I’ve just spent a weekend of crime. It was wonderful.
No, I’m not posting this from a secret hideout or a prison cell. My weekend was at CrimeFest, the annual convention at Bristol, where (to quote their slogan,) “the pen is bloodier than the sword.”
This is one of the newer crime gatherings, and one of the best, covering the whole genre of crimewriting. From historical to police-procedural, from cosy to horror…fiction, true-crime, reference…they’re all represented. Different formats also, including e-books and audiobooks. And to enjoy it all, every kind of mystery writer and reader, not forgetting literary agents, booksellers, and publishers.
Of course it was a delight to meet old friends, and equally a treat to get to know people I hadn’t encountered before who rapidly turned into new friends. Hi there, Carol from Maryland, and Kerry from Adelaide.
Yes, CrimeFest lives up to its claim of being an international convention, and it was great to see and hear authors from overseas too: Steven Saylor and Carola Dunn were among those who’d crossed the Pond to join us, and…well there really isn’t space to list everyone whose company made the weekend extra special.
One of the reasons I like CrimeFest is that it’s small by comparison with, say, Bouchercon, the very idea of whose vastness scares me to death. There were around 300 of us at Bristol. Everything is always well organised, in a good convention hotel (the Marriott Royal) and everyone is made to feel welcome, including people making their first visit.
There’s something for everyone to do in the evenings too, (as well as talk endlessly about books of course,) which helps everyone to mix. We had a pub quiz, a gala dinner, and a couple of receptions, one hosted by a publisher. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a glass of wine is especially tasty when you know a publisher is paying!
During the day there were only two streams of panels going on simultaneously. Even then, on several occasions I wanted to split myself in two so I could attend both events at once. I went to ten panels altogether; they were without exception stimulating and entertaining. Topics like “Getting away with Murder”; when should villains, or even sleuths, be allowed to do this? And “How not to Get Published”, a hilarious session where established writers pinpointed faults that would stop any book ever being accepted for publication. Their descriptions of unreadable creations making us laugh while encapsulating some excellent advice.
If I had to pick out just one that not only made me think, but will keep me thinking, it was “Born to be Bad – the nature of evil”, in which five writers tackled thorny question such as whether murderers are criminals by nature, by nurture (or lack of it,) or by chance. Are some murders “less evil” than others? Are some people’s brains “hard-wired” differently from the majority, so they are more or less destined to lives of crime? Can hardened criminals be reformed? The insights that came out of this fascinating discussion were meat and drink to any mystery writer who strives to create believable characters, especially plausible villains. I wasn’t the only one who wished the debate could have lasted twice as long, and hopes the topic will come up again next year.
Ah yes, next year…I’m looking forward to CrimeFest 2012 already.