CrimeFest

1 June 2012

I’m back from three days of hobnobbing with the great and the good at CrimeFest, a jamboree for crimewriters and crime readers that is certainly becoming one of the places to be seen, this year over a blazing hot weekend.
In my cubbyhole in the Ibis hotel, the weekend started with a bang on Friday afternoon as my laptop died in front of me. The chime echoed as usual, and then... nothing. Blank screen. I was distraught. It was like having one hand cut off. Three days without email, Facebook, Twitter? What would happen? People might think I was dead. But in the event, nobody sent out any search parties after all.
As for CrimeFest, there were a few new and interesting faces, as well as the big hitters; PD James, Frederick Forsyth, Jeffrey Deaver, Lee Child, Sue Grafton and others. This year it seemed an increasingly international affair, with an influx of Scandinavians, Roslund & Hellström, Åsa Larsson, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Gunnar Staalesen, Thomas Enger and Ragnar Jónasson, not to mention the two Icelandic pretenders, Michael Ridpath and me.
The fascination with Scandinavian crime fiction shows no sign of abating yet, I’m pleased to say. Long may it last. Gratifying that Fiona who mans the tea stall at CrimeFest is also a crime fiction fan and bought Frozen Out.
There was a Friday night curry at Kathmandu with Ragnar, Yrsa, Óli, Emily Bronstein, Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip that naturally ended in the Marriott’s bar, awash with many very jolly crimewriters. Did I mention that people who write crime fiction are the most easy-going and least precious people around? It came as a surprise to me as well, but they are. CrimeFest is full of people who feel like old friends, even though the the first and last time I spoke to many of them was in the same place a year ago.
Like an idiot, I hadn’t signed up for CrimeFest early enough and found myself without a panel, and wasn’t the only disgruntled one in this position. But it was also a relief. Speaking in public doesn’t come easily, but at the same time it’s also an essential part of getting your books and your face in front of potential readers.
Anyway, by the Saturday, the comatose laptop in my hotel room had been largely forgotten. It was a relatively quiet day, with fewer panels and the big interviews with Lee Child, PD James, Sue Grafton and David Hewson, taking place. Lunch with crimewriters, dinner with crimewriters, threading our way through Bristol, a city apparently populated with hen and stag party groups in their bizarre finery that ranges from sailor suits to superhero getup to the purists who just stick to traditional fluffy garter and L-plates combo.
Sunday, and the dead laptop had just become another bag to carry. Being out of touch with the world outside Bristol had become supremely unimportant. Email? Facebook? Twitter? What the hell? Why worry, they’ll still be there this time next week, let alone tomorrow. It was quite therapeutic, something to do more often.
Maybe next time I’ll just leave the laptop at home and do this internet cold turkey thing again. It seems healthy. But if I have panel to speak at next year, the distraction of keeping up with the outside world might not be such a bad thing after all.

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