah Hilary for her debut crime novel Someone Else’s Skin. It sounds really good and so I have already added it to my list of books to read. Sarah won from a shortlist of 6 which had been selected from a longlist of 18 published titles by British and Irish authors.

Another award presented that evening was the Theakstons Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award 2015.Previous recipients include such prestigious names as P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, Reginald Hill and Colin Dexter and this year it went to American Crime writer Sara Paretsky. Sara is deemed to have changed the face of crime writing with her creation of the intelligent, gritty and believable female Investigator V.I. Warshawski.

Finally, Festival Programming Chair Ann Cleeves and author Val McDermid each paid a moving tribute to P.D James and Ruth Rendell who are sadly no longer with us.

So, there you have it – a thoroughly amazing time and the refreshments weren’t half bad either – more tea and coffee than you could drink and two course meals at lunch time.

Congratulations to all concerned – it was a really good week end and I’ve come away with a long list of books to read.

Oh and if you want to know” who dunnit” – why it was the butler of course!

Karen Weatherly












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