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Newcastle Noir [May. 9th, 2014|09:32 pm]

We spent last Saturday at the Lit & Phil, at a mini-festival of crime fiction, organised - we learned when we got there - by Jacky Collins of Northumbria University.

The event occupied the two downstairs rooms, which is a less glorious setting than the library itself, but gave us a room in which the three panels took place plus an antechamber with bookstalls (Forum Books from Corbridge, plus a selection of secondhand books left over from the Lit & Phil's most recent sale) chairs and tables, sale of drinks and so on. There were three panels, with an hour between them, which was just time to rush out in search of more extensive refreshments - we dined on sandwiches from Sainsbury's at the station.

The first panel was - allegedly - on 'Historical Crime', with Samantha Norman, Aly Monroe and John Lawton. Allegedly not because Aly Monroe and John Lawton both write Cold War thrillers: I don't have any problem with historical fiction about the very recent past, and I would have been interested to hear a discussion about this, and how it differs from books from the period treating it as contemporary, and how this compared to writing about the middle ages - but we didn't go there, and I was sorry we didn't. There was a slight awkwardness over the fact that Samantha Norman is as yet unpublished, but has completed a book left unfinished by her mother, the late Ariana Franklin: quite apart from her own diffidence, this made it difficult for her to answer questions about how she had made certain choices. Jacky Collins chaired the session, and I wondered whether she had rather over-prepared: however, she did ask the panelists to read from their books, which none of the other panels did, so top marks to her for that.

The 'Women in Crime' panel with MJ (Melanie) McGrath, Mari Hannah and Zoë Sharp was much livelier - the moderator, whose name I have either forgotten or never caught, was content to set things in motion and let them take their course, and the result felt like listening in on a really good conversation. I was surprised, as it's a topic I have heard discussed before once or twice, but it still felt fresh and lively (with a lot of laughter and a couple of horror stories). I already knew Mari Hannah and Zoë Sharp, and have read Mari Hannah's debut novel The Murder Wall, but MJ McGrath was new to me, and her White Heat was my one purchase of the day (you can't count the Ngaio Marsh and the Rex Stout from the book sale: I thought it likely I already had them both, and indeed I did - so that was just a small donation to the Library funds).

Finally, we had 'Icelandic Crime' with Yrsa Sigurðarsdóttir and Quentin Bates, but without Ragnar Jonasson as his wife was having a baby, imminently. I don't know whether Barry Forshaw, in the chair, felt obliged to fill the gap, but he worked very hard to be entertaining - specifically, to be funny - and there was nothing wrong with anything he did, but the overall effect was exhausting. Maybe I'll just have to read the books...

All in all, a fun day. But next time, choose a day when Newcastle aren't playing at home.

[User Picture]From: sartorias
2014-05-09 10:45 pm (UTC)
Sounds interesting overall!
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2014-05-10 11:25 am (UTC)
I would love to take you to the Lit & Phil!
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[User Picture]From: sartorias
2014-05-10 12:47 pm (UTC)
Oh, wow would that be awesome.
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[User Picture]From: anef
2014-05-10 07:03 am (UTC)
Ooh, a new Ariana Franklin novel, squee! As Diana Norman she was one of my favourite historical novelists, and I was upset when she died.
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2014-05-10 11:24 am (UTC)
John Lawton was her agent, and clearly a family friend: he said that he had read the completed novel and couldn't see the join.

For the readings, Samantha Norman 'chose' (on Lawton's advice, apparently) a passage from the first book, introducing the heroine with the long name - I was sorry she hadn't read something of her own, but this was certainly a real come-on! And now you recommend her - I must certainly try some...
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