Harrogate 2019

On Friday 19 July 2019 I attended my third Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, in Harrogate.

The Harrogate Festival is now the single biggest and most famous crime writing event in the United Kingdom – arguably the world – and with a line-up that included James Patterson, Harlan Coben, Ian Rankin, Jeffery Deaver, Val McDermid and so many other greats, it certainly wasn’t surrendering its title in 2019! And so it was a pleasure to go along again and to see what’s happening in the world of fictional crime.

The festival kicked off on Thursday with the Novel of the Year Award, which was won by legal thriller writer Steve Cavanagh for his brilliant bestseller Thirteen, and the Outstanding Contribution accolade, which went to the legendary James Patterson.

Unfortunately the day job did what day jobs tend to do and prevented me from travelling on the Thursday, so Victoria and I missed what was, by all accounts, a raucous night. Instead we arrived early on Friday evening after a long, rainy drive up from London, and we got there just in time for the 2019 Dead Good Reader Awards.

Marked For Death was nominated in two of the six categories in this year’s Dead Good Reader Awards, matching the two nominations my previous book Killer Intent received last year, and I could not be more proud of that. This year those two categories were the award for the best legal thriller (‘The Jury’s Out’) and the award for the best revenge thriller (‘Dish Best Served Cold’). As the Dead Good Reader Awards are voted for by readers rather than critics it is a genuine honour to be nominated, and with four nominations across two books in two years? As I said, I am VERY proud!!

Following the awards, it was off to the WHSmith tent – where the event manager Nick and I had to spend an entire conversation being careful not to mention the words ‘Richard and Judy Book Club’ as there were still two days left until THAT announcement – to buy some of the latest books from my favourite authors. And then it was on to the beer tent, to the Old Swan Bar and to any other licensed establishment we could find on the grounds, for an evening spent catching up with old friends and meeting new ones among the incredible mix of crime writers, bloggers and readers that make Harrogate so special. And in the process was reminded that when crime writers drink, they REALLY drink . . .

With no official duties on Saturday, our first stop of the day was the lovely Imagined Things Book Store, where I was due to sign some hardback copies of Marked For Death. It was a pleasure to visit such a dedicated and enthusiastic independent bookseller, and it was made all the more special when, as we were leaving, none other than Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon came in and purchased a signed copy of Marked For Death!! Not how I expected my day to start.

Following on from there, it was back to The Old Swan for an afternoon and evening spent catching up with more old crime-writing friends – including Ian Rankin, Mason Cross, Steve Mosby, Alex North and Martina Cole – as well as a good few hours spent, again, with Ms Sturgeon. She may have thought she had a stalker!

But most important and by far the most enjoyable was meeting the many readers who came to speak to me about Marked For Death, Killer Intent, Michael Devlin, Joe Dempsey and Sarah Truman. The enthusiasm they all showed for my books and characters, as well as their desire to read the next, will never get old.

It’s the opportunity to meet and speak to people who have enjoyed the stories that come out of my head that makes crime writing festivals – and especially Harrogate – so incredibly exciting. And why, even at just one year old, I’ve started to familiarise Joseph with the place, for when he’s ready to begin writing for himself . . .