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The Harrogate Crime Writing Festival 2006 is expected to become a huge success - don't miss the fun!

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Harrogate Crime Writing Festival, 2006
The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate

Ian Rankin, P.D. James, Jeffery Deaver, Natasha Cooper, George Pelecanos, Mo Hayder, Mark Billingham, Margaret Murphy, Simon Kernick, Alex Barclay, Dreda Say Mitchell, Martina Cole, Chris Simms, Martin Edwards & The 2nd Theakston Old Peculier Book of the Year Award Presentation

July 20th – 2rd 2006

Click here to visit the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival website for more information
The Harrogate Crime Writing Festival, 2006
July 20 - 23 Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate

Val McDermid


Val McDermid: Author of The Torment Of OthersCongratulations from all at 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 Val.

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.
A little like watching the mixed doubles final after the men’s final at Wimbledon has reached a fifth set tie-break, Building On Success introduced four newly published authors Louise Welsh, Alex Barclay, John Rickards and Michael Robotham how they coped with the excitement of becoming published and the difficulties of writing that crucial second novel.

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 away.

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:

Martin Edwards: Author of The Coffin Trail
  Martin Edwards: twice nominated for CWA Daggers, his nomination for the Theakston's Old Peculier Harrogate Crime Writing Festival is for his Lake District Mystery, The Coffin Trail published by Allison Busby. .
Short biography by Chris High
Review of 'The Coffin Trail' by Chris High

Susan Hill: Author of The Various Haunts Of Men
  Susan Hill: award-winning author was first published in 1961 and is nominated for her book The Various Haunts of Men published by Long Barn Books.
Short biography by Chris High
Review of 'The Various Haunts Of Men' by Chris High

Lindsay Ashford: Author of Strange Blood
  Lindsay Ashford: since becoming published in 2003 her career has marched on from strength to strength and is nominated for only her second novel, Strange Blood.
Short biography by Chris High
Review of 'Strange Blood' by Chris High

Stephen Booth: Author of One Last Breath
  Stephen Booth: journalist for over twenty-five years wrote his first novel at the age of 12. He is nominated for his book One Last Breath published by Harper Collins.
Short biography by Chris High

Review of 'One Last Breath' by Chris High

Val McDermid: Author of The Torment Of Others
  Val McDermid: one the nation’s foremost, respected and most popular authors is nominated for her book The Torment Of Others published by HarperCollins.
Short biography by Chris High
Review of 'The Torment Of Others' by Chris High

Ian Rankin: Author of Fleshmarket Close
  Ian Rankin: best known for his Inspector Rebus novels, which are mainly set in Edinburgh is nominated for his book Fleshmarket Close published by Orion.
Short biography by Chris High
Review of 'Fleshmarket Close' by Chris High

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Theakston Brewery and Visitor Centre

Masham,Ripon,North Yorkshire,HG4 4YD

Theakstons Old Peculier
T&R Theakston was established in Masham, North Yorkshire in 1827 by Robert Theakston. Throughout its 176 year history the company has prided itself on brewing a range of fine quality ales that have reaped many awards and accolades. In the 1980s the company was acquired by Scottish & Newcastle plc.
Bought back by the Theakston family in Autumn 2003, principal directors in the new business are Executive Directors Simon Theakston and Collin Wood. Under the guidance of the Theakston family the business will be nurtured as a business committed to the traditional values of quality customer service, brewing excellence and community commitment.

The visitor centre and shop at Ripon are open 7 days a week with guided tours available. Pre-booked group tours are welcome all year. Group discounts are available for parties of 10 or more, with prior arrangement.

For a copy of the tours brochure , please call 01765 680 000 or email bookings


Agatha Christie

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
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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