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Review: A Weekend Of Crime
Paul Morrison, Author; Book Lover
l-r: Jane Gregory, David Shelley, Val McDermid, Martyn Waites and NJ Cooper
With the sun burning down on the crowds, and the large Papakata tepees standing in the grounds of the Old Swan Hotel, the Theakston Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival appeared more like a rock festival than one whose focus was literature!

With the change in sessions from Dead in Deutschland, about the new wave of German crime novels to the panel debating Victorian Crime: fact or fiction, it certainly was like moving from the Arctic Monkeys to the Rolling Stones.

Inside the hall a broad spectrum again was found with Kate Summerscale, the author of The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, and Kate Colquhoun, who is most famous for Mr Briggs Hat, representing the non-fiction strand the Victorian Crime debate; while Lindsay Faye, author of a novel about Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper, and Andrew Taylor talked about writing novels set in the Victorian era.

Books set in the Victorian period, remain very popular commented Kate Colquhoun because they are 'more recognisable to people as so much from the era is still around us.'

Although Andrew Taylor emphasised the reality of the era by reminding the audience that in essence the concept 'is a fake in a way, the term Victorian lasted for seventy years and never really existed in the way it is portrayed by the media.'

The fascination though for readers lies in the Jekyll and Hyde nature of the period, with the outward respectability, and the rigid social code, which hid the secrets that crime writers like to so ruthlessly expose.

Andrew Taylor summed up the enduring appeal of these books in a simple sentence 'we look at the past and see ourselves.'

To keep the rock festival analogy going, the main stage attraction was Mark Billingham leading a discussion on Social Media: Who Are You? This proved to be almost as controversial as last year's session, in which the author Stephen Leather admitted to using 'sock puppets' which are fake accounts that he used both to review his own novels as well as giving poor reviews to other novelists.

This story burst back into the foreground again with the panellists Stephen Mosby and Sarah Pinborough confirming that they were still getting derogatory tweets from Stephen Leather, when the discussion dramatically turned to cyber bullying.

A friend of Stephen Leather in the audience understandably complained that it was unfair to discuss things when he wasn't there to defend himself, and the atmosphere crackled like a Lee Childs thriller.

The headliner of the second day definitely had to be Ian Rankin interviewing William McIlvanney who is credited by most of the 'Tartan Noir' authors as being a great influence on their writing with his Laidlaw trilogy which was released in the Seventies, but has just been re-published again now, having fallen out of print previously.

McIlvanney reminisced on his writing career, reflecting on the similarities between Taggart and Jack Laidlaw, before admitting that Rankin had written to him asking if he could dedicate his second novel to McIlvanney, but unfortunately he lost the letter so never replied!

Throughout the session the genuine warmth and respect of the two authors shone through and McIlvanney's work is slowly being introduced to a whole new generation of crime readers.

This year's Theakston's Festival certainly packed a punch, and its ever growing number of fans are already wondering about who will be performing at the festival next year.


Review: A Weekend Of Crime, 25th July 2013, 8:22 AM