I spent this past weekend at Crimefest in Bristol with fellow writers Debbie Bennett, Jenny Barber and Pat Barber. This was partly a girl’s trip, but having had a couple of Holmesian short stories in print, and having written a crime novel set in 1941, which needs a home, it was also my chance to examine the world of Crime writing from the inside.
Over the years I have attended numerous writerly conventions. Some events such as Winchester Writers’ Conference are aimed solely at honing the writers’ craft. Others such as Fantasycon and Eastercon are aimed at linking writers and fans. Some years ago Debbie and I even went so far as to attend a Star Trek convention (just for a day). I was curious to see how they operated. It was an… interesting experience.
How does Crimefest compare?
Books are the obvious link throughout all but there was a subtle difference in atmosphere from, say, Fantasycon. Yes, there was a heavy emphasis on the bar – but there was also a notable emphasis on attending the panels to a point where the hotel bar and lounge where largely empty during programmed events. The book room was different to most you would find at sf cons, consisting of just one bookseller (Waterstones) selling the titles being promoted by writers appearing in the programmed events; no small presses or single author sellers. Logical enough but odd to one being used to book rooms selling all manner of titles and merchandise associated with the genre.
Almost every town now has a literary festival of some kind. They are often designed for and by the traditional publishing houses to promote their authors, and by definition their books. But most also have a form of fringe festival for the smaller presses and, increasingly, Indie published authors. Crimefest came across as being far closer to being a literary festival styled event – with an eye firmly on heritage publishing houses and panels concentrated on promoting the authors and their current titles. I make no judgements, only note the distinction. Crimefest was a lot of fun whatever the differences!
As always at such events Debbie and I spent a lot of time in the bar catching up with old friends such as Paul and Cathy Finch, Alexandra Benedict and Sarah Pinborough. I managed to have a brief word with Peter James (shameless name dropping) and was chuffed to find that he recalled me from his regular Fantasycon-going days! We made some new friends such as the Australian crime-writer Rachel Amphlett along with her partner Nick Furmidge.
I even managed to make a few elevator pitches for my WW2 crime novel Winter Downs!
Only downside was a toe-curling £6.75 for a medium glass of white wine… but that’s what you expect at hotels such as the Bristol Marriott Royal – and a good reason why we stayed at the Ibis hotel (in the next street). We ate out, finding a rather good cafe directly opposite the hotel for well cooked snack lunches for £6, and found an Indian restaurant on Friday night and Italian on Saturday that were within 5 minutes walk.
Bristol is a lovely city and I should like to spend a weekend there sometime to see it properly! All in all a good weekend was had by all.