Sunday, July 23, 2006

Harrah-gut

Which is how you're meant to pronounce Harrogate, so I was told. Being a sensible person I totally ignored it and went on pronouncing it "Harrogate". Anyway, I had a great time, if you don't count the drive home when our way was blocked by a major RTA just in front of us, and some very bad stuff going on there. But the fest itself? A fine one.

The reason why I (strictly small-time) was there at all was because I was lucky enough to do an event a couple of years ago at the Birmingham Book Fest alongside Mark Billingham (large-fry) who was this year's organising committee presidente, and he is a generous as hell guy and man of his word. Where this got me was on a panel called "Unique Voices", which I guessed was the four writers who didn't fit anywhere else. Namely John Connolly, Stella Duffy, Shane Maloney, moi, and the urbane Marcel Berlins in the chair. It was a good panel and I enjoyed it (depsite the heat), but anyone who was there will know that it got kind of diverted down a strange and unnecessary side-road that didn't make much sense. Well, maybe everyone there wouldn't think that, but I sure as hell did, and I suppose it must have come across from my comments, when I could shoe-horn a word in. But I guess it's also true that strange side-roads, when driven down with enough shouting and swearing and sweat, make good entertainment. So there's that. Like I say, it was a good panel and I was grateful to be on it. It just could have been more interesting if it had stayed a little calmer and under control, and I knew what the hell people were talking about.

Most of the rest of my time there was spent (accompanied by my wife Lisa) in the bar, drinking and talking shit with God knows who. I got there about 2pm Friday and was gone before 24 hours were up. This isn't because I didn't like the fest, but because, well, we've got obligations elsewhere, youngun-wise. But I don't think I could have lasted anyway. Some of those guys, they're on the solid drink and yak from opening night to closing morn, and I don't know how it's done. The drinking I can go with, but how can you talk so much? I like to be sparing with my words. I'm like one of them red indians who don't like having their photo taken because it takes away some of their spirit, so they demand 5 dollars. I'm like that, but no one has yet paid me 5 dollars or even 5 cents (maybe I should ask in sterling next time). But hey, there are some entertaining blokes and birds out there, I'll say that.

As for star spotting, fuck that. Ian Rankin was around most of the time but what are you supposed to say? "Hi Ian, er... Can I polish yer shoes, sir?" What? I thought I saw PD James at one point, sitting on a table with a bottle of plonk in one hand and a fag in the other, but Keiran Wiggins told me I was wrong. (I'm still not sure.) And also I thought I saw David Hasselhoff, but I see him everywhere so don't worry about that.

One final thing: crime writers are, by and large, way cool people. And crime readers too. I never really understood conventions before I went along as a writer, but I do now.

People who I met there, it was great chatting to you. I don't recall one bad conversation (from my side of it anyway).

14 comments:

Russel said...

The Hoff *is* everywhere...

Dammit, sounds like a good time had by all of course... wish I coulda been down there...

Charlie Williams said...

Russell :- you SHOULD have been there. Dundee is only 20 miles away from Harrogate, after all.

Anonymous said...

Hey--I was there and your panel was one of my top two favorites. It was the only one where the moderator lost control, there was shouting and genuine conflicting opinions. Most of the others were predictable and after awhile I started gagging everytime someone launched into a monologue on how he/she researched his/her novel. Count me as one who doesn't give a #$@& whether the gate REALLY opens on the right or left.

Charlie Williams said...

Anonymous - I agree about gates. And as long as you liked the panel, that's bloody great. Actually I see what you mean. It wasn't half hot up there though.

Russel said...

Ahhhh... but the NIGHT BUS FROM DUNDEE makes many a strange detour, Mr Williams, and the risk was just too much at this time of year...

Charlie Williams said...

Ah, I've heard of that particular mode of transport, Mr McLean. Around here they call it the "Dark Night Bus to Dundee of the Soul".

Stuart MacBride said...

We liked you too Mr Williams, even if you couldn't understand a word we civilised Scottish people said to you in the bar afterwards.

Charlie Williams said...

Stuart :- did I say that? I am a rude bastard and I shouldn't be allowed into these civilised places with Scottish people in them. But it was true. For some reason I just couldn't latch onto your Aberdonian rhythms. Maybe it was the natural acoustics in that particular space we were standing in. Next time I'll try harder, or bring a phrase book.

Tilly said...

I saw your panel and was pretty pissed off by the way it was hijacked by some personal hobby horsing. You were the only interesting thing on it. At least you talked about your bloody writing - not how we should all feel sorry for you.

Anyway, I bought your book. (But I didn't get is signed becasue that is weird)

Charlie Williams said...

Tilly :- I think you make some salient points there. Especially the bit about me being interesting. I agree about the weirdness of signings. People queueing up for you, it's just not right. I want to tell them "Hey, I'm not worth it. You'll be disappointed." But then I notice that they're actually queueing for John Connolly, not me.

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