Thursday, May 25, 2017

Getting a Feel for the ’Fest

(Left to right) Authors Christopher Fowler and Donna Moore already appear a bit off kilter as CrimeFest 2017 begins.

Someday I really must contrive to be in England in May—if only to attend CrimeFest, which is held during that month every year in Bristol, a historic port city in the nation’s southwest. Created in the wake of a one-off but very successful, 2006 visit to Bristol by the American Left Coast Crime convention, and organized under the auspices of Adrian Muller and Myles Allfrey, CrimeFest has grown into what I understand is a well-attended, multi-day event with an international flavor, rife with recognizable crime, mystery, and thriller novelists, but refreshingly short of the cliquish camaraderie familiar from some other such literary gatherings. British chemist-turned-writer Ali Karim, who has been covering CrimeFest for The Rap Sheet ever since 2008, once remarked on this page that “It’s great to come out to Southwest England each year, meet up with friends and colleagues, and relax in a comfortable and familiar environment—while also celebrating and learning more about the crime and thriller fiction genre.”

Judging from the myriad photographs and e-mail notes Ali sent my way, the 2017 conference—held from May 18 to 21—was just as convivial, boisterous, and occasionally unpredictable as expected. It offered ample worthwhile panel discussions and reasons to laugh, plus two different awards ceremonies (one during which several CrimeFest prizes were dispensed, the other to declare the longlists of contestants for the British Crime Writers’ Association’s 2017 Dagger awards). In addition, there were opportunities for authors—so often cooped up by themselves in dusty offices—to collect in quiet corners of the convention venue (the Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel in College Green) and commiserate about troublesome publishers, missed deadlines, and what new books they’ve not yet found time to enjoy.

My hunch is that most Rap Sheet followers were as unuccessful as I was at attending last week’s CrimeFest. So I've gathered into this post more than a dozen photos, which should provide at least a general idea of what the four days of festivities offered. (Unless otherwise noted, these shots are were all taken by Ali Karim.)

A group of ruffians loitering with intent, outside the Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel: New Zealand blogger Craig Sisterson, together with novelists Quentin Bates, Lilja Sigurðardóttir and Michael J. Malone, and critic-author Barry Forshaw on the far right.

German author Volker Kutscher signs copies of The Silent Death, his second novel set in 1930s Berlin and starring maverick detective Gereon Rath (following Babylon Berlin).

Acclaimed journalist and elegant writer Ruth Dudley Edwards hangs out with Diamond Dagger award winner Andrew Taylor.

Only the dumb or daring mess with these guys: Shots editor Mike Stotter and Detectives Beyond Borders blogger Peter Rozovsky.

Why do so many of Ali’s photographs appear to have been taken sideways? Is it artistic preference, or can we blame it on these sources of creative inspiration found in his hotel room?

Thriller authors Karin Salvalaggio and Robert Wilson.

Rozovsky chats with John Lawton, author Sweet Sunday and the forthcoming Inspector Troy mystery, Friends and Traitors.

Looking sharp! Martin Edwards, author and new chair of the British Crime Writers’ Association (CWA), with novelist Zoë Sharp.

What memorable mischief might this pair be plotting? Fellow fictionists Mick Herron and Stav Sherez.

Category judge Ali Karim announces the longlist of rivals for the 2017 CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger award. (Photo by Mike Stotter.)

Gunnar Staalesen, whose Where Roses Never Die won the 2017 Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year, poses alongside last year’s winner, Jørn Lier Horst.

Felix Francis shows off his genre-appropriate necktie.

Barry Forshaw (far left) and Mike Ripley (far right) compare the virtues of American noir fiction and vintage British crime thrillers in a presentation refereed by critic-author Peter Guttridge.

Until next year, then: Featured Guest Author Peter Lovesey toasts the convention that was, and mystery readers everywhere.

READ MORE:A Clutch of Daggers at CrimeFest,” by Craig Sisterson (Crime Watch); “CrimeFest and the CWA Short Story Dagger,” by Martin Edwards (‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’); “CrimeFest 2017: Krimi panel, Petrona Award, American Noir, and Icelandic Queens of Crime” (Nordic Noir Blog).

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