Sparkling night for crime writing festival

Author Colin Dexter signs books harrogate
Author Colin Dexter signs books harrogate

The opening night of the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival feels almost like a reunion, as the same faces return to meet up.

And there is a familiarity in the line-up on stage too, with regular host Mark Lawson creating a relaxed atmosphere and some in-jokes featuring the more familiar authors on the line-up.

Among those familiar faces is Simon Theakston, executive director of sponsor T & R Theakston, who joked about North Yorkshire’s only non-fiction crimes being “cricket ball tampering and failing to serve bitter with a nice creamy head”.

But he spoke warmly of his links with the festival, before Lawson moved on to the business of the evening: announcing the winners of the two awards.

He interviewed each of the crime novel of the year award’s shortlisted authors, except Chris Brookmyre, who was in Australia and represented by his publishing company. Before the winner was revealed, the recipient of the outstanding contribution to crime fiction award was announced as Colin Dexter, best know for creating Inspector Morse.

Now in his 80s, Dexter took to the stage to give an engaging and funny speech.

“I shall never forget your generosity of spirit, never forget my own gratitude to all of you here from this happy band of crime writers,” he said.

The crime novel of the year ward was then presented to Denise Mina for The End of the Wasp Season, complete with a £3,000 cash prize and a handmade oak cask provided by Theakstons Old Peculier.

She said: “I’m only here to prove I’m a good sport. I’ve lost a tenner bet!

“There’s something lovely about the collegiate attitude of crime writers and together it makes us ballsier.

“I’m a bit blown away to be honest. I was really blown away by being on the shortlist. I’m so astonished I can’t even swear!”

Speaking afterwards, Mr Theakston added: “Denise Mina is a fantastically talented writer and The End of the Wasp Season is a thoroughly deserving winner and a great example of ‘tartan noir’.

“It was a very tough decision this year as all the books on the shortlist were outstanding in different ways but I’m delighted to be able to hand the trophy to Denise, the first woman to have woman since 2008, for this hugely atmospheric and haunting book.

“I’m also delighted and privileged to welcome Colin Dexter to Harrogate to collect his much- deserved outstanding contribution to crime fiction award.

“Few writers are as prolific as Colin has been over his long and varied career and even fewer create a character as iconic and well-loved as Morse. This award acknowledges Colin’s huge contribution not only to crime fiction and to British culture, but also to real ale. Few detectives enjoy a pint better than Morse!”