Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Crimefest: The Lost Weekend

Well, it's back to normality after Crimefest. So many people have said it so much better than me (besides, I took copious notes at several panels and have now lost them) so here's a round-up of Crimefest blog posts:

The lovely and indefatigable Ayo had her laptop surgically attached to her fingers for this series of blog posts over at Shotsmag. She was also wearing the most gorgeous necklace for the gala dinner and looked stunning.

Karen from Eurocrime (who I didn't get to spend nearly enough time with) also has several posts up (and well done Karen for being in the winning quiz team!)

Loads of posts from Peter Rozovsky over at Detectives Beyond Borders. Peter caused me my most awkward moment of the weekend, of which more later, but he's still a top bloke.

Martin Edwards has a couple of posts up.

Zoe Sharp's photos over at Busted Flush Press.

My own experience of Crimefest was chock full of lovely people, and loads of hugs. I went down a couple of days early to help with the final arrangements. Basically, this meant being at the beck and call of both Adrian and Adrian and Jen's gorgeous little girl Eleanor. Sometimes I didn't know whether I was meant to be stuffing envelopes or jumping on the trampoline, sorting out the tables for the gala dinner or watching The Little Mermaid. I have to say that it's loads more fun being bossed about by Eleanor. Especially when Adrian casually mentioned to me on Wednesday evening "Oh, by the way, you're being interviewed on BBC Radio Bristol tomorrow." I said some very bad words. Luckily, my Mum has always said that I have a face for the radio, so that was a bonus. I have no idea what I said. Mercifully.

My Mum and Dad (aka Wallace and Gromit) were also there for the weekend so on Thursday we had a family dinner - with my annoying little brother Vincent Holland-Keen, and my son Chris Ewan.

Thursday's panels were excellent and very well attended.

I went to see Sheena is a Punk Rocker: Good Girls, Bad Girls & Everything In-between – Writing Female Protagonists with Cassandra Clark, Mary Andrea Clarke, Katherine Hall Page and Alison Joseph - excellently moderated by Cath Staincliffe. I made notes, so that I could give a full report, but have left my notepad in the hotel room. All the panellists had interesting and entertaining things to say but Katherine Hall Page impressed me the most. She had taken the time to read books by her fellow panellists, was genuinely interested in what they had to say, and made insightful comments about everyone else's books. What a thoroughly excellent panellist and nice person.

Next was Punishment Fits the Crime: Crime Fiction as Social Commentary - Writing About Society, Morality & Justice with Lesley Horton, Adrian Magson, Claire Seeber and Edward Marston. Steve Mosby is a wonderful moderator and asked some really great questions, getting the most out of his panellists. One thing I really like about going to panels is that I often find new authors to try. This time it was Lesley Horton, one of whose books I bought based on her panel appearance.

On Friday I had my panel Grimly Fiendish with Chris Ewan, Zoe Sharp, Steve Mosby and Helen Fitzgerald. I had given them homework to do - firstly to write a fake bio for themselves, secondly to write a crime poem (a task which they all moaned about on Twitter - apart from Zoe, but only because she's not on Twitter.) (Panel photo courtesy of Zoe Sharp and Andy Butler). I am trying to persuade them to let me post their poems here - along with an amazing one written during the panel by audience member Amanda Brown. In the meantime, here are the fake bios:


Former two-time world cage fighting champion, Chris Ewan, was born in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where local legend has it that he was hewn from the bare rock. Known for his distinctive muscular physique, and the curious way in which complete strangers at writing conferences feel compelled to buy him free drinks, he now divides his time between New York and France, where he writes a series of moderately successful thrillers under the pen name Lee Child.


Being one of thirteen children, Helen FitzGerald was destined for a criminal life. Lacking supervision and self control, she was deported from the country her parents had adopted after she was found guilty of murdering the boyfriend who spilt coffee on her favourite shirt, staining it irretrievably. Finding herself in the mother country, she was immediately drawn into its dark underbelly, squatting in the basement of a London townhouse, and eventually fleeing police who suspected she had stabbed one of her many lovers for burning the toast. Hiding out in Glasgow, FitzGerald became acquainted with fellow felons who later welcomed her into C Hall with open arms and toothbrushes laden with melted razor blades. From her cell on the second floor, she now divides her time between writing autobiographical accounts of the men she has murdered and maimed and counting the days until her release.


ZoĆ« Sharp was almost certainly born. Her mother was an itinerant fork-lift truck driver and her father played the bongos on the original Mission: Impossible theme. Abandoned as a child, she was raised by Wolves, but later supported Nottingham Forest and as a result now has no interest in football whatsoever. She wrote her first novel at the age of two-and-a-half, which was described by critics both as “a masterpiece in Marmite and crayon ” and “mercifully short”. She has been making very little sense ever since. She lives in a hollowed-out volcano at a secret location and is planning world domination as soon as she can find herself a fluffy white cat. (And the sad thing is, part of this is true…)


Steve is the manifestation of everything that decent people revile. His date of birth is shrouded in mystery, possibly deliberately so, but he is certainly older than he looks. He has never achieved anything of note, and it is highly unlikely that he ever will, as he spends most of his time drinking, and annoying people on the internet. Bitter, malformed and vile - inside and out - Steve plots to take over the world in a variety of abhorrent ways, none of which has the slightest chance of reaching fruition. Basically an idiot.

Chris, Steve, Helen and Zoe - thank you so much for being such wonderful panellists and marvellous sports. Despite the fact that I hate doing panels and only do it because Adrian bullies me into it, I had good fun.

I went to several panels, discovered authors whose books I will definitely buy (plus a couple I won't!), learnt stuff (including a rather nifty bit of self-defence stuff from Zoe), and, most importantly was entertained and amused by the panels I went to.

Saturday evening was the maXcrime party followed by the gala dinner. Here I am with Maxim Jakubowski and fellow maXcrime author, Mike Hodges (who write and directed the brilliant original Get Carter - I was thrilled to meet him - what a treat).

My Mum is no longer speaking to me after the gala dinner when Peter Rozovsky leaned across and said "So, Donna, how did you get mugged three and a half times?"

My Mum bristled and said "You've been mugged three and a half times? How come I didn't know about this?"

Errrrrrrrr... I had to spend the rest of the weekend dodging barbed comments along the lines of "Apparently, there's a lot I don't know."

She also spent the whole evening trying to cover up my boobs, hoicking my dress up and repeating a selection of phrases - namely, "I've got a safety pin in my handbag somewhere", "You'd better cover those up or you'll get a nasty cold" and "I don't know which is more obvious - your bazooms or your shoes." (I was wearing these shoes).

It was a wonderful weekend. I love getting to see old friends and make new ones. The best bit about it is the hugs.


  1. Donna - I'm so glad you had such a terrific time! And thanks for rounding up the various blog posts about Crimefest : ). Love those shoes, too!

  2. Ummm, are there photos of you at the gala dinner? It's the shoes I want to see you wearing, definitely, only the shoes.

  3. Can we see where the safety pin went, as well?

  4. You are a sweetie Donna! It was lovely seeing you again. I really enjoyed the blogging and can only say that my fingers ache. The necklace certainly worked. I have never been asked so many questions about a necklace before in my life.

  5. Donna! I've been reading other blog posts daily--thank you everyone who posted to blogs about Crimefest--but was waiting for this! Thank you! Great photos! Hi, Donna's family. And that is a gorgeous long black dress...and no place and no need for a safety pin, it's a wowser. So are those shoes! :-) And you too, by the way.

    I bet your panel where you moderated was a hoot and also was informative and interesting. And what a co-inky-dink, when I was in Bristol is when I 'discovered' Lesley Horton, she impressed me so much both on a panel and to talk with later, and I bought all her books that were offered there, and have loved her writing then and since. Enjoy!

    Thanks for this short report, want more! :-) I know, I know, you're busy, and thanks for this blog, Donna.


  6. Margot - they're my current favourites :o)

    Mack and Bookwitch - hahahahaha. I managed to avoid the safety pin. The thing is, there wasn't even much flesh on display...except in my Mum's opinion.

    Ayo - it was gorgeous and really suited you.

    Bobbie - you're too kind! Every convention I go to I find at least one new to me author who impresses me so much I go and buy their books.

  7. Oh, criminy, that's what I get for mentioning crime at a crime-fiction conference.

    Incidentally, one person at the conference did remind me of Wallace (And what could be more apropos for a conference in Wallace and Gromit’s own city?), but that person was neither your dad nor your mum.
     Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"