I want to start day two by looking at the grand final of ‘Whose Crime is it Anyway?’, Capital Crime’s very own quiz, which actually took place on Friday: Day One. Trust me, it took a while to get my head round it! The premise was simple: two teams went head to head in each round, with the authors on each team taking questions based on the books written by the authors on the other team.

Actor Paul Clayton hosted the quiz. I was expecting smooth sophistication and class, these are book people after all and this is the final. Maybe this could be the next ‘Only Connect’ or ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ (minus the money, of course). The devilishly cunning rules were impossible to follow imitate because:

  • Paul Clayton made them up as he went along.
  • Point allocation was more random than Have I Got News For You.
  • Team captains invoked ancient rights of argument as laid out in the unwritten constitution of the quiz and a smile often worked.
  • Getting the answer wrong but using some of the right letters (not necessarily in the right order) got points too.
  • Referring to notes was/wasn’t allowed!
  • Both teams comprised winners and losers from the earlier rounds as a couple of the winners seemed to have sloped off for a lie down.

So what happened in the grand final? Team Dysfunc took on Criminal Minds. It was a tight affair, tense and nervous, neck and neck all the way, the crowd were gripped, cheating didn’t occur to anyone – why do I feel like Pinocchio? OK ,so it was anarchic and madcap, a clean version of a Keith Lemon show, authors cunningly disguising a lack of knowledge by mucking about. Actually it was a lot of fun. Criminal Minds lost by half a point despite lodging a last minute protest. A sit in protest was narrowly avoided because the bar was open.

Now on to Day Two proper:

‘Chilled to the Bone’: Karen Sullivan, publisher at Orenda moderated, Ragnar Jonasson, Yrsa Sigardardottir, Antii Toumainen and Will Dean all did their best to avoid Karen’s thoughtfully prepared questions. As Antii (Finland), Ragnar and Yrsa (Iceland) are crime royalty, Will Dean was knighted for the day. Whether this was because he wields an axe (he lives in the woods) or out of respect I’m not sure. Karen’s scandi-noir questions lasted ten of the fifty minutes. We learned nobody on the panel was actually influenced by scandi-noir and if you know these writers you’ll know they are all very different. Swede Will, formerly of the Midlands, came up with a new definition for his work: hermit-noir. Check out Red Snow, published in paperback this week, if you want to understand what he’s getting at. Social commentary, not directly political or ephemeral, underpins the work of all of them. Antti writes some of the best black comic crime writing anywhere but has tackled climate change and the decline of the mining industry in his native Finland. He’s sticking to writing about Finland after a novel about a Finnish poet in Berlin to write a novel didn’t click. The subject of violence cropped up on several panels, the general agreement being that crime writing is about abhorring violence not glorifying it. Although Yrsa did kill one character with a vacuum cleaner.

‘And then’ … Ragnar Jonasson introduced the topic of puffin hunting, heavily stressing that no puffins were killed in the making of his novel The Island. This may shock some people. Iceland is an island and over the centuries they have eaten fish and sea birds to survive, this includes puffins. More of an immersive tourist experience these days, the locals aren’t keen anymore. Anyway, the mere mention of this at a book reading by Ragnar caused an audience walk out in ______ fortunately, nobody left in London. Emboldened by this, Yrsa explained how to catch a puffin – simply plant a flag, as they’re very curious creatures they’ll investigate, then all you need is a net. Thanks to Will we also know how to help a puffin shuffle off this mortal coil. Despite Karen trying to get back on track this was the topic that just kept giving. Advice for writers: DON’T KILL A PUFFIN OR EVEN ALLOW ONE TO DIE OF OLD AGE IN YOUR BOOK. Murder all the people you like and the readers will love you for it, but tread on the foot of one puffin prepare for the Twitter storm.

‘Beneath the Surface’: Erin Kelly (moderator), Elly Griffiths, Ali Land, Louise Candlish and Fiona Barton. This began with an interesting discussion on the twist in the crime novel (can you think of your favourite twist?). There’s a difference between the reveal, the slow evolution of the story and a twist that subverts/changes the story. There was an acknowledgement that this is often overdone these days, the twists on the twist (which, personally, I hate). A good twist send you back to check you weren’t misled, it gives you the surprise moment but essentially has a truth to it.

‘Britain’s Toughest Streets’: David Mark moderating Dreda Say Mitchell, Steph Marland (aka Steff Broadribb), Amer Anwar and MW Craven. You might think the London authors would win hands down on toughest streets but the socio-economic problems within society are just as relevant in the North East and the Lake District. Steff moved to a rural area and got burgled straightaway but she learned a lot from watching the police work. Dreda cites Hill Street Blues as a real influence, she wanted to recreate the busyness of the police station in her novels. She did say that ebooks make it easier for her to reach a bigger audience and argued that the publishing industry still has a way to go to address access for writers from an estate/minority background. Mike (MW Craven) got his inspiration from years as a probation officer in Barrow and Whitehaven, areas that were no-go for single police officers on the beat.

Journalist Jake Kerridge interviewed Kate Atkinson about the new Jackson Brody novel Big Sky. He’s very good but Jake’s job was made easy by the flowing way Kate addressed the audience with long, thoughtful, intelligent answers. The good news is that she has written 30,000 words of the next Jackson Brody novel, although there will be another novel in-between.

Later in the day, Irish author John Connolly gave a talk, more of a show, a retrospective on his life as a writer. Rather than concentrating on his work, it was about rejections, processes, people supporting his work, and situations that he came across. Then David Baldacci was interviewed by KJ Howe.

‘High Octane Thrillers’: Adam Hamdy moderating James Swallow, KJ (Kimberley) Howe, and Chris Ryan. Adam began by asking about authenticity and how to make an action thriller feel real for the readers. I would say this panel and one or two others confirmed something for me about the integrity of crime/thriller/mystery writers, as they are on the whole assiduously careful when it comes to portrayal of violence and murder. Kimberley, who kicked things off, commented that action books stir the emotions in the reader but even though they are exciting, there’s a serious point too.

Chris talked about visiting schools and how boys always ask how old he was when he first killed a man and how many has he killed, but he wants them to know there are no winners in war. Chris left the army suffering from PTSD and doesn’t want to remember the number of funerals of mates he’s been to since then. Kimberley talked about kidnapping and the effects on people. James about private military contractors, like Blackwater, with no allegiance to any nation, just profits, a scary concept.

On a lighter note, Chris spoke about blowing up a film set, destroying a staircase that Michael Caine was supposed to have his final scene on. Ooops!

Chris works with disadvantaged and institutionalised young men, getting them to read, hopefully to have better life chances. When asked about a favourite scene, he told us about the havoc a panicking sniffer dog created when he saw his handler jump from a plane, all dogs are muzzled these days. 

After a brief sojourn to the bar we came to the finale, no fireworks on account of us being indoors, but a fair bit of whooping and cheering accompanied . . . 

The 2019 Amazon Publishing Readers’ Awards

These awards are decided by the pass holders to Capital Crime and closed the festival in great style. For many of the people attending the festival, this was the first time that they has participated in a selection of a major award. The categories not only represented different types of books, recognising e-book and audiobooks, but also covered TV and film. Here are the shortlists and the winners:

BEST MYSTERY

Jane Casey – Cruel Acts
Anthony Horowitz – The Sentence is Death
Ragnar Jonasson – The Island
Philip Kerr – Metropolis
Ian Rankin – In A House of Lies     

Winner: IAN RANKIN IN A HOUSE OF LIES.        

Rankin on Monday: “just found this out – all I can say is wow wow wow!”

BEST THRILLER

Steve Cavanagh – Twisted
Mick Herron – London Rules
Gregg Hurwitz – Out of the Dark
Manda Scott – A Treachery of Spies
Matt Wesolowski – Changeling 

Winner: MICK HERRON LONDON RULES. 

BEST DEBUT

Oyinkan Braithwaite – My Sister, The Serial Killer
Lesley Kara – The Rumour
Laura Shepherd-Robinson – Blood & Sugar
Harriet Tyce – Blood Orange
Holly Watt – To The Lions 

Winner: OYINKAN BRAITHWAITE MY SISTER, THE SERIAL KILLER. 

BEST E-BOOK

Amer Anwar – Brothers in Blood
Mark Edwards – Last of the Magpies
Alex Michaelides – The Silent Patient
Liane Moriarty – Nine Perfect Strangers
CL Taylor – Sleep 

Winner: CL TAYLOR SLEEP. 

Taylor: “I’ve been to so many awards where I lost it’s just bloody typical I wasn’t at the one where I won!” [There’s always next year] 

BEST AUDIOBOOK

Robert Galbraith – Lethal White – Read by Robert Glenister
Anthony Horowitz – The Sentence is Death – Read by Rory Kinnear
Catherine Steadman – Something in the Water – Read by Catherine Steadman
Stuart Turton – The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Read by Jot Davies
Harriet Tyce – Blood Orange – Read by Julie Teal

Winner:    STUART TURTON THE SEVEN DEATHS OF EVELYN HARDCASTLE read by Jot Davies.

Jot Davies: “Hooray!!! Had the absolute best time recording this at the RNIB…”

BEST INDEPENDENT VOICE

Edward Carey – Little
Will Carver – Good Samaritans
Will Dean – Red Snow
Jean Levy – What Was Lost
Matt Wesolowski – Changeling 

Winner:    WILL DEAN RED SNOW.   

Lionsgate have just bought the rights to the Tuva series, so look out for this one on TV in the future.

BEST CRIME NOVEL

Louise Candlish – Our House
Ray Celestin – The Mobster’s Lament
MW Craven – The Puppet Show
Erin Kelly – Stone Mothers
Ian Rankin – In a House of Lies 

Winner: IAN RANKIN – IN A HOUSE OF LIES 

BEST FEATURE FILM

American Animals
BlacKKKlansman
John Wick 3
The Sisters Brothers
Widows

Winner: BLAKKKLANSMAN

BEST TV SHOW

Bodyguard
Bosch
Killing Eve
Line of Duty
You

Winner: KILLING EVE 

Back to the bar and it’s the witching hour before you know it. I had a fascinating chat with HB Lyle, heard a few jaw-dropping stories about the police from Robert and Carol Bridgestock (which I’ll keep to myself for now) and met a couple of volunteers who were actually aspiring romantic novelists – good luck with that ladies.

Honestly, if you’re a crime fan, give attending the festival next year some serious thought, it’s bloody good fun.

Paul Burke
October 2019