A year ago, I had never heard of Bristol Crimefest so when my publisher asked me to attend and take part in a couple of interview panels, I really had no idea what I was signing up for.
I arrived at the Bristol Marriott hotel, checked in to a very comfortable room and then went to register for the festival. I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when I asked festival organiser how many people we coming. The answer? Five hundred and fifty! I think he saw my shocked look as he then reassured me that there would be know more than a hundred and fifty at each panel!
First evening was spent with fellow Orenda Authors when our wonderful publisher, Karen Sullivan, took us all out for a nice Italian meal. I had the chance to meet and talk to Michael Grothaus, Michael Stanley, Yusuf Toropov, Kati Hiekkapelto and Paul Hardisty.
Returning to the hotel, I began to notice faces that I recognised. Mari Hannah spoke to me (absolutely charming) and Rod Reynolds (looks so young). Then I saw an ‘old friend’ Michelle Davies, who I met in Glasgow in March when we did our very first interviews together. A great catch up was had.
And then it was time for bed!
Day one dawned. Breakfast – full english, of course – as you should always go into battle on a full stomach, and then off to meet the team for the first panel. Pete Adams (hilarious), Daniel Pembrey (young, talented AND handsome) and the wonderful Lisa Cutts. Lisa is a serving detective and – not a lot of people know – her father was my first DI (detective inspector). Lisa and I had spent the previous evening in the bar talking JOB, as coppers often do!
Lisa and I met up with our ‘moderator’ Caro Ramsey. Caro is from Glasgow and turned out to have a very sharp sense of humour. With another natural comedian in Pete Adams, it didn’t take long before they had our audience laughing. Lisa, Daniel and I simply followed where they led.
The hour passed very quickly, and then we headed off to sign a few books.
Then, a very strange thing happened. At 7pm I joined a large queue of people as we headed for the main hall. There were to be announcements, the Crime Writers Association were publishing the long-lists for the 2016 Dagger Awards. I was aware that my publisher had nominated Wicked Game but, well, let’s get real, there are hundreds of entries and some very talented and experienced authors in the mix. As the announcements started, I found myself chatting quietly to a lovely lady who turned out to be none other than Zoe Sharp. I wasn’t paying as much attention to the stage as perhaps I should have been (guilty m’lord) but I then thought I heard my own name being announced. Zoe confirmed it. A few moments later my hand was being squeezed by more people than I could count. Wicked Game had been long-listed, for the John Creasey New Blood Dagger, along with eight other entries. My publisher gave me a kiss, my phone started buzzing. I was stunned, and speechless.
That night, I celebrated with fish n chips and a cider, at the Catch22 resturant (very good, well recommended – try the grilled fish) opposite the hotel. I met Mick Heron (Spy novelist) and, as he was also listed for another Dagger, we celebrated together.
Next day, I was on the red-eye panel, the one that starts at 9am, the morning after some people were in the bar until the wee small hours. To my surprise, we had a full house again. This time we were under the guidance of Laura Wilson. On the panel were Sara Ward, Yusuf Toropov, Anja de Jager and a certain Mr James Law. James is a former submariner and the author of a big-selling book by the name of Tenacity.
Put an ex-navy man and an ex-soldier together and the inevitable happened. First he took the rise out of the Army, then I remembered a navy joke, and soon the craic was well under way. What the people outside the room must have thought of the laughter, I don’t know. What our fellow authors must have thought, I dread to think!
Soon came the time to head home. All too soon as I had made some great new mates and met some fascinating people. I was really quite amazed at how friendly and welcoming the crime-fiction community is.
And will I go next year? If they’ll have me, you bet. James Law and me might just start up a double act.