I can’t express how delighted I was to get back to Harrogate this year, it’s been a long time coming. I’d rolled over my accommodation after Covid restrictions had cancelled 2020 and had hoped 2021 was an option. However, in June last year my OH started treatment for his CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia) that had been diagnosed earlier in the year. Consequently we both had to be ultra cautious and spent the bulk of our time isolating. So Harrogate 2021 was a step too far. The good news though is that my OH finished his treatment in June this year and it appears to have done the trick. So this year we both braved Harrogate, possibly rashly, but we did it, and it was wonderful. Catching up with friends, old and new, was a real treat, as was attending a number of author events that always left me inspired to read – not to mention a few £’s lighter after a visit to the bookshop.
Thursday 21st July
An interesting journey to Harrogate as the Manchester/Leeds train was re-routed due to a trackside fire near Dewsbury. An event that also delayed the Liverpool train carrying out friend. Still, albeit a bit later than planned, we all met up in Leeds for the Harrogate train. Standing on the platform is always a great chance to scope out attending authors, spot old friends and chat to new ones.
We had originally intended to dump our bags at the B&B, pick up our tickets from the Old Swan and then amble down to the Blues Bar for Noir at the Bar. We headed to the Old Swan first as planned and never got any further. The discovery that we didn’t need a pass to stay on site combined with our much later arrival (courtesy of the rail delay) meant we opted to become acquainted with the new event areas and christen the beer tent! All before our planned stroll back to the Greek Restaurant we’d booked for dinner. Our stroll, needless to say became a sprint as we’d spent too long chatting!
As usual it took me a bit of time to get into selfie/photograph mode and there were so many photographs I should have taken but didn’t (maybe a good thing for you, but a lost memory chance for me) however thanks to Kelly Lacey (great to meet you after all this time) and Noelle Holten who were more on the ball.
Friday 22nd July
Thanks to Orion for a series of free ticketed events in The Incident Room, I was lucky to get tickets for all of the panels. These are a great chance to attend smaller, intimate panels with a fabulous selection of authors.
10 am – The Previous Life of a Writer – authors whose previous careers have influenced, inspired and informed their fiction. With John Sutherland and Paul Finch. The event was chaired by Adam Simcox. The event should also have included Simon Beckett who sadly couldn’t attend.
11 am – Writing Strong Female Characters – three bestselling authors discussing their strong and unforgettable female characters. With Sharon Bolton, Anna Mazzola, Niki Mackay. The event was chaired by Holly Seddon.
12 pm – Representation and Authenticity in Crime Fiction – A discussion about why representation and authenticity matters when it comes to race, sexuality, disability and own experiences in fiction. With Robin Morgan-Bentley, Mari Hannah and Winnie M Li, chaired by Vaseem Khan.
Ahead of his special guest appearance on the main stage later that evening Orion hosted a book signing session with the great Michael Connelly. This was a great opportunity to meet the man himself and have a more relaxed signing experience – not to mention a great photo opportunity. His later session was a a lovely hour spent in conversation with Mark Billingham.
Needless to say, in between panels it was the ideal opportunity to catch up with friends and enjoy a drink or two in the beer tent. One drink was a very much appreciated one, courtesy of Richard Osman. While he wasn’t there in person this year, he tweeted,
#TheakstonsCrime From 6pm if you visit the bar in The Swan and tell them ‘Elizabeth sent me’ you’ll get a free drink on me. I promise you this is not an elaborate prank. Joyce recommends the rosé!
This was a very kind and generous gesture which just cements for me what a lovely man I think he is.
Here are some of the other lovely people I managed to catch up with that day (David Beckler, Nick Quantrill and Victoria Selman) plus some others who didn’t run away quickly enough (Mark Billingham, Ann Cleeves and Tess Gerritsen)
Saturday 23rd July
A fun panel to start the morning – The Country is Another Country
Crime – and crime fiction – isn’t the preserve of the concrete jungle, the countryside also has its fair share of corpses and corruption. Meet four authors who set murders among the meadows.
Ann Cleeves is the undisputed queen of rural crime. The creator of Vera, Shetland the Three Rivers series, she’s amongst the very best in the business; The Reverend Richard Coles has made the transition from pop to pulpit to paperback and his pastoral debut Murder Before Evensong is a delight; Tony Kent’s explosive and page-turning new thriller No Way To Die brings terror to the usually laid-back idyll of Key West; chef Rosemary Shrager has cooked up a tasty treat in the shape of The Last Supper, a delicious Costwolds-based mystery. Bestseller Will Dean will take the reins.
It was back to publisher events in for the afternoon courtesy of The Crime Vault
12-30pm – M.W. Craven and Brian McGilloway – An informal talk and Q&A with bestselling authors M.W. Craven and Brian McGilloway. There will also be an opportunity at the end to get your books signed by these authors.
1.30pm – Chris Brookmyre – Chris will be talking about his new book The Cliff House and taking questions from the audience as well as signing books.
2.30pm We’ve created a ‘Cosy Crime Corner’ with tea and cake to host the legendary Rosemary Shrager and debut author Katy Watson. We’ll be discussing crime over a nice cup of tea!
To be honest, no matter how interesting the speaker, or how much you want to be there, it can be tiring having to concentrate and sit still so the rest of my afternoon and evening was free to mix and mingle.
Catching Up with Friends Old and New
It was lovely to catch up with friends, albeit sometimes fleetingly, who were a mix of bloggers, authors and previous Harrogate attendees.
I was delighted to catch up with Heike, who I met at my very first Harrogate in 2017 when we both stayed at the same B&B. She comes over from Germany every year and I’d have been sad to miss her. I also chatted throughout the weekend to a lovely couple I met in 2019 when we discovered a shared link.
It was lovely to catch up, albeit briefly with Anne Cater, Claire Knight, Anne Williams and Jo Robinson to name but a few, please don’t take offence if I’ve not mentioned you – I’m trying to write this from a poorly functioning memory and relying on pictures as prompts.
I finally got to meet Linda Hill after 6 years – and I forgot to take a picture! I caught up with Fiona Erskine who I’d met in 2018 when we were sat together in one of the events and I got the chance to say hello for the first time to Zoé-Lee O’Farrell and Julie-Ann Corrigan. I caught up with Graeme Cumming and Esther Chilton who I met at my very first Harrogate when I was like a mouse (yes really!). I got the opportunity to introduce my OH to one of his favourites, if not THE favourite author Caimh McDonnell, which gave me the chance to chat to his lovely OH Elaine while my husband fan-boyed!
I embarrassed myself by not recognising Janet from Love Books, Read Books (in my defence it has been 3 years since we met an Orenda Roadshow in Manchester and I swear her hair was different). But we finally got together and it was lovely to catch up with her and her friend Liz who’s also been at the roadshow. I also got the chance to meet up again with Jackie Buxton, we’d previously bonded over a late night on Lime Street Station in Liverpool, searching for anywhere selling a sandwich and waiting for trains after one of Gina Kirkham‘s book launches. It was also lovely to catch up with Barbara Copperthwaite.
We finished the evening with the late night quiz hosted by Val McDermid and Mark Billingham. We being myself with partners in crime Linda Morris, Sheila Scragg and Gina Kirkham. We were joined in the queue by the lovely Gillian Duff and Claire Wilson (it was lovely to meet you both). We exceeded expectations and did pretty well, but now we know how it works we can prepare – have we started revising for next year yet ladies?
Sunday 24th July
My final Harrogate panel was one I’d really been looking forward to – Moments in Crime –
Historical crime fiction has never been more popular, and authors of the genre have found great success mining the rich seam of history to plunder scandalous liaisons, murders, and revolutions to help shape their work.
Ambrose Parry’s extraordinary series set in Victorian Edinburgh is a masterpiece and the latest, Corruption of Blood, is no exception; Set in Bombay in 1950, Vaseem Khan’s gripping The Dying Day plays out in a changing India and an era of darkness. Robbie Morrison’s award-winning Edge of the Grave is an irresistible trip to the gangland underworld of 1930s Glasgow; Black Drop, the stunning debut by Leonora Nattrass is set in 1794 with revolution in the air and the gallows only one slip away. Historical master Abir Mukherjee takes charge.
So that was it for another year. A long time coming but definitely worth the wait. My highlight was something I’ve no photograph to remind me of but I’m sure I’ll remember. I managed to bump into Denise Mina and got her to sign my copy of Rizzio. What followed was a conversation about historical fiction as I mentioned that as a historian (yes I have an MA and BA hons in history) I’d always been fascinated by Mary Queen of Scots and her life. Denise had been concerned that historians wouldn’t take kindly to history being fictionalised. It has always been my assertion that without ‘fictionalised’ history I would never have been interested in history. My route into history was via Jean Plaidy, and I suspect that was the case for lots of others. Well written historical fiction (ie factually correct) is a way of making history accessible. My A level teachers were so desperate to do anything to get us interested in The Restoration that they suggested we read Forever Amber. It worked, it got me interested in the people and personalities at the Court of Charles II, so much so, that I still remember them now. So I’d never be dismissive of historical fiction. I might also have insisted she read Forever Amber (my OH shook his head in despair when I told him this)
So our accommodation is booked for next year and I’m hoping that the rest of this year’s merry band Linda, Sheila and Gina will all be up Harrogate 2023. Bring it on!