Friday, July 23, 2010


Dan has been having problems accessing Murder is Everywhere, so he asked me to post his blog.  He apologizes about the lack of photos, but he's been having problems with them too.  (Probably too much Theakston!) - Stan

I’m currently lounging around at the Old Peculier crime writing
festival in Harrogate (that’s not a typo by the way – Old Peculier is
a beer made by the sponsors Theakston. A very strong beer. The sort
that makes you walk and talk very silly). Harrogate is the most
prestigious event of its type in the UK, which is not the same as
being the most fun. Crimefest wins that contest, but then it’s an
entirely different festival. Harrogate is invitational, which gives it
a rather aloof, undemocratic air, unlike the
one-for-all-for-one-oh-go-on-I’ll-have-another atmosphere of Bristol.

It’s still a good laugh, however. This year’s line-up is very starry:
Ian Rankin (he’s having a cappuccino over there, so much for Tartan
noir…), Jeffery Deaver, Jeff Lindsay, Karin Slaughter, Val McDermid
(mineral water behind me) and Joanne Harris are all appearing. Rather
than there being a number of panels running concurrently for punters
to attend, there is only one event at a time, and as a consequence the
audiences can be huge. Last year I was invited to appear on the New
Blood panel, and there must have been 500 or 600 people in the
audience, which was pretty daunting. I was almost tempted to break
open my complimentary bottle of Old Peculier for some Dutch courage
while we waited to go on stage, though sanity prevailed. We managed to
muddle through.

I’m not invited this year (lost in the mail, I reckon) so I’m here as
a fan rather than writer. I’m particularly interested by the 5pm panel
today, celebrating the life of Agatha Christie. She may not be
fashionable, and some of her books may not have dated particularly
well, but I’m very fond of a spot of Agatha. I remember reading a fair
bit of Poirot as a young teenager, and while I date the beginning of
my love of crime fiction to reading Emil and the Detectives as a
pre-teen, my teenage dalliance with Christie helped deepen the affair.

She has an indelible link to Harrogate. It was here, in this sedate,
spa town in North Yorkshire that she fled in 1926. She was then
probably the most famous person in England. Her disappearance was
national news. It was feared that she had committed suicide, the
police launched a manhunt that lasted eleven days, Arthur Conan Doyle,
convinced she was dead, took one of her gloves to a medium to see if
she could be located in the afterlife. She was finally spotted by a
banjo player at the Swan Hydropathic Hotel, where she had booked in
under the name Mrs Teresa Neele

Last year I stayed at the Swan (now the Old Swan, and it makes much of
its part in the Christie disappearance). The rooms are so small you
have to go outside to change your mind but tucked away, at the end of
a leafy side street, you could see why she chose it as the place to
escape from the pressures of her fame. Personally, I couldn’t help
but marvel at her ability to remain incognito for so long. These days,
with GPRS, 24 hour rolling news, cashpoint machines, credit cards, it
would be an achievement for a notable figure to disappear for 11

Anyway, must go. Knitting Needles at Dawn is about to start...(which
reminds me of the time at a talk where an old lady told me about a
woman she knew who stabbed her abusive husband of 36 years to death
with a knitting needle. Apparently when the police arrived – she had
called them – she asked for a few more minutes to finish a jumper for
her granddaughter.)


Dan - Friday


  1. Dan - Martha Grimes should get some kind of award/reward for her endorsements of Old Peculiar over the course of her 22 Richard Jury books. Melrose Plant orders Old Peculier, it seems, in every pub he enters.

    Naturally, I had to look it up. According to a review on the Yahoo Search list, Old Peculier is the cause of "falling down syndrome."

    "Don't mess with it; treat it with the respect it deserves because I'm talking ABV 5.7% OG 1057 STRONG. If you suddenly find that the opposite wall of the pub has sprouted light fixtures, you have fallen over backwards. This is a reasonable indication of overindulgence, and should be taken as a sign to go home. You can, after all, do it all over again tomorrow."

    How then is Plant of any use to Jury?

    (I also discovered that the spelling, "peculier", is from an old Norman-French word meaning "particular", rather than strange).

    I always love the opportunity to add to my fund of absolutely useless knowledge.


  2. Oh, fantastic. Hope you're having a grand time. And published authors should always be fans--why else keep writing the genre?

    Thanks for the history. I had read of her disappearance, but didn't know the Doyle or the Harrogate details.

    Hope you'll write of the conference next week.

    Love Beth's added knowledge, as always.


  3. Thanks Stan, for bailing me out. Apologies once again. Still can't work out whether it was a Blogger problem or the notoriously temperamental Wifi connection at the Crown Hotel.

    Thanks also beth and Michele. Melrose Plant must have the constitution of a concrete elephant. Thanks for clearing up the 'Peculier' problem too, Beth.

    Michele, yes, one panel I went to sparked a lot of thought so I'll blog about it next week.