#CRIMEFEST2017 Thursday 19th May
Oh yes, I am here! I am at my first Crime Fest ever, in Bristol, all weekend!
I have only been here a few hours but already I have a tote goody bag full of books, listened to three fascinating panels, interviewed an author - rather badly as I was so star struck - and generally enjoyed mingling with all the bibliomaniacs ..... I wonder is what the collective noun for bibliomaniacs?
So here is a little run down of my highlights from Day 1 of CrimeFest!
KEEPING SECRETS & TELLING LIES
This panel opened with us being told four truths - or where they lies? and then having to guess which author had done - or claimed to do - which thing! A brilliant introduction to a panel discussing truth and lies!
Several of the authors have protagonists who are seeking a truth yet hiding one of their own as well. Although it was tricky for the authors to talk about their books without revealing any secrets, there was an interesting conversation about how people control their own truths. Characters also control what they tell us, or what part of their life they will share with us.
There was some chat about how families create their own myths, the lengths people go to to fabricate their truths, everyone interprets situations differently which can result in multiple 'truths' and then no one ever really knows what is going on 'behind closed doors'. Is there such a thing as an objective truth?!
Here are the author's recommendations for the best examples of an unreliable narrator:
The session ended with some great rhetorical questions - for example, do we ever want to really know the whole truth about someone? Do we ever want anyone to ever really know the whole truth about us? But beware, sometimes people know more about us than we care to realise!
This was a fun panel and the authors were very honest and open about how they kept secrets and told lies with their characters and plots - without telling any lies or giving away any secrets about their novels!
WHAT ARE YOU HIDING?
This panel was talking about the darker side of human nature and why people do the terrible things they do. And these authors also had some of the most fascinating jobs before becoming full time writers - a nuclear physicist, a police officer, a trilingual author and a former UN peacekeeper and humanitarian aid worker. ....
A recurring theme in this discussion was chaos. The authors are fascinated by what happens in chaos (like during war, after a war or when a characters life has disintegrated away from them)- how chaos can allow people to behave in a way that is never usually acceptable. I think the most memorable quote from this panel would be Doug Johnstone's, "We're only one rizla paper away from chaos."
Luke McCallin talked about how his experience as an 'occupier' rather than an 'occupied' person inspired his writing and how he's used his stories to try and make sense of the things he saw as part of his job. Jorn Lier Horst talked about how as a police officer, he often had to deal with the families affected through crime which made him really think about why people do things. The most common motives for crime are greed, lust and jealousy - things we all feel, but what pushes some people to take it that much further?
Johana Gustawsson talked a lot about the concept of evil. Her novel, Block 46, is based on a concentration camp in WW2. She talked about how in her novel, she explored the idea that it wasn't just one person, one sociopath, but a massive movement made up or thousands of people and every single one of them was evil. This led to a discussion about crowd behaviour, the psychology of crowds and the effect of power within a group.
I thought this panel actually grappled with some fascinating questions that were incredibly thought provoking and their comments touched on some complicated philosophical and ethical issues. It reinforced how important fiction can be in helping us to understand history and humanity. I was impressed with how these authors are able to write compelling and engaging novels as well as simultaneously exploring such deep themes about human nature and what happens to people under extreme pressure.
TWISTS AND TURNS: WHO CAN YOU TRUST?
Another fascinating panel which was fifty minutes of great conversation about twists, revelations, unreliable narrators and how to mislead your author!
How did these authors define a good twist? Their answers were all the same: something that makes you say, "OMG, I've got to rethink everything!" A book where the 'plumbing' always stacks up - crime readers will go back through with forensic detail to make sure the seeds were sown. Catherine Ryan Howard said a good twist is like being punched in the chest - the evidence has always been there but you just didn't see it. Good examples of killer twists? They recommended:
The authors revealed how they mislead their readers or how they plot their novels to ensure the twists are effective, jaw dropping but all the evidence is planted at the right time and place. They talked about withholding information, unreliable narrators and memories -memories which we chose whether to remember or not and how accurately we might remember them.
It was interesting to hear how differently the authors planned and wrote; how much of their plot they know before they begin writing and how much evolves organically. But for all of them it seems that their protagonist always ends up giving them some surprises a long the way! I'm a bit fan of twists, unreliable narrators and being mislead so I will be adding the books from this panel that I haven't yet read to my TBR pile!
It was a great first day and really lovely to be immersed in the world of crime fiction. It is exciting to see authors sitting in the audience listening to the panels and to see them mingling at the bar and around the water cooler! I'm really looking forward to day 2!
I just hope I don't have too many nightmares tonight!