Crime time in Harrogate
I knew I was in a very special place when I banged through the doors of the Old Swan Hotel, plopped down my bags, glanced around the lobby, and immediately spotted behind me: Val McDermid, Harlan Coben and Laura Lippman. Just hanging out. It was like a really awesome fever dream.Since I started my crime-writing career back in 2006 with Sharp Objects, I’ve heard the same insistent mantra over and over: Have you done Harrogate? Well, you have to do Harrogate.
The 2012 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate did not disappoint. It starts with the locale. In the States, you may fly, train, drive or rollerblade into any number of cities for our crime conventions, but you don’t see uninterrupted green meadows, you don’t see rows of ancient stone houses, you don’t see sheep. You don’t stay in a place where you can imagine Agatha Christie herself around any corner. And there was English mist. I love English mist.
My panel was a dream. It was entitled America’s Got Talent (why, thank you, Britain). The brilliant John Connolly moderated over a group of American writers that included myself, Ryan David Jahn, Chris Mooney, and Megan Abbott (who may be my long-lost twin as far as pop culture and literary interests go: noir, ‘80s TV movies, true crime, murder ballads…. we’ve been email friends for a while, but it was so fun to finally meet her in person at Harrogate). John kept the conversation rolling between topics ranging from favourite British writers to the tradition of the American detective. The next evening I got to sit in on a conversation (that’s what it felt like - two friends having a chat) between Laura Lippman and Harlan Coben on Harlan’s brilliant books. The two of them made me want to go immediately back to my room and start writing - I can’t think of a better compliment than that.
One of the things I loved best about Harrogate was getting to meet readers and other writers so easily and casually - over a beer in Old Swan’s always-busy bar, on the massive front lawn once the sun blazed out on Saturday, or in one of the many winding corridors of the Old Swan Hotel (where I tended to run, literally, into the ever-charming Mark Billingham (above), who writes a fantastic book and, it turns out, runs a fantastic festival).
Great conversations with people who love books in a historic locale: Yes, I can see why they say you have to do Harrogate.
Gillian Flynn's most recent novel is GONE GIRL (Weidenfeld).
Photo, from left to right: Back Row - Harlan Coben, Ben Aaronovitch, Mark Peterson; front row - Gillian Flynn, A J Cross, Harry Bingham, Robert Wilson