My Theakston Old Peculier Writing Festival, Harrogate 19-22 July 2018 @TheakstonsCrime

I can’t believe it’s been a year since I first ventured to Harrogate to tangle with the murder and mayhem of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. It’s been a hell of a year and I wasn’t always sure that I’d manage to attend this year, but Yorkshire grit and all that, meant I wouldn’t be giving up easily. The events of the last year has also made me a bit more gung-ho, so expect shameless fangirling and some exciting news for fans of Five on Friday.

Thursday 19th July

This year I was accompanied by my friend Sheila, who is not a crime reader (apart from Agatha Christie) but has always wanted to attend a literature festival. As Harrogate just happened to be the place that Agatha disappeared to, it seemed like the ideal way to combine the two. As part of their Incident Room programme, Orion publishers had arranged a handy session for first time visitors so that was the first item on our agenda.

Afternoon Tea.jpg

This was an ideal ice-breaker with hints and advice as what to do, to make the most of your time at the Festival. Sheila seemed to hear only one piece of advice which was talk to people. If you see someone on their own, walk up and chat to them. I spent half of the time looking for where she’d disappeared to, as every time I turned my back she was usually chatting away to complete strangers, not all of whom were on their own. But she had fun! The added bonus with this session came in the form of tea and scones – always welcome.


Following our mini afternoon tea, it was down to The Blues Bar for Noir at the Bar. A great way to get in the mood. While not an official festival event, it hosts a number of authors that are usually attending as participants or visitors. The pub is usually full of authors, readers and bloggers, so there is always guaranteed to be someone you recognise. It took a while to actually get inside this year, as my blogging bestie Sue was outside with friends when we arrived. It was a bit of an emotional reunion, but so lovely to meet up again after last year.

Sue at the Blues Bar

Following a bite to eat it was back to the beer tent at the Old Swan. Always a great place to catch up with old friends, meet new ones, and do a spot of author stalking! Luckily several were saved by the discovery of a surprise event.


I was aware that Mark Billingham had put a band together but not who the band members were  – well it turns out they are all pretty formidable crime writers. Not knowing what to expect, it was a surprise to discover that musically they are pretty impressive and the singing ain’t that bad either. Though perhaps Luca Vesta singing Britney Spears was a step too far. With a set that featured crime theme related songs it was a fun hour of entertainment. I have to say that hearing Val MacDermid sing Twa Corbies unaccompanied was also a joy.


Not a bad start to the Festival given that we hadn’t arrived until mid afternoon.

Friday 20th July

As last year,  I met up for coffee at Betty’s with another friend that I met for the first time last year. We originally met on Facebook, via the page of an author that we’re both friends with. We managed to natter for nearly three hours before saying a sad goodbye, not least because she’s moving to France.

It was then onto a book signing at Imagined Things, a lovely little independent bookshop  located in the beautiful Westminster Arcade. The bookshop hit the headlines last month following an abysmal day for sales of £12.34, and a Twitter plea for support. Since then a number of authors have arranged signings. Today was the turn of  Yorkshire author Malcolm Hollingdrake who has written a series of crime novels set in Harrogate.

Malcolm imagined things

It was then back to the Old Swan for a short interval before the next panel.

New Talent


An interesting panel and I was delighted to discover I already 2 of the 4 books featured.

Earlier last month I was lucky enough to be offered the chance to read Lesley Kara’s debut novel The Rumour (due out in December). Harrogate saw the pre-launch of the book and a chance for the early readers to get together with Lesley, and her publishing team, Sarah Adams and Alison Barrow for drinks. I know, I’ve hit the big time lol. Some of you may have seen the picture on Twitter where we recreated the cover. My feet are bottom left!

The Rumour.jpeg

Following swiftly on was the Dead Good Reader Awards.

Dead Good Reader Awards

Last year, a record number of readers voted in the Dead Good Reader Awards which celebrated best police procedural, best adapted book and most unreliable narrator.

This year it was back by popular demand, with six new award categories.

The Holmes and Watson Award for Best Detective Duo:

dead good reader awards 2018

Winner: Ruth Galloway and Harry Nelson – Elly Griffiths

Arthur Bryant and John May – Christopher Fowler
Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles – Tess Gerritsen
Ruth Galloway and Harry Nelson – Elly Griffiths
Marnie Rome and Noah Jake – Sarah Hilary
Rosie Strange and Sam Stone – Syd Moore
Gino Rolseth and Leo Magozzi – P J Tracy

The Whodunnit Award for the Book That Keeps You Guessing:

dead good reader awards 2018

Winner: Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll
The Lucky Ones by Mark Edwards
Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh
Skin Deep by Liz Nugent
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

The Cabot Cove Award for Best Small Town Mystery:

dead good reader awards 2018

Winner: The Chalk Man by C J Tudor

A Murder to Die For by Stevyn Colgan
Dark Pines by Will Dean
The Devil’s Claw by Lara Dearman
Hell in a Handbasket by Denise Grover Swank
The Dry by Jane Harper
The Chalk Man by C J Tudor

The Wringer Award for the Character Who’s Been Put Through It All:

dead good reader awards 2018

Winner: Jack Reacher – Lee Child

Jack Reacher – Lee Child
Frieda Klein – Nicci French
Lottie Parker – Patricia Gibney
Ruth Galloway – Elly Griffiths
Michael Devlin – Tony Kent
David Raker – Tim Weaver

The House of Horrors Award for Most Dysfunctional Family:

dead good reader awards 2018

Winner: Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Little Sister by Isabel Ashdown
Blood Sisters by Jane Corry
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land
Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh
The Good Samaritan by John Marrs

The Dead Good Recommends Award for Most Recommended Book:

dead good reader awards 2018

Winner: The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths

I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll
The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths
Killer Intent by Tony Kent
Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister
The Fear by C L Taylor
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

Still a couple of those I need to get my hands on yet, but some great titles on those shortlists if you’re looking for ideas. The event is also a great opportunity to ‘win’ books and try not to look too jealous when you don’t get your hands on a book you really want.

A note here for co-ordinators of this event if it takes place again next year. As all tickets need to be paid for, and are in addition to the Rover passes. This means in theory 100 tickets = 100 people. I was therefore a little annoyed to arrive to find all the goody bags had been handed out, which means fewer bags than attendees. While bags were cobbled together they contained books being given away in the tent anyway, so not really equitable in my view.

 By now it was time to venture into town for some much-needed sustenance before yet again hitting the beer tent before the final event of the evening.

Room 101

As anticipated this was as funny and entertaining as we’d hoped. It came with the added bonus of being sat next to a lovely couple that we chatted too on several occasions for the rest of the Festival. Yes Fiona Erskine that’s you, along with your other half, who shall forever be called John!

Well a pretty packed and thoroughly enjoyable day was had by both of us, so we decided to call it a day and amble back to the B&B, hitting our beds just before midnight.

Saturday 21st July

An early start after a late night is never good, but it had to be done as our first panel was as 10am.

Saturday Gameshow

Steve Cavanagh and Luca Veste present a regular podcast as Two Crime Writers and a Microphone. This morning they were hosting a very special podcast in the form of a game show not 100 miles away from Pointless. However for copyright purposes and the fact that  Richard Osman was one of the special guests, we were treated to the newly christened game show ‘Senseless’. The provision of bacon butties on the way in was also an added bonus to the already star-studded guest list comprising Mark Billingham, Val McDermid, Alison Belsham, Mason Cross, Emma Kavanagh, Alex Michaelides, and Chris McGeorge in addition to the aforementioned.

The winners were, perhaps not unsurprisingly Mark Billingham and Val McDermid, who were not in the least competitive.

This afternoon, the main item on the agenda was Afternoon Tea at Betty’s for Sheila’s birthday. Before then it was time to catch up in (yes you’ve guessed it, the beer tent!)

SV202450 SV202451

Afternoon tea, was a very special, occasion and another thing to be ticked off the Harrogate list. Being in town also gave me the opportunity to go shopping for a bag to et my clothes home in. The rather large book haul, I’d racked up in the past couple of days, meant they’d have to go in the suitcase (note to self for next year – jumbo case required).

As part of Sheila’s birthday present I’d also bought tickets for the author dinner.

Author Dinner

This turned out to be another entertaining event and we had the lovely Lisa Hall as our designated author. The tongue in cheek script required us to name the murderer of Tony Granite – a large manly actor taking on the role of a somewhat diminutive character per the series of books the film was based on. (Did you see what he did there?). While we named the correct person, it appeared our reasoning was far too devious. We’re all making sure our plot doesn’t feature in any future outings by the author’s present. So after a fun evening it was back to the beer tent!

Sunday 22nd July

Sunday seems to have come around far too quickly, and it was time for out final panel with Steve Mosby and Sophie Hannah. Another interesting and enjoyable session.

Sophie Hannah

So another Festival was over, but of course this round-up wouldn’t be complete without a round up of fangirling pictures. Apologies in advance – far more than last year as I was far braver this year. Thanks to all who helped make this festival a great one, you know who you are, and hope to see you all next year.

I had a thoroughly enjoyable festival and have already booked a room for next year. Next time my OH is coming. Not sure whether it’s to get to see the great Lee Child himself, who is his favourite author, or to cramp my stalking style. I have news for him, that’s not going to happen!

Oooh nearly forgot for Five on Friday fans I plucked up the courage to approach a number of authors who have amazingly said yes. I even approached the great Linwood Barclay and I’m now in possession of his email address, so I really hope that we can make that one happen, but plenty of other lovely authors will be coming your way over the following months.

If you’re still here after this mammoth post, thanks for sticking around. The bad (or good news) is that I’ve a got a special Harrogate book haul post upcoming to whet your appetite for future crime reads.



  1. What a brilliant post Jill. You obviously had a fabulous time, I hope one year to make this event and to be able to catch up with you and other book bloggers as well as the authors as well 😀 😘

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It looks like it was a brilliant weekend and that you had a fabulous time! I feel like I’ve lived the festival through your lovely post so thank you for sharing. 🙂 I’ll be eagerly looking out for more of your Fives on Fridays posts with some of the authors you chatted to in Harrogate. x

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m getting very good at this ‘stalking’ lark. I’d love to say who I’ve asked, but it would be so disappointing if it didn’t happen. If only half those I’ve asked actually come off I’ll be delighted. If I manage to get some of my ‘big’ authors -wow!!


    • I can’t wait either! Vince is looking forward to it as well. He is aware he has to stay quite while I’m in stalker mode. But if he’s got a beer tent and a book he’ll be happy. Which pretty much sums up Harrogate. So lovely to see you again xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Brilliant post. Felt I’d been there. When is next years and how do I find costs etc? I do hope my health and finances let me come next year. I’d love to meet you. Daphne Sayed.

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

    • Next years is 18th to 21st July Daphne – always Thursday to Sunday. Costs can be as much or as little as you make them. If you attend a lot of the panels it can mount up, but lots of my events were free. You don’t need any sort of pass or ticket to visit the Old Swan when it’s on, so you can mingle in the beer tent, on the lawns, in the bar etc to your hearts content. This is where you’ll usually meet people to chat too anyway. The programme is usually announced in early Spring. Weekend/Day passes can be bought then if you’re feeling flush. Otherwise wait until the tickets go on general sale and buy what you fancy going too. I usually stay in a B&B, of which there are plenty to choose from, but always advisable not to leave it too late to book. Hope you make it – I’ll be in the beer tent! Incidentally I don’t really drink, I’m usually the one with a lime and soda lol xx


  4. I am of course deeply envious. You look so healthy and happy though Jill.
    After the year you’ve had you thoroughly deserve it.
    Wow wow wow though – at the risk of sounding like Kate Bush! All those authors. I am drooling!
    Will look forward to your future Five on Fridays

    PS: if they fancy a spot of Afternoon Tea send them over to my gaffe for an Afternoon Tea With Mrs Bloggs 😀

    Caryl xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Definitely happy Caryl and feeling like my old self. Really hope my ‘bigger’ Fives come off, but if not, still proud of myself for daring to ask. If they can do Fridays, I’m sure Afternoon Tea is a possibility. xx

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, you are very brave to ask Jill. I wouldn’t be. It will be brilliant if they do take part – actually can’t understand why they wouldn’t. Would be positive all round.

        I’m a real scaredy-cat and wouldn’t have had the courage.
        Please excuse my blatant self promotion here 😲
        Fantastic photos. You met an awful lot of authors. Keep saying that I must go to it

        Liked by 1 person

    • I was relatively timid last year, this year I just went for it. To be fair though, I do now ‘know’ a fair few of the authors I’m pictured with because of Five on Friday and other social media interaction. Otherwise though just blatant fangirling 😂 You need to go next year, I don’t have a picture of you! Not quite sure what Vince will make of it all, but with a beer tent and a book I’m sure he’ll cope.


  5. Jill, Harrowgate and Theakston——-enchanting! You must have had a magical time; the photos are quite lovely, and the books, oh my, the books. Thanks so much for sharing this with us….


    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.