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Capital Crime 2019 – as welcome and refreshing as a good cup of tea

As part of his advice to writers, David Headley (agent, bookseller and co-founder of Capital Crime) said, ‘Don’t get in a taxi with Adam Hamdy’ (author, screenwriter and David’s co-conspirator on the festival). It was a reference to the amount of time the festival took to organise whilst juggling the other demands of writing and publishing, and the fact that they cooked up the idea in the back of a New York taxi. I’m glad he did get into that taxi because Capital Crime was marvellous.

I still have a soft spot for the Killer Women who put on the first London-based crime writing festival (that I’m aware of). Their event has the intimate feel of a club, and those of us who spend most of our time holed up alone reading and writing, and feeling very ‘unclubbable’, love to find a club to which we can belong. And London is plenty big enough for two crime writing festivals.

Capital Crime was a blockbuster, with big names and a fancy venue, but it had an inclusivity and generosity of spirit beyond my expectations – and I loved it for that. It was a perfect reflection of London.

I used to live in London and people often say to me, ‘but wasn’t it really unfriendly?’ They’re thinking of the reputation Londoners have for not smiling on the tube and not tolerating slow walking on pavements. That’s just about getting on with the business of living in a city bursting at the seams with people, people with things to do and places to be. If you’re stuffed in under someone’s armpit, you don’t want to make eye contact. Out of that context, I have always found London folk – those staying and those passing through – to be open and friendly. London itself is a huge collection of neighbourhoods that have merged together over time and it contains people of every nationality, culture, type and interest. London opens its arms to all – with respect for personal space – and Capital Crime was just like that.

So many of the huge names in crime writing were giving talks and on panels on Friday and Saturday. Highlights for me were Ian Rankin, Kate Atkinson and Denise Mina. The Killer Women were there. I have to admit to never having read Will Dean, but a number of swoony ladies told me that I should go to his panel – and I’m not sure it was completely about what he had to say. (I have seen A LOT of photographs on social media of women posing at the festival with Will Dean and his fabulous hair. Just saying.) Other people will have named other writers as their headline events. There were so many to choose from: Mark Billingham, Robert Harris, Lynda La Plante, John Connolly…

What there wasn’t so much of was big publishers and writers’ cliques. There were no separate parties and meals and ‘dos’ for people on the inside track (or if there were, they kept them very quiet and didn’t invite me *cue moment of social insecurity*). If there were any stars of this show, I’d say it was the bloggers. There was a particular posse of bloggers whose glee and enthusiasm lit up whichever room they were in. They were fabulous and represent the readers to whom every writer and publisher at the event owes their living and career.

I took part in the Digital Festival, recording video footage that will go live as part of an online showcase at the end of October. I’m new to this game – one little book being digitally published by Orion’s new imprint Dash Books. I saw other new authors waiting to be recorded alongside much bigger, more established names. Again, a platform for all, and one that recognised how much of the book business is now in the virtual world, rather than ink and paper, and bricks and mortar. (Like London, accepting of and alive to change.)

For me, the symbol of this festival was the free tea and coffee (sponsored by Pan Macmillan) – kind, practical and sustaining. Every effort had been made to keep the festival affordable – writing isn’t always the most lucrative of endeavours and books are a costly addiction – and free tea was a much-appreciated touch. (Hoping for an aligned sponsorship from Mcvities next year, maybe??) Capital Crime was a tea and coffee festival, rather than a prosecco and cocktail festival, and I loved it for that. I’m feeling energised and ready to get writing, and reading, ready for next year’s Capital Crime.

Thank you to all the organisers for making it such a smooth-running, friendly and enjoyable festival.

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