Thursday, December 18, 2008

Best of the ’Fests

Looking ahead to two of the major British crime-fiction conventions scheduled for 2009, I see that there are a number of interesting guests and presentations planned. Below are some highlights, drawn from information provided by the respective festivals.

Harrogate Crime Writing Festival, July 23-26

The Harrogate folks set the bar pretty high with this year’s star-studded event. With help from programming chair and author Laura Wilson, they’ll try to outdo themselves in 2009. Among next year’s festival guests will be:

Lee Child. Although British by birth, Child now divides his time between homes in France and New York. After he was made redundant from his television job in Manchester, he wrote his first novel, Killing Floor, and introduced his maverick hero, the former military cop Jack Reacher. Child is now established as one of the world’s leading thriller writers. With his latest hardback novel, Nothing to Lose, he achieved a rare double score, reaching No.1 on the Sunday Times bestsellers list in the same week as his new paperback, Bad Luck and Trouble.

Reginald Hill. It’s been four years since this highly acclaimed was welcomed at Harrogate. He is a native of Cumbria and a former resident of Yorkshire, the setting for his novels featuring detectives Andy Dalziel and Peter Pascoe. Their appearances have won Hill numerous awards, including the Crime Writers’ Association’s Gold Dagger and Lifetime Achievement awards. And the books have been adapted into a hugely popular BBC-TV series.

John Banville (aka Benjamin Black). Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. His novels have won numerous awards, most recently the Man Booker Prize in 2005 for The Sea. Banville has also written for theater, radio, television, and film and has collaborated with director Neil Jordan on a number of projects, including The End of the Affair. Since 2006 he has written two crime-fiction novels, Christine Falls and The Silver Swan, both featuring the character of Quirke, a pathologist working in 1950s Dublin who takes refuge in the dead to avoid the discomfort he feels amongst the living.

George Pelecanos. Pelecanos has served as producer on a number of feature films and most recently he was a producer, writer, and story editor for HBO’s acclaimed dramatic series The Wire. His novel Right as Rain is currently in development with director Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys). Pelecanos was born in Washington, D.C., in 1957. He worked as a line cook, dishwasher, bartender, and women’s shoe salesman before publishing his first novel in 1992.

Mark Billingham. Since its inception in 2003, Billingham has been a great supporter of the festival: first as an attending author and then in 2006 as programming chair. Although he still occasionally works as a stand-up comic, Billingham now concentrates on writing a series of crime novels featuring London-based detective Tom Thorne. He’s the author most recently of a standalone thriller called In the Dark. In 2003, protagonist Thorne picked up the Sherlock Award for Best Detective Created by a British Author.

For more information about the Harrogate festival, click here.

CrimeFest Bristol, May 14-17

Not to be outdone by the Harrogate organizers, the Bristol gang say they’re “beyond chuffed to announce that Michael Connelly will be the International Guest of Honour at the next CrimeFest.” He joins Simon Brett from the UK and Håkan Nesser from Sweden as a featured guest author at this year’s event.

Meg Gardiner will perform the duties as this year’s toastmistress. Other participating novelists include: John Harvey, Bill James, Andrew Taylor, M.C. Beaton, Stephen Booth, Gyles Brandreth, Martin Edwards, Paul Johnston, Edward Marston, Brian McGilloway, Zöe Sharp, and Yrsa Sigurdardottir. For the full line-up of CrimeFest 2009 attendees, click here.

Special events during CrimeFest will include:

On Friday, May 15, Crème de la Crime will celebrate the publication of Criminal Tendencies, a short-story anthology that features work by Ann Cleeves, Sophie Hannah, Martin Edwards, Reginald Hill, Peter James, and Val McDermid. The Genesis Appeal, a breast cancer charity, will receive £1 per copy sold.

Prior to the gala dinner on Saturday, May 16, publisher Constable & Robinson will highlight its crime list by presenting some of its authors, among them Beaton, Brett, Alison Bruce, and Bill James.

More information about next year’s CrimeFest is available here.

I look forward to seeing you all in the bar.

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