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…but I stayed for the wide choice of panels, interviews and seminars. More than a hundred authors participated in over fifty discussions on almost every aspect of crime fiction from setting (Crime in the Country; Major Cities, Major Crimes, etc.) to character (Police Detective, Amateur, PI or Bad Guy: Who Makes the Best Protagonist; The Power of Authors: Are you in charge of your characters, etc.) to morality (Violence: Is it ever too much?; Moral Hypocrisy in Crime Fiction) to name just a few.

The weekend had several highlights. Barry Forshaw conducted an entertaining interview with Robert Goddard, an author I once enjoyed but have unaccountably stopped reading. There was a strong contingent of Scottish crime writers including Caro Ramsay, Denise Mina and William McIlvanney. The latter two were interviewed by Jake Kerridge on The Power of Tartan Noir. McIlvanney in particular was a revelation. Described as a ‘champion of gritty yet poetic literature’ and considered by many as the father of Tartan Noir (although he didn’t care much for that expression), he wrote among other things the three Laidlaw novels set in 1970s Glasgow which set the tone for writers such as Ian Rankin. McIlvanney spoke with great affection about Glasgow and its influence on his writing. He was also eloquent on the role of writer as ‘shapeshifter’ and the importance of inhabiting even the most unsympathetic of characters to dignify and humanise them.

I was pleased to meet some long-admired writers including Robert Wilson and John Lawton as well as to be introduced to several new ones such as Norwegian Thomas Enger. In addition, Jeffery Deaver gave a thriller writing seminar and the creators of the BBC’s Sherlock were interviewed.

Evening entertainments included a pub quiz, a cocktail reception during which the Crime Writers’ Association announced its first batch of this year’s shortlists (www.thecwa.co.uk) and a gala dinner with Robert Goddard as toastmaster.

All in all it was a great chance to schmooze with readers, other aspiring writers and published authors while gathering tips and inspiration along the way. And I came home with not one, but two bags, both filled to the brim with promising new reads.

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