In one sphere of life, crime does seem to pay. Just ask Mari Hannah, Howard Linskey, Mark Billingham or Martyn Waites.
All are successful crime writers and all will be talking about their work as part of Noir, a new festival in Newcastle dedicated to the genre in which they excel.
The festival is taking place over the weekend of May 2 and 3 at the Lit & Phil whose shelves are lined with published accounts of crimes fact and fiction and ancient and modern.
It is one of those great conundrums. Nobody wants to be a victim of crime because it’s the worst thing that can happen. But when it comes to reading about it, we can’t get enough – real-life crime has always sold newspapers and the fictional variety has launched the lucrative careers of many a bestselling author.
Why? Well, that’s one of the questions that will be debated at this new festival which, as well as providing a platform for some of the best writers of crime fiction, will aim to get under the skin of a genre which takes us to places where we really wouldn’t want to go in real life.
The festival features a series of chaired panel discussions covering a variety of crime-related topics. First up on the Saturday is Northern Landscapes. How important is a sense of place in a crime novel?
The question will be chewed over by Howard Linskey, whose fourth novel No Name Lane has been published by Penguin, Nick Quantrill, author of the Joe Geraghty crime novels, David Mark, a one-time crime reporter whose DS Aector McAvoy novels are set on his old stamping ground of Hull, and Craig Robertson whose fifth novel, The Last Refuge, is set in Torshavn, capital of the Faroe Islands. Mari Hannah, riding high with her successful Kate Daniels crime series, will take part in a Writers in Prison session with Russ Litten (third novel Kingdom is out in June) and Alexandra Sokoloff (American author of 11 paranormal crime thrillers).
Mari was a probation officer with an inside knowledge of prisons before she put it to good use in her fiction.
Other sessions include From Page to Screen to Page (with participants Cilla and Rolf Börjlind, Erin Kelly and Christopher Brookmyer), Gangsters & Gangs (Philip J. Howard, David McCaffery and Steve Wraith) and Legal Eagles (Peter Murphy, Steve Cavanagh and Clare Donoghue).
Mark Billingham, creator of DI Tom Thorne, and Martyn Waites, whose Joe Donovan crime series is set in Newcastle, will be In Conversation and the Sunday sessions will begin with Crime in Translation, with panelists including Ragnar Jónasson, author of the dark Iceland crime series, and Ros Schwartz whose 60 translated works include a large proportion by contemporary francophone writers.
The festival also includes crime-writing workshops (each day, 10am to 12 noon), a talk about Victorian crime by Gail-Nina Anderson (May 3, 5.30pm) and even a walking tour of ‘murderous Newcastle’ led by city guide Pat Lowery (May 2 and 3, 11am to 1pm). In a free session on May 2 (11am) Kay Hepplewhite will delve into classic crime, reading excerpts from Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, Ed McBain and, from Sweden, Sjöwall & Wahlöo.
Despite the inevitable pall of (fictional) death, the festival sounds like a lively addition to the region’s literary scene. It would, of course, be a crime to miss it.