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Crime writing festival to take place in Newcastle this weekend

A crime fiction special welcomes authors from Iceland and Arctic to compare notes at the Lit & Phil in Newcastle this weekend

The Lit & Phil, Newcastle
The Lit & Phil, Newcastle

Scandinavian crime fiction has already made its mark on British viewers with an every-rising number of stark, bleached-out TV adaptations doing their bit to send a shiver down our collective spine.

And as if to prove the imports are finding favour over our familiar English mystery dramas, where murder frequently interrupts an afternoon tea or pint of lukewarm beer in a village pub, a crime-flavoured event in Newcastle this weekend will include favourite fiction from as far afield as the Arctic and northern Iceland.

Crime Saturday at the Lit & Phil will be exploring three different areas of crime: historical, Icelandic and that written by women, with top authors arriving to take part in panel discussions.

They will begin at 2pm with historical crime and, running until 3.30pm, this section will feature Aly Monroe, John Lawton and Barry Norman’s daughter Samantha.

Monroe, who has lived in Spain for much of her life, is the author of the 1940-set Peter Cotton series about a young intelligence agent, the third book of which - Icelight - won the Crime Writers’ Awards’ historical dagger.

Lawton, a former Channel 4 producer, writes both political history and a crime series while Samantha Norman, a freelance journalist and writer, has completed a historical thriller on behalf of her late mother Ariana Franklin.

From 4.30pm-6pm the focus turns to women in crime, including Northumberland’s Mari Hannah who previously worked as a probation officer before she was assaulted on duty and went on to create northern detective DCI Kate Daniels, now the star of four books and a pilot episode for a BBC crime series.

Before she was published, Hannah won a Northern Writers’ Award for her second novel, Settled Blood, then a Polari First Book Prize for her debut, The Murder Wall. She is now also published in Germany and the US.

Also in this category will be Zoë Sharp who left mainstream education at 12 and wrote her first novel at 15, going on to pen a standalone crime novel then 10 books featuring bodyguard Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Fox, a character inspired after she received death-threat letters as a photojournalist, and MJ McGrath, author of the Edie Kiglatuk series of Arctic mysteries and whose work, translated into more than 20 languages, is being developed for TV.

Then from 7pm-8.30pm it’ll be the turn of Icelandic crime with three authors escorting the audience into the evening with darkening themes touching on the supernatural.

Icelandic writer, lawyer and former TV reporter Ragnar Jonasson is the creator of the Dark Iceland crime series which is set in the northern part of the country and is currently being developed for TV.

Jonasson recently set up the first overseas CWA, in Reykjavik, and also co-founded international crime writing festival Iceland Noir there.

Joining him during the afternoon will be fellow Icelandic crime fiction writer Yrsa Sigurðardóttir who is one of the country’s foremost writers in the genre, with forays into the supernatural.

The author, also a civil engineer, will be talking about her protagonist, lawyer Thóra Guðmundsdóttir, and no doubt about her novel I Remember You which is being made into a film.

Modern Iceland is also the setting for a series of crime novels by Quentin Bates who was brought up in the south of England but became fascinated with the country when a gap year he spent there in 1979 extended into a decade.

Frozen Out, and his subsequent Gunnhildur books, are born of his intimate knowledge of the country and its people and an interest in the recent upheavals in its society.

With about 45% of the fiction borrowed from the Lit & Phil falling into the category of crime, its Crime Saturday is set to be hugely popular. Tickets cost £5 (£3 concessions) for each session or £12/£8 for all three. Visit www.litandphil.org.uk for a full programme of events.

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