Friday, June 26, 2009

In which our bearded hero talks nonsense and drinks much wine...

Mes Amis

I woke up a little fuzzy on saturday. That's because on Friday I ate nought but a tiny round roll during the day and drank free wine and champagne in the evening. All of this thanks to the wonderful people at the Dundee Literary Festival.

I should add that my fasting during the day was not their fault. They had asked me to do a panel with Glasgow's latest thriller writer, GJ Moffatt. Despite certain people's misinterpretation the G stands for Gary and he is decidedly a bloke... or else a very strange looking lady.

Anyway, I tend to be slightly unhinged before panels, and therefore don't tend to eat much. But when Gary arrived at the festival to meet with myself and our moderator, Robin Pilcher* he too realised he hadn't eaten and insisted we raid the remains of the "Poem and a Piece" panel that had been going on over lunchtime. Which was a grand idea, even if I could only force down one measly roll.

The panel itself was fun. I had no idea what to expect, and it turned into an excellent Q&A with a very smart and learned audience. A woman outed herself as a psychiatrist, which was probably a mistake as it gave me lots of fodder for jokes the rest of the panel.

Anyway, Gary is a geat bloke and if you like your thrillers all Cobenesque and twisty you should really give Daisy Chain a shot.

The festival was a great success. The organisers - particularly the wonderful Anna Day - seem to have crafted an excellent series of events, and everyone had a smile on their faces.

It was also excellent to meet one the big brains behind the yearly anthology, the effervescent Rachel Marsh, whose absolute enthusiasm and dedication to discovering good writing is clearly one of the driving forces behind the collection and is in even more evidence in person.

In the evening, I had somehow been invited to the announcement of the Dundee Book Prize, the unveiling of the winner to take place at the event. We heard readings from the shortlistees between courses of a surprisingly tasty meal courtesy of the Apex, Dundee. Of course I was the only one there a little uncertain of dinner ettiquette and also managed to spill wine while trying to be helpful. But luckily those at my table saw the funny side of it all. Except maybe the asst manager from the dayjob who was across the other side of the table and cringing as he watched me go to work.

The prize itself had been won (it actually happens in November, but is not publicly annouced until the evening when the book itself is published) by Chris Longmuir's DEAD WOOD. Chris is from the city and perhaps more importantly she is a crime writer. Her debut novel has come close to publication so many times and I've had the pleasure of meeting her at the Harrogate Crime Festival over the last few years. It was truly a delight to see her win - and finally be able to admit it - and the book itself has been very handsomely handled by those fine folks from Polygon.

All in all a great day, and a the DLF - which last through the weekend including comic book panels on Sunday - has once again been a great success, and my hat is off to the people who took the time and energy to organise everything that kept not only the writers but also the readers exceedingly happy and satisfied.

Au revoir


*Who is one of the brains behind the short story site, ShortBread.

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