Crime Writing Festival, 2006
Congratulations from all at chrishigh.com to the winner of the Theakston's Old Peculier Harrogate Crime Writing Festival 2006 - Val McDermid.
Val McDermid is one the nation’s foremost, respected and most popular authors and was nominated for her book The Torment Of Others published by HarperCollins.
Read the Official Theakston’s Old Peculier Harrogate Crime Writing Festival press release (opens in a new browser window)
In just four years, The Theakston’s Old Peculier Harrogate
Crime Writing Festival has become established as the premier
crime fiction event in Europe, attracting readers and best-selling authors
from around the globe.
The 2006 Festival more than built on the success of 2005, with a star-studded
line-up, a new venue in the Crime-linked building of The Old Swan
Hotel – made famous by being Agatha Christie’s bolt
hole in times of strife, eighty years ago – and panels that promised
to be both entertaining and informative in equal measure.
A new addition to the event was the introduction of Creative Thursday,
which gave enthusiasts the chance to meet the masterminds behind the novels
and to pick their brains during workshops. This was extremely well received
and many of the “classes” were sold out weeks in advance,
as were the author/reader dinners, which were also new for this year.
The second annual Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year was
won by Val McDermid for her novel, The Torment Of
Others. Val took the trophy from last year’s inaugural winner,
Mark Billingham, and rarely, if ever, will a win be more warmly greeted.
Ian Rankin, Martin Edwards, Stephen Booth, Lyndsey Ashford
and Susan Hill should feel no shame at being beaten to the £3,000
and hand engraved beer barrel that constitute the prize, as their books
were all worthy nominations.
Jenni Murray of BBC Radio Four’s Woman’s Hour made
the announcement, while Simon Theakston presented the award to an emotional
The panels, as ever, were as diverse in content as they were in opinion.
The Great Gender Debate featuring Denise Mina, Ian Rankin, Val McDermid
and Mark Billingham, chaired by Natasha Cooper, tried … and largely
failed … to determine which gender wrote the better crime novels.
The panel was hugely entertaining and not a little heated, or was that
just the weather and the room in which it was held? The weather was certainly
unseasonal. Who expects temperatures nudging the early-thirties in July
in the UK?
A further heated exchange as Australian Shane Malloney, actress and novelist
Stella Duffy and author John Connelly debated what it was that made up
Unique Voices in writing. It is never easy to pigeon-hole writers and
these three – along with Charlie Williams – are all but impossible
so to do, as voices became un-uniquely raised after Connelly said that
Crime authors “do not experiment widely enough” in their writing.
Ian Rankin, author of the multi-award winning Rebus novels in conversation
with the multi-award winning John Harvey, who boasts some 90 plus novels
to his catalogue, was enthralling and highly entertaining as both read
from as yet unpublished manuscripts. Listening to how these giants got
to where they are today was both fascinating and amusing.
At the end of a long, heat-filled-in-more-ways-than-one day, the humour
vent was released during Foul Play hosted by Simon Brett, as Stella Duffy
and Mark Billingham hammed up a specially written Agatha play for Laura
Wilson and Shane Maloney to unravel, in their own inimitable styles. As
amusing as you’d expect from a cast such as this, Foul Play was
a perfect cue after which to adjourn to the bar.
The beauty of this festival is the accessibility of the authors and their
willingness to talk to their readers. 2005 and was good, but 2006 was
better, as many congregated into the wee small hours to chat the night
The Gritty City saw Margaret Murphy, Chris Simms, Denise Mina and Paul
Charles explain how they saw their central locations of Liverpool, Manchester,
Glasgow and London as integral characters in their stories, and how research
was vital to each aspect of each novel.
The debate as to whether Crime will ever be considered good enough to
be accepted by the high-brow literary novel lovers to win awards such
as The Booker Prize, was re-examined by Ian Rankin, Mo Hayder, Robert
Goddard and John Harvey, with the general consensus being that it was
unlikely, given that Crime Fiction had to have that integral component
of all novels – a story.
American Crime Fiction giant, George Pelecanos, rounded off the day’s
panels. The author, whose works include Hard Revolution and The
Big Blowdown, spoke with BBC Radio Four Front Row presenter, Mark
Lawson, about his career as novelist, television and film scriptwriter.
The audience were held in rapt attention throughout and his latest novel,
The Night Gardener, was made available prior to publication to
those lucky enough to hear the man dubbed “The coolest writer in
America” give his talk.
The night ended in traditional style with the Late Night Pub Quiz. Tensions
were high during the battle to wrestle the trophy away from Shots Magazine,
last year’s winners, with the achievement being reached by a team
called Last But Not Least, which included Simon Kernick and Radio 7 presenter
Paul Blezzard who duly lorded it over the rest for the remaining hours
of the day and long, long night.
If anything, the popularity and warmth of The Harrogate Crime Writing Festival has increased in 2006. It can only be hoped that, under the stewardship of Natasha Cooper – who takes over from Mark Billingham as Organising Committee Chair for next year – it will again be better supported, yet more star-studded and even more entertaining than before. With the drive and determination of all those in the background, and at the forefront, to ensure the festival’s success, that is almost as guaranteed as Crime Fiction remaining popular.
|The six nominations for the Theakston's Old Peculier Harrogate Crime Writing Festival award in 2006 were:|
The search for Agatha Christie in 1926, created the biggest man-hunt of the time. In December, when Mrs Christie was 36 years old and already a successful writer, she mysteriously disappeared. Her mother had recently died and it was said that the author was suffering from marital problems.
Mrs Christie left her home in Sunningdale, Surrey, about 9.45 pm on the 3rd December, 1926. Her car was found hanging precariously over the edge of a chalk pit. It is thought that after crashing the car, Agatha travelled to London and boarded a train at Waterloo Station, bound for Harrogate. She took a taxi from Harrogate Station to the Swan Hydro (as the Old Swan Hotel was known at the time) and checked in with very little luggage, under the name of Mrs Theresa Neele - the name of her husband's mistress! At this time, the price of a week's stay was £5.50!!
Agatha appeared to enjoy her stay, mingled with the other guests and joining in the dances, balls and Palm Court entertainment and doing nothing to arouse the other guests' suspicions. Harrogate was at that time a very fashionable and elegant spa town.
A nationwide search ensued with over 1,000 police and civilians being called in to scour the local area where Mrs Christie lived. It was the first search in England to use aeroplanes.
After 10 days, a banjo player at the Hotel, Mr Bob Tappin recognised the author and alerted the police. Colonel Christie was informed and he came immediately to collect Agatha. She kept him waiting for half an hour in the lounge, whilst she finished dressing for dinner. The couple had an affectionate reunion before having dinner together. Her husband put the disappearance down to total memory loss caused by the car accident but many wondered if it was a publicity stunt or a genuine sign of unhappiness and desperation.
It is thought that an entry in the personal column of the Times newspaper, asking friends of the writer to reply to a box number, had been placed by Agatha herself. Agatha had mentioned Harrogate in a letter, saying what a nice town it would be to visit.
In 1928, the couple divorced and Colonel Christie married Theresa Neele. Agatha later also remarried and wrote prolifically until her death in 1976.
In 1977 Warner Brothers made a feature film called "Agatha", starring Vanessa Redgrave and Dustin Hoffman. The film was shot on location at the Old Swan and around Harrogate. The Hotel continues the mystery theme today, with Murder Mystery Dinners and Weekends.
Agatha Christie's real name was Mary Clarissa Miller, born in Torquay in 1890, and the daughter of New York American, Frederick Miller.
Films and plays have been made from many of her novels, 'Death on the Nile', 'Murder on the Orient Express' and 'The Mousetrap' (which is the longest running play still playing in London) - to name but a few. Who has not heard of Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot and his little grey cells?
In 1956, Agatha was awarded the CBE and in
1971, she was made DBE (Dame Commander of the British Empire). Agatha
also wrote six novels under the pseudonym of 'Mary Westmacott'.
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Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
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