My Harrogate Theakstons Crime Festival 20-23 July 2017 @TheakstonsCrime


Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival

20-23 July 2017 | Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate | home of crime


“The world class, award winning Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, now in its 15th year, celebrates the very best in crime fiction at the magnificent Old Swan Hotel each July. The Festival is a firm date in the literary calendar and has achieved international acclaim for the programming, organisation and atmosphere.”


I have never been to this festival before, or any other literature festival for that matter. Consequently it was with some trepidation I arrived in Harrogate on Thursday afternoon. I’d originally planned to come with my friend but personal circumstances meant that couldn’t happen so I was running solo. I had already booked some events before I arrived so I had a rough plan of action, but that still left lots of empty space to fill in between – I went armed with my trusty Kindle just in case! So here’s a run down of my time in Harrogate.


My events

Thursday 20th July


An entertaining session which also offered an opportunity to bump into other bloggers including Jo from My Chestnut Reading Tree, Emma from Damp Pebbles and Steph from Steph’s Book Blog. It also introduced me to another lovely group of people who kept me company at various stages over the weekend namely Jen from Jen Med’s Book Reviews author Abigail Osborne and her friend Leah.

Friday 21st 

1pm – 1:45pm

Thin Blue Spine 001.jpg

An interesting and informative session with the examples taken from The Seagull the new book by Anne Cleeves. I’m certainly more informed about crime scenes and procedures now should I ever need to dispose of a body!


Dead Good Awards 001

The Dead Good Reader Awards was a fun affair accompanied by numerous opportunities to acquire even more books than those provided in the goody bag. This year’s nominees and winners were:-

The Kathy Reichs Award for Fearless Female Character:

Winner: Helen Grace, M J Arlidge

Lori Anderson, Steph Broadribb
Erika Foster, Robert Bryndza
Ruth Galloway, Elly Griffiths
Helen Grace, M J Arlidge
Isabella Rose, Mark Dawson
Jane Rizzoli, Tess Gerritsen


The Case Closed Award for Best Police Procedural:

Winner: The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly

Let The Dead Speak by Jane Casey
Love You Dead by Peter James
Rather Be The Devil by Ian Rankin
The Taken by Alice Clark-Platts
Written in Bones by James Oswald
The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly


The Hidden Depths Award for Most Unreliable Narrator:

Winner: The Escape by C L Taylor

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
The Escape by C L Taylor
Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land
My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry
My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood
Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney


The Page to Screen Award for Best Adapted Book:

Winner: Never Go Back by Lee Child

Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
The Black Echo by Michael Connelly
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Never Go Back by Lee Child
The Night Manager by John le Carré


The Cat Amongst The Pigeons Award for Most Exceptional Debut:

Winner: Baby Doll by Hollie Overton

A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee
Baby Doll by Hollie Overton
Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb
The Dry by Jane Harper
Rattle by Fiona Cummins
Sirens by Joseph Knox


The Dead Good Recommends Award for Most Recommended Book:

Winner: The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths

The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
The Escape by C L Taylor
Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent
My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware



Where the Bodies are Buried

I was lucky to get in at the last-minute for this brilliant session. With such a stellar selection of authors guided by the irrepressible Sarah Millican it was always going to be a festival highlight and it was.


Saturday 22nd

Ian Rankin Royal Hall

A veritable Ian Rankin fest for me today as I attended the morning session at the Royal Hall, a switch made due to the demand for tickets, such is the popularity of the likeable and affable creator of the curmudgeonly John Rebus. Despite heavy rain on the way in, it eased of for the book signing afterwards.


Ian Rankin Whisky


Another chance to spend some time with Rankin and Rebus. A last-minute unexpected ‘purchase’ on Saturday morning as I expected this to be sold out. While I’m not normally a whisky drinker I took the opportunity to sample the Rebus 30th anniversary edition created by Highland Park (my late dad’s favourite whisky so Sláinte dad!). This was indeed an intimate session which closed with a free copy of  Rather be the Devil which Ian kindly signed for everyone.



Peter May

I’d been looking forward to this panel as I love both authors. If I’m honest, I don’t think it was quite as I anticipated. Prior to arriving, I’d understood it to be a conversation between the two and not an interview with Danuta Kean. I don’t think she suited the occasion or these two authors and for me, she lacked spontaneity. It made the panel a much more formal affair which was a shame, despite the efforts of both authors to lift proceedings.

Sunday 23rd


My final panel and a lovely warm and funny event, with all participants contributing and offering insights into the making of the programme and the creation of ‘Vera’ herself.


My book signings 


Ian Rankin


Peter May and Stuart MacBride


Kenny Doughty and Brenda Blethyn from ‘Vera’
Anne Cleeves


My fangirl moments


Before I plucked up the courage to produce the camera, I was like a 12-year-old asking for autographs and managed to accost some of my favourites namely Mark Billingham, Stuart MacBride, and James Oswald. These were later added to by Lee Child and Val MacDermid.


My new friends and rediscovered authors

Over the course of the weekend I had the chance to chat to some lovely people both bloggers and authors. I also embarrassingly discovered (on more than one occasion) that, as conversations developed,  I’d previously bought that author’s book and it was still sitting unread.  So a shout out to Graeme Cumming and Malcom Hollingdrake it was great meeting you and as I was obviously keen enough to buy your books, I promise to make time to read them – sooner rather than later.

Special mentions go to Abigail Osborne who is an eager little whirlwind of energy,  Jen (you are no longer anonymous), thanks for your dry humour and balanced take on life and Leah who happily and patiently put up with us all. It was great to meet you all. Congratulation too to Abbie who has just announced she has signed with Bloodhound Books – onwards and upwards.

Curry Night at Wethersooons
Abbie, Me, Jen and Leah


Sue Hampson from Books from Dusk till Dawn was my little life saver when I had a little confidence blip and worryingly realised by the end of the weekend she might have unleashed a monster. As I bravely introduced myself to Luca Veste at Harrogate station – I really do know your Aunt Gina honest! (and yes I also have one of your books patiently waiting) I also confessed to Mark Hill on the train, I was the one who only gave his book 3.5*s (he now knows exactly why – I will say one word – cockroach).  I was delighted to have met you Sue and hope this meet up will be the first of many.

Me and Susan


Without Sue I wouldn’t have met David Evans and Glynis Smy, who also helped to make my Harrogate experience memorable and enjoyable. We spent lots of time chatting in the beer tent between events and queueing for signings together. Dave was another author whose book I’d already bought and forgotten about, to make amends I’ve since bought another! Glynis is also an author and told me a fascinating story about the background to her latest book, which made her an ideal candidate for my Time and Place feature – especially as it also has a family history link which is a common thread with my others. Keep your eyes peeled for that forthcoming feature.


Me, Glynis and David


My book haul

As anyone who has been to the festival it is impossible not to acquire books. Most of mine came from the Dead Good Awards tent as the generous goody bag was supplemented by a giveaway and several wins. An additional kind donation and a purchase bumped the total up to 11.



Other Harrogate highlights

Getting the opportunity to meet up with my Facebook friend Christine. We ‘met’ on another author’s site and would comment on similar things, we are both WASPI women and discovered recently we are also both Hull lasses. As it turned out we lived less than half a mile from each other at the time!  We met up at Betty’s (a highlight in itself) for tea and cake on Friday morning and the time flew by. It was like we had known each other for ages and we had lot’s of things in common (quite spookily so). We are hoping to meet up in Manchester in October when we’ll be making our political presence felt.


Saturday saw the official opening of Imagined Things,  a new, independent bookshop. So with a bit of time to kill on Saturday afternoon I went along to have a look and also introduce myself to local author Jackie Buxton  who was having a book signing.  It will come as no surprise to know that her book Glass Houses is another one already waiting patiently on my Kindle.


My final highlight was meeting the lovely Heike, a teacher from Berlin, who was staying at the same B&B as me. This was her 3rd time at Harrogate and she’s already booked for next year, so maybe we’ll get the chance to meet again. As she kindly donated part of her festival goodie bag to me as she only had hand luggage on the plane, I’ll have more than memories to remember her by.

Me and Heike


So that was my Harrogate festival. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience that re-inforced several things for me and also made me think about what I want, and need to do going forward. With regard to the latter,  foremost is actually start reading my own books, something I said I’d do this year but have failed abysmally to achieve.

If you get the chance to go to this or any other festival please take the opportunity I’m sure you won’t regret it.


  1. How splendid! The penultimate, Jill. It looks as if it were a wonderful time; great photos; wonderful atmosphere and what a book haul!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Glad you enjoyed it, this was our 6th time attending and I love it. Agree about the Peter May panel it wasn’t the best, sometimes just the two authors talking is all that is needed. Hopefully see you next year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was a shame as the two of them together would have been much more fun. You certainly do love it, you must have some great memories from 6 years. Maybe next time I’ll be a bit less fangirl (that and the fact I’ll be 60 – I have to grow up sometime!). Def thinking about booking it again so maybe we’ll meet up ☺


  3. Hi Jill it was a real pleasure meeting you. We laughed so much. It was so lovely to see your confidence grow over the time we were together. Already booked my b & b for next year. Loved your company you really are a super lady. Xxxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a fun weekend Jill! Love the pic with Val McDermid…I’m jealous! It’s so nice you got to meet so many bloggers in person…I would love to do that someday! I see you got Chalk Msan…I just requested that on Netgalley, it looks so good!

    Liked by 1 person

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