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Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival (Harrogate) Preview

Tomorrow I’ll take a train north from London to the idyllic town of Harrogate in North Yorkshire for the annual festival affectionally known as Harrogate. (The full name, Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, includes the name of the long-time sponsor, Theakston Brewing Company, and one of their signature beverages, Old Peculier ale.)

Like any crime fiction gathering, Harrogate has elements that make each year unique as well as characteristics that keep readers flocking back year after year.


Unlike Bouchercon or Left Coast Crime, Harrogate takes place at the Old Swan Hotel each year. In addition to being a gorgeous venue, the Old Swan has a history that makes it worthy of a crime fiction gathering, indeed—Agatha Christie hid out here for 11 days in 1926.


Ultimately, any crime fiction event is about the authors, right? Every year, Harrogate welcomes authors who we all know and love as well as those whose work is newer to readers. The balance is always perfect, and this year is no exception.

I’m giddy-excited to see headliners including Ian Rankin, Lee Child, Dennis Lehane, and Kathy Reichs and favorites like Mark Billingham, Val McDermid, Alafair Burke, and Denise Mina.

I’m also looking forward to seeing festival special guest Arne Dahl, who is a perennial favorite in Europe (he’s Swedish), but is less well known to American readers. I met him at Harrogate several years ago, and have enjoyed reading his books ever since. He is a master of The Twist! (In his stories…I’ve no idea how his dancing is.)

Ruth Ware’s fan base continues to grow, and for good reasons. I’ve never seen her live, and am looking forward to thanking her for her fantastic stories. I really enjoyed her latest, THE LYING GAME. Haylen Beck (aka Stuart Neville) will also be there, and I can’t wait to talk with him about HERE AND GONE, which I loved.

I’m also especially looking forward to seeing Bouchercon Guest of Honour Chris Brookmyre, Mick Herron (SPOOK STREET is his latest), and Kristen Lepionka (THE LAST PLACE YOU LOOK) and Steph Broadribb (DEEP DOWN DEAD), whose debuts are impressive. Also Kristen is the first American to get a coveted spot on Val McDermid’s New Blood panel since I’ve been attending Harrogate.


Each year, I come away from Harrogate with a book or two that I think is going to be—should be—big. My track record is pretty good; I called Paula Hawkins’ THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN when I discovered it at Harrogate, and likewise Claire Mackintosh’s I LET YOU GO. Last year’s find was MY SISTER’S BONES by Nuala Ellwood, which was released last week in the US.

This year, I’m excited to meet Jo Jakeman, whose debut thriller STICKS AND STONES will be published in the UK next summer by Harvill Secker. I haven’t read the book yet, but I have it on good authority that it’s excellent.

Abir Mukherjee’s sophomore historical mystery, A NECESSARY EVIL, will be published in the US in April, 2018. His debut, A RISING MAN, got excellent reviews when it came out in the US this past May, and every one was well deserved. These books should be huge hits everywhere, and I hope to see their popularity grow.

Not Just Books

One of the things I enjoy most about Harrogate is that while they have so much wonderful book-related programming, they also have panels and events each year celebrating crime stories in other forms, especially TV.

This year, author Ann Cleeves and TV stars Brenda Blethyn and Kenny Doughty will be talking about Vera; Cleeves and Blethyn have been at Harrogate for the last couple of years, and they’re just wonderful, both on-stage and off (Brenda Blethyn is hilarious!).

Also, Grantchester author James Runcie will be joined by (wait for it) Robson Green. I love him as DI Geordie Keating, and still miss him as Tony Hill in Wire in the Blood.

I’ll be back with more updates on Thursday, including the winners of the Crime Novel of the Year Awards, which are announced at the opening ceremonies!