Wednesday 17 August 2022

Criminal activities by Tracy Darnton

 As last month's blog (read here) was about the return of YALC, this month is a look at my first trip to Harrogate for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. 

Yes, I have travelled to the dark side with the grown ups. And it was good. 

I loved:

The festival feel. The event tents and bar are set up in the grounds of the Old Swan Hotel, famous as the place Agatha Christie checked into when the whole country was worried about her disappearance. I'm a sucker for outdoor fairy lights and the whole place looked great. 

Relaxation zone

Who doesn't want to lounge in a deckchair reading a book?

The whole town enters into the spirit of it.

including fabulous local Imagined Things Bookshop 

and Oxfam

Waterstones at the festival sells all the guest author books and hosts signings. 

The vibe set by the festival chair Denise Mina and the sponsor director Simon Theakston was warm and friendly. The panels were stacked with interesting people and there were in-depth interviews with mega stars like Tess Gerritsen.  I see why crime fans go back year after year. 

I'd been worried that the late night quiz would be cliquey and way too difficult but it was entertainingly hosted by Val McDermid and Mark Billingham and our little team did pretty well. (Still kicking myself that I couldn't remember what type of dog Snowy is (Tintin's sidekick). 

Aside from the pride of seeing my talented friend Emma Styles on the New Blood panel chaired by Val McDermid, the stand out session for me was Lynda La Plante interviewed by Denise Mina. If ever you get the chance to see her, grab it. 

We had an accommodation package 

and everything was included in the Rover Ticket without the hassle of booking individual events. 

The freebies! Got to love a tote bag stacked with books for starters. By the end I had too many to drag home on the train. 

Engaging promotions. Publishers with money to spend on their promotional activities (Yes!!!)

eg Escape Room experience, book themed cocktails with Charlie Higson, afternoon tea with Katy Watson and Rosemary Shrager, red rose which was the key to a book giveaway, proofs and samplers galore. 

Escape room corner in the The Crime Vault


It was pricey! 

The hotels had seen better days.

The food at the Murder Mystery Evening was dire. 

Coming so soon after YALC, I definitely missed the diverse/younger audience and authors. 

Too much queuing in the drizzle to get into the events tent.

Finally, in my humble opinion, it needs a YA thriller panel.

So cliffhanger moment... Will I go back? 

I'm dying to. 

Tracy Darnton is the author of YA thrillers The Truth About Lies, The Rules and most recently Ready or Not. She's still ploughing through the pile of thrillers she picked up in Harrogate. 

1 comment:

Penny Dolan said...

Thanks for this post, Tracy. I did laugh about the contrast with the YALC audiences!

As I live locally, I've been to a few single HCF sessions in past years, and enjoyed them very much but it wasn't possible this year. (Also, I didn't spot a Mick Herron session.) Will look again next year.

Maybe worth noting that the ordinary single session tickets aren't available until the Weekend & Rover tickets have been released,so spaces at the big author talks can be limited unless you're an alert and prompt booker. When I went, pre-tent-era - the ordinary attenders weren't allowed into the event hall until the queue of Proper Visitors had gone in and to the best seats. The panels were often very good too.

So anyone with a Rover ticket could a) have a great time and b) feel very slightly smug as their queue was escorted on.

(Please do let the organisers know the food was awful. It's shaming to have the hotels ripping off delegates and something might be done.)