I spent last weekend contemplating murder and other serious crimes. I was in Bristol at the CrimeFest 2012 convention.
I always enjoy this annual get-together of mystery writers and readers. It’s a treat to have a whole weekend devoted to mystery and to books – not to mention seeing old friends, making new ones, and hearing the wit and wisdom of stellar authors.
The 2012 stars included one of my very favourites, P.D. James. She’s the author of the Adam Dalgliesh series, and also of a much shorter series with a woman private detective, Cordelia Gray. She talked about both these, even hinting that she might return to Cordelia Gray sometime. And she spoke of her love of Jane Austen, which led her to write her latest mystery, DEATH COMES TO PEMBERLEY. It continues the lives of the Bennett family, featured in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Five years from where Austen left them, James brings us up-to-date with Elizabeth and Darcy, Jane and Bingley, and Lydia and Wickham…and others too I expect. I’m only part-way through the book so I don’t know, (if you do know, please no spoilers!) I wonder if the dreadful Mrs. Bennett may make an appearance to help her daughters deal with the horrors of crime? I bet there are times when her family deem her worthy of being murdered herself.
There were other stars too – there isn’t room to list them all. Frederick Forsyth gave a fascinating interview about his writing career, which he started – like so many authors – not because of artistic ambition or prompting from his Muse, but because he was desperately short of money. He had luck, and he made full use of it. Luck and hard work are the two things all of us writers need if we want to achieve stardom.
Sue Grafton spoke at the Saturday night gala dinner, and produced some wonderful quotes about writing and writers. Some were familiar – like the Groucho Marx crack, “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” Others were new to me, like Samuel Johnson’s criticism of a book: “Your manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is original is not good, and the part that is good is not original.”
Alongside the internationally famous authors and the not-so-famous names who will rise to be the stars of future conferences, there were plenty of mystery readers from all over the world. Indeed I should have put them first; after all without them there’d have been no CrimeFest at all. Because this is one of the friendliest of conventions, everybody mingled together at every available chance – at coffee-time, over lunch, and in the evenings. As a bonus, the weather was so gloriously warm that we could take our lunchtime snacks or evening drinks outside on the terrace, with never a thought about needing a coat, let alone an umbrella.
I came away, as I’ve done from every CrimeFest, with a head full of happy memories, and a feeling of being refreshed, my batteries well and truly re-charged. If anyone wants to see more about who was there and what we talked about, visit www.crimefest.com. That’s also the site where you can book for CrimeFest 2013.