Book Club with Anna Caig

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In less than a month I will be packing up my leading piping, my revolver and my candlestick,

and heading off to the famous Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate for the fifteenth annual Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.

Crime writing superstar Lee Child is this year’s Programming Chair, and writers from John

Grisham and Don Winslow, to Simon Mayo and Richard Osman, to festival founder Val McDermid will be descending on the home of Betty’s fat rascal to talk about all things

murderous and literary. “The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Festival is the best in the world,”

says Child, “I know, because I’ve done all of them.”

But despite all the superstar writers in attendance, there will be no barriers and no

exclusivity. This is a festival with its feet firmly on the Yorkshire ground, that prides itself on its friendliness.

Kicking off on 19 July with Creative Thursday, the festival is aimed at crime readers and

writers alike, with plenty on offer for those aspiring to follow in the footsteps of their heroes.

Creative Thursday promises to be a crash course in the tricks of the crime writing trade.

Aided and abetted by authors and crime advisors, this is an opportunity to investigate a

murder from the discovery of the corpse onwards. It all finishes off with a terrifying ‘Dragon’s Pen’ session, where publishing professionals will judge how successfully the brave

participants have taken on board the day’s lessons.

It’s no coincidence that the festival is held in the Old Swan. This hotel was the refuge and temporary home of a certain crime writer called Agatha Christie in 1926, when she famously disappeared for 11 days following her husband’s announcement that he was in love with another woman and wanted a divorce. The police, under huge pressure, searched in vain for her, and celebrity writers from Dorothy L Sayers to Arthur Conan Doyle were drawn into the

great hunt for the best selling author of all time. Eventually Christie was identified as a guest at the Old Swan, registered under an alias and suffering from amnesia.

To get us well and truly in the mood, the Harrogate team sent their Reader-In-Residence and award winning writer in her own right, Mari Hannah, on a gruelling tour of the libraries of the North of England, including Sheffield’s own central library, to distribute and discuss classic crime writing. This year, the book under the spotlight was James Patterson’s Along Came A Spider, with free copies given out at twelve libraries from Wombwell to Hartlepool.

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival takes place from 19-22 July. For information

about Creative Thursday and everything happening at the festival, go to