Harrogate Festival Round-Up

With the Harrogate Crime Festival at an end, and we at The Murder Room almost recovered, it’s time to look back at some of the highlights of the weekend. As such, our team of experts at The Murder Room delve deep into what they enjoyed most about the festival.


Julia Silk – Digital Projects Manager

1. Denise Mina. Denise Mina’s fantastically wide-ranging conversation with Mark Lawson, opening the festival − she’s just as fascinating when discussing any topic, from her own novels to family life to Scottish independence with her unique blend of wit, knowledge and humanity.

2. Orion authors. Catching up with the Orion authors at dinner and hanging out with them in the bar in the evenings − Orion crime authors are as entertaining in person as they are on the page.

3. New Blood. The New Blood panel, both because it featured our own Helen Giltrow, who was gripping on the subject of The Distance, and because by the end I wanted to read every one of the brilliant debut authors’ novels.

4. Worse Things Happen. Getting to hear Helen FitzGerald speak on the Worse Things Happen at Home panel − I’m a huge fan of domestic noir both current and classic, and I recommend her novel The Cry to everyone. She didn’t disappoint in person!

5. A bit of luxury.And finally, the monsoon showers in the Hotel du Vin!


David Young − Orion CEO

1. Denise Mina − what an amazing and articulate woman.

2. Catching up with Val McDermid.

3. Theakston’s Old Peculier.

4. WHSmith’s signing yurt.

5. David Shelley in jeans (no elasticated shorts this year!).


Harrogate 1


Graeme Williams − Senior Marketing Executive

1. Denise. Launching the Harrogate events was Denise Mina, bright and early on Friday morning after a hard night’s post-awards drinking. Interviewed by Mark Lawson, Denise was her usual effervescent self, mixing wry Glaswegian humour with some startling insight into the stories we tell one another, Scottish politics with a few writing tips. Fair to say that when we all left, we loved Denise a little more than we already did.

2. Drinking with authors. Authors are a delight. This is a universal truth. Hanging out with Orion’s debut authors Steve Cavanagh (The Defence) and Helen Giltrow (The Distance), having a few drinks, stealing olives from neighbouring tables and talking about writing, novels, TV and whatever old toot came into our heads was a great way to spend an afternoon.

3. The Twist panel. It’s 10 p.m., you’ve had a few drinks, you’ve seen a lot of panels. Interesting as authors are, can you take another hour watching them on stage? Turned out with Steve Mosby running the panel you could. With QI-style buzzers given to the authors and a list of the greatest plot twists in cinema history, Steve had the whole audience talking as they tried to guess which twists went with which film, peppered with great insight from the authors on what made a good plot twist and how to ensure the audience didn’t see them coming. A great format to round off a great day.

4. So many new books to read. I read a lot of crime already, but festivals always send me away with even more on my to-read list. Added this year were The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar, Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes, The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, The Machine by James Smyth, Long Way Home by Eva Dolan, The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter by Malcolm Mackay and The Axeman’s Jazz by Ray Celestin. That should keep me going a while!

5. Spying. Harrogate is full of our contemporaries from Dead Good Books, Killer Reads and The Dark Pages. It’s always fun to see what the other publishers are selling and how they’re doing it. It keeps us at The Murder Room sharp.


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Laura Gerrard – Editor

1. Denise Mina. She’s so entertaining, I would have sat and listened for at least twice as long!

2. New Blood. And not just because Helen Giltrow, an author on the Orion list, was on the panel (alongside Ray Celestin, Eva Dolan and Nicola White, chaired by Val McDermid). It was great to hear about the inspiration behind some of this year’s most exciting debuts.

3. Hearing Mr Galbraith/J. K. Rowling talk. Obviously.

4.  S. J. Watson talking about this.

5. Adding many a book (old and new titles) to my ‘to be read’ pile, and after Steve Mosby’s Let’s Twist Again panel, many films to my ‘to be watched’ list. I’ll just have to forget what I heard . . .


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Angela McMahon – Senior Publicity Manager

So I’ve been asked for my top things at Harrogate 2014. I guess I’m not allowed to include the turret in my hotel room, am I?? But it was a turret, damn it!!

Ah well, on to more crime-related choices . . .

1. Proud Mother Moment. OK, so I’m not his mother but I did have an overwhelming rush of parental-style pride when I saw Steve Mosby take the stage on Thursday evening to welcome everyone to the opening event. I’ve known Steve for a very long time, as long as he has been published, in fact, but have only worked with him relatively recently. It was through Harrogate that I got to know Steve, late-night drinking in the bar and at our Orion ‘family’ dinners.

I was delighted to get to work with him in 2011, and the following year, when he was asked to be Chair for 2014, I reckon I was almost as delighted as he was. So my No. 1 highlight of Harrogate 2014 was the roar of approval Steve was met with when he asked if everyone was having a good time.

2. Denise Mina’s interview at the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. Having won the two previous times, Denise looked decidedly embarrassed by this year’s nomination. She admitted that it would be very emotional if she won but didn’t want to be hated by other authors. Like ANYONE would hate Denise!

Her pre-announcement interview was classic Mina − funny, self-effacing and a little bit feisty in a completely disarming and charming way, of course. I reckon it alone inspired at least a hundred or so people to join around 400 others at 9 a.m. the following morning to hear more from our Denise. Yes, you worked out the maths correctly: there were approximately 500 people in the audience. I’ve decided against giving Denise another spot on my Top 5 for her panel, as that would just be sycophantic.

3. The Orion Family Dinner. One of the regular highlights for me is what we dub the ‘Orion Family Dinner’. On one of the nights when the greatest number of our authors can attend, Orion staff and authors gather at a restaurant in Harrogate to eat, drink and be merry, catch up and sometimes meet each other for the first time. Debut novelists mingle with international bestsellers, CEOs with editorial assistants, and everyone has a thoroughly enjoyable time.

It’s something that many crime readers would sell their soul to be part of, and I get to do it EVERY year!!

4. New Blood. Steve Mosby told me in the green room just before the New Blood panel that it was the most popular of all the author panels. ‘WTF?’ Seriously? Yes indeed, every year it gets the largest audience of all the author panels. Now you might be surprised at my surprise but, as a publicist, it’s incredibly hard to get journalists and readers to take notice of our fledgling authors. ‘Why should we take a punt on someone we’ve never read?’ is at the back of it all.

So it was incredibly gratifying to know that people will take that punt, and spend an hour listening to some of the best new talent out this year and then buy a book after. It does, of course, have the Val McDermid stamp of approval, so that goes a long way. Ta, Val! And if you missed the panel, our very own Helen Giltrow was on it talking about her debut The Distance.

5. The late-night buzzer. My final choice, and I rather think this might be on others’ lists, is Friday night’s late-night panel Let’s Twist Again. Frankly it’s not easy chairing a panel at 10 p.m., when everyone just wants to be in the bar or is done in from panelling all day. But for those that did make it (and there were lots!), Steve Mosby devised a very entertaining way of keeping everyone (panellists and authors included) awake and utterly engaged: a film quiz with comedy buzzers!

Also a pretty funny selection of authors, vainly trying to guess what film, then going off at bizarre tangents. VERY good fun! And we all got to learn lots about the art of the plot twist.


The folks at Harrogate International Festivals are already planning for 2015. You can keep up to date with them (with a few great articles from us at The Murder Room) over on their You’re Booked page.