Monday 23 May 2011

The Warm Glow of CrimeFest

Back from CrimeFest. Apologies for not blogging but things were just too hectic. Besides, internet access in the hotel cost something like £3000 per night (just slightly cheaper than a Southern Comfort and lemonade at the bar).

It was a brilliant weekend. Lots of old friends hugged, lots of new friends made (and some of those were hugged), the panels I went to were excellent (I shall write reports up of some of them over the next few days), the panels I moderated went well - I think - thanks to my lovely panelists. And I didn't vomit all over them, so that was a bonus. More of those panels later in this post.

The best part of the weekend is getting to spend time with people I really don't spend enough time with and laughing a lot. Some of those moments could not possibly be reported here.

My Mum and Dad made went too, and that was lovely. I took them out to dinner on the Thursday and after that my Mum and I went to the ballet. When we came back to the hotel we discovered my Dad in the bar. I was greeted with "Oh, Donna, we've been hearing all about you from your Dad." Oh. Shite. That phrase followed me all weekend. And each time, it worried me more. My Mum and Dad had a great time, as always. Everyone was lovely to them, and my Mum got to chat to some actor from Heartbeat, spend a weekend saying "Eee, our Donna, where on earth did you get those bloody shoes?" and buy a monkey for her 'grandson' Chris Ewan. As an aside, at the Gala Dinner, when neither Chris nor I won the Last Laugh Award (it was won by the charming Len Tyler who will no longer be able to remove his lucky tie) this conversation ensued between Mum and me.

"So you and Chris didn't win, then?"
"No, Mum."
"That's a shame."
"Thanks, Mum, but it's OK - I didn't expect to win."
"I didn't mean YOU, our Donna. I wanted Chris to win."
"Thanks Mum."

On to panel reports.

On Friday I was moderating two panels.

The first was I Was A Male Warbride: Confessions of a Crime Fiction Author - with Chris Ewan, Helen Fitzgerald, Douglas Lindsay and Steve Mosby. They were brilliant - interesting, funny, and they submitted to my terrible questions with panache and aplomb. As well as asking them questions about their books, I interspersed these with confession-type questions - whether they had ever done anything illegal, most embarrassing moment etc. I wish I'd been in the audience, rather than actually asking the questions, because I would love to report on their great responses. They all submitted gracefully to having to do homework in advance. I asked them to read out their worst ever review, and also to write the beginning of a story with an animal protagonist.

Here are the stories

Douglas Lindsay's story is here:

Helen Fitzgerald's story:

Her husband hanged me from the Rowan tree. Said she needed to let go of her attachment to me. “You can’t replace the real world with that fucking bunny,” he said. At ten o’clock tonight, he found me in her secret place, took me out into the garden, looped a string around my neck, and hanged me while she banged on the window of her locked bedroom. It’s after eleven now and she can still see me. She’s stopped screaming, but she’s crying, hands touching glass as she watches me go. I’m not dead yet and she knows it. She can see my ears quivering, less and less rampant as the insides of me flatten. "I’m going now," I say with barely moving ears.

Her husband has unlocked the door. "Come on," he orders, "come to bed." He has no settings, this murderer, no buzz no matter where or how hard she she presses.

She kisses her fingertips and touches the glass. "Arriverderci my rabbit," she says. "my every time dead cert. I must go and endure the real world."

Chris Ewan's story:

A Fly Vendetta Thriller

I was a fly in a glass. There was water inside the glass. There was a throwaway coaster on the end of it. The water was sloshing around. I was sloshing with it. This was on account of the movie that had been playing on a TV over the bar. Not a bad movie. Except for one scene. A scene where some guy drowned a fly in water and then brought it back to life with a sprinkling of salt. Now every chump in the bar wanted to drown a fly. Every guy wanted to produce a little magic with some salt. And I happened to get the goof who was just a bit dumber than most. He gave me a real good shake. A real thorough drenching. Like I was in a washing machine. Like I was in a toilet flush. Then he dumped me on a napkin and tipped half a pound of salt over me. I wasn’t crazy about this guy. I was buzzing mad. First thing I did when I came round was I gave him the finger. Flies can do that. Maybe you didn’t know. Truth is, flies can do a lot of things. They can mess with you in all kinds of ways. I was going to mess with this guy. And no amount of salt was going to help him.

Steve Mosby's story:

Action thriller with STIs

As Corporal Green discharged his final rounds at the army of antibiotics advancing on his position, he glanced down at his fallen comrades and was finally forced to accept the harshness of his predicament. I'm a goner, he told himself. I'm a goner 'ere.

Brilliant stuff.

My second panel was Monkey Business: The Last Laugh shortlist panel. Panellists were Colin Bateman, Colin Cotterill, Chris Ewan and L C Tyler. Again, they were excellent and great fun. Again, they were gracious enough to submit to homework. This time, a fascinating fact and an alternative bio.

Fascinating Facts

Chris -
I once worked as a chemical cleaner in a meat factory. After that, I worked in a factory making Glade Plug-it-in, Plug-it-ins. Neither job was as glamorous as it sounds, although they both paid better than being a crime writer.

Colin C - I was kicked out of the recovery ward after my circumcision after the nuns discovered I'd drawn cartoons of them on the wall behind the curtain.

Len - I once had a very long conversation with the King of Norway about Newcastle United.

Colin B - I am personally responsible for the Nolan Sisters reforming.

Alternative Bios

Chris Ewan had the idea for the Millennium Trilogy several years before Stieg Larsson began writing the series, but he’s never claimed any royalties because he’s such a nice guy. But he’s no pushover, either, and if Stephenie Meyer doesn’t pay up soon, his legal team are going to tear her a new one. Born and raised in Professor Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, he currently lives in your home, in the small back bedroom you rarely go into. He generally keeps himself to himself, but sometimes he likes to watch you sleep. He never touches you, though. He leaves that to the guy who lives in your attic.

Colin B - I once sat on a wall beside Matt Damon; Matt Damon failed to recognise me. I'm the only man in history to have been sued for libel by the Boys Brigade. Things have been much better since I got out of prison. (NB - most of Colin's is actually true).

Many authors write under a pen-name and live their life under their real name. Len Tyler writes under his real name and does his day jobs under a variety of aliases. Those familiar with Len's film work, for example, will know him as Daniel Craig. As Jenson Button he regularly drives for Maclaren. Finally, if you were watching a certain wedding at the end of last month, you will probably have caught a glimpse of Len in his latest day-job as Leghumper the Royal corgi.

Colin Cotterill, after years of dreaming of becoming a woman, was rejected by the surgical assessment team for being 'too manly'. He used the operation money instead to bribe a publisher into printing his first book. He then bribed a few hundred people into buying them and has been pumping money into the readership pool ever since. Asked if he has no shame he replied, 'no'.

I'll post more reports over the next few days.

In the meantime - thanks to friends old and new for making it such a great weekend. Too many names to mention, but you know who you are. I really had a brilliant time and am still basking in the warm glow of happiness. Crime fiction fans and writers are just the nicest people. And big congratulations to Adrian and Myles for putting on such an excellent convention.


  1. It WAS absolutely wonderful to say hi to you, see your mum and dad live - and hear your mum say ´look at those shoes!´ (They lived up to my expectations to your footwear).

    But there were also other great moments, such as meeting Chris who remembers me from Martin Edwards´ blog, and I could tell him I know him as one of Donna´s friends.

  2. Thanks for that account for those of us who couldn't be there? Are you going to Harrogate this year?

  3. Dorte - it was lovely to meet you!

    Luci - I shall be there part of Friday and all of Saturday. Are you and the family going?

  4. It was great to meet you Donna, although it was far too brief - but isn't that always the way? Nice post and Crimefest was superb ;-)

  5. Miles - great to see you and definitely too brief! Hope we can get to chat at something properly some time!

  6. I count myself fortunate because I got a hug and a place at the gala dinner next to your lovely Mum and Dad. It was fun to discuss dislocated shoulders with Zoe Sharp too. I loved my first visit to CrimeFest and will definitely be signing up for 2012.