Thursday, May 14, 2009

CrimeFest Day I: It's in the bag

The formal CrimeFest proceedings got off to a smashing start, with a panel on psychological thrillers moderated by Margaret Murphy and also including Jenni Mills, Steve Mosby, Sheila Quigley and Claire Seeber. One highlight might be useful to would-be authors: Each writer talked of an experience, small or large, that germinated into a book. In one case, it was repeated visits to a young relative in a mental hospital. In another, it was panic induced when confined in a narrow passage in a cave. Lesson: Use your imagination, and see where it takes you.

My question to Mosby about serial killers who act in the name of civilized virtues won me a bag of books for the cleverest question.

A panel on historical mysteries offered a practical answer to a question I'd only been able to formulate in theoretical terms: How does one remain faithful to one's historical setting while writing for an audience of one's own time? The panelists were Roger Hudson, who sets his work in fifth-century B.C. Athens; Ruth Downie and Jane Finnis, each of whom sets her work in Roman Britain; and Roz Southey, whose protagonist is an eighteenth-century musician. Moderator was Edward Marston, whose sets work in several historical periods.

Finnis spoke of a character scarred by war, and of the difficulties writing about such a character without the psychological vocabulary that would be anachronistic to the first-century Roman world. The character suffered from what we would call post-traumatic stress syndrome, Finnis noted, but she could of course not use that term. Nor could she offer the insight that this is what happens to people exposed for a long period to war: "It just had to be left to the reader to make that deduction."

My question to Southey won me another bag of books, or would have had not a fellow attendee pointed out that I'd already won one. I was thus deprived of the opportunity to make a magnanimous gesture and voluntarily surrender the second bag.

The panel on "The Lost Weekend: Eric Ambler and Who? — Forgotten Authors" could keep me talking and reading for months, and I'll likely read and post about some of these authors. Superbly moderated by Martin Edwards, the discussion also included Mary Andrea Clarke, Barry Forshaw, Declan Hughes and Sarah Rayne.

The current authors praised their predecessors for streaks of humor and for gorgeous prose style, two elements I love that are rare these days. Hughes said of Margaret Millar that "She's also, sentence-by-sentence, I think, one of the crime writers who can write. ... She's a great plotter without smacking the least of the Golden Age."

My question about why forgotten books are such a popular topic these days sparked a lively discussion among the panelists about nostalgia. Alas, I won no bag.

Next: The pub quiz. As my teammate Ali Karim would say, "Mental!!!"

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NEWS FLASH: Pub-quiz result: A tie for second place. The prize: A bag of books.

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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24 Comments:

Blogger Kate S. said...

Thanks for taking us through day 1 with you. It's a treat for those of us who wish we could be there ourselves!

May 14, 2009  
Blogger R. T. said...

Appreciate the "fly on the wall" eavesdropping and analysis you've provided. Keep it coming. However, watch out for the high-life in the pubs, which might knock you out of attending the panel discussions. Lord knows, I'd be tempted to sample (well, over do, actually) the local nightlife.

May 14, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

R.T., I'll have you know that it is not yet 11 p.m. local time, and I am safely ensconced in my room with a 7:45 a.m. wakeup call for early panels tomorrow. This is vacation, no time for slacking off.

May 14, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kate, this is my third crime fiction covention and the second to which I've travelled. Writing these daily recaps is one of the attendant pleasures.

May 14, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

Way to score on the books, Peter! It's probably good you had to sacrifice that second bag or you wouldn't have had room on the return flight to purchase any on your own.

May 14, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Not to mention that my next destination after CrimeFest is Belfast, which means a visit to No Alibis, possibly in the company of Gerard Brennan. That ought to be good for a book or two.

May 14, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

Well, force him to drink a decent beer this time, would you?

May 14, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, come on. He can be permitted his occasional eccentricites. I will report back on his choice of drinks, though.

P.S. I drank a Guinness with lunch yesterday.

May 14, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

Gerard is so head and shoulders above the crowd that we must mock him a little for something just to keep him human.

I envy the Guinness, though our Irish friends would doubtless say that drinking it in Bristol means it isn't fresh enough.

May 14, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Head and shoulders above, you say? In his own words, he was "a bad-tempered wee shite" in his younger days.

The Guinness may have been a bit cooler than in its native land as well. But just to prove I'm not completely eccentric, it accompanied a lunch of fish and chips.

May 14, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

Don't ask my younger sisters what I was in my early adolescent years. Insufferable was about the size of it.

I think Gerard has long since passed through those days, in any case.

Fish and chips. Yum.

May 14, 2009  
Blogger R. T. said...

Guinness, is it? Remember . . . one of Dorothy Sayers' characters in "Strong Poison" insists that having a Guinness at 11:00 a.m. prior to lunch (followed by tennis) is fine way to get the midday rolling. So, if Sayers' character is correct, do not waste too much time finding a Guinness each day. Enjoy your travels. (I, however, remain envious.)

May 14, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

A longtime colleague once told me, with affection, that I used to be a pain in the a--, so I can identify with the feeling one gets having risen from humble origins.

May 14, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Guiness it was. Though details are fuzzy, I think Sayers' name may have come up in the pub quiz, possibly in connection with Strong Poison.

May 14, 2009  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

Wait a minute, someone beat you and Ali Karimin in a quiz?

May 15, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I was jet-lagged, the winning team had one too many members, and its leader was an Oxford-trained solicitor. All things considered, I think we did well.

May 15, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

So let me guess--Martin Edwards took you guys down.

May 15, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Martin Edwards it was, on a team that included Ann Cleeves, Maxine Clarke of Petrona and Karen Meek of Euro Crime. That lot would have been worthy opponents even without our team's twin handicaps of alcohol and jet lag.

May 15, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

That's an honorable defeat--and they were playing on their home turf too.

May 15, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'm not sure we plucky colonials admit there is such a thing. That seems a rather British concept.

Besides, my team, with myself as its sole exception, I think, was playing on its home turn as well.

May 15, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

Oh. Well, invite them all to a Noir at the Bar night in Philly and see how well they do at a game then.

May 15, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

They are all welcome to Phiadelpha for Noircon 2010, no reprisals, all competitions to be conducted fairly.

May 16, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

Sounds pretty cool.

May 16, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Aye.

May 16, 2009  

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