Agatha and me.

 Events, Writing  Comments Off on Agatha and me.
Jul 302017

Theakstons Crime Festival

In early December 1926 the mistress of crime Agatha Christie became the subject of a real life mystery that could have graced the pages of one of her own books when she went missing for ten days. Following a nationwide hunt Agatha was eventually discovered, ostensibly suffering from amnesia, in the Swan Hydropathic Hotel in Harrogate. Whether she’d really lost her memory, was suffering a breakdown from overwork and the death of her mother, or – as some have suggested – was seeking revenge on her husband who the night before had demanded a divorce so that he could marry his lover, we may never know. But it certainly helped put Harrogate on the crime writing map.

Ninety one years later and Harrogate is again the centre of the crime writing world. The Swan Hydropathic Hotel – now somewhat more snappily renamed the Old Swan – last weekend played host to the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. What Agatha would have made of it is anyone’s guess.

She couldn’t fail to have been impressed by the 16,000 crime writers, publishers, agents and fans who made what is now an annual pilgrimage to Yorkshire’s premier spa town. And despite the numbers it’s famous for its friendliness and informality. Crime writers spend much of their lives sitting alone in their room dreaming up ways to dispose of people, but when they escape from behind a desk they’re some of the most gregarious and generous-hearted folk you could wish to meet.

I hope Agatha would have been gratified to see thAgatha exhibition postere exhibition celebrating her life and work. It celebrated too the inspiration she found in archaeology – her second husband Max Mallowan was one of the leading archaeologists of her day and Agatha, who spent many a happy hour trowel in hand, became as much of an expert at piecing together ancient pottery as she did in putting together the plots of her novels. So I like to think in some small way the two of us have more than a little in common.

Agatha & me. Things in common.


The glorious thing about Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival is that whatever your tastes run to in the world of crime fiction you’ll find something to suit, from the classics of the Golden Age to Ian Rankin (celebrating 30 years of John Rebus) or Lee Child (winner of this year’s Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award). And you’ll never be short of good company to share it with.

 Posted by at 5:29 pm

Hot, Hot, Hot: Theakston’s Crime Writing Festival 2016

 Events, Writing  Comments Off on Hot, Hot, Hot: Theakston’s Crime Writing Festival 2016
Jul 262016

Whether you are a crime writer or a crime fiction fan Theakston’s Crime Writing Festival is the place to be at the end of July each year. For a few days Harrogate, a normally civilised, understated spa town in North Yorkshire, becomes the beating heart of all things criminal.

Of course Harrogate was famous for its crime writing connections long before Theakston’s Festival was a twinkle in the organising committee’s collective eyes. It was there that Agatha Christie was eventually discovered after she disappeared without a trace in December 1926. A police manhunt lasted eleven days before she was finally spotted by a banjo player at the Old Swan Hotel.

These days Agatha would find it distinctly more difficult to go unnoticed at the Old Swan. With 15,000 people, including some of the best loved names in the crime writing world, attending this year’s Festival somebody would certainly spot her. And one thing is for sure she wouldn’t be allowed to sit quietly by in a corner. Here you’re just as likely to find yourself chatting to authors such as Peter James, Natasha Cooper, Mari Hannah, Elly Griffiths or Val McDermid, as you are to a fellow fan. For people who spend their lives alone in small rooms devising ways to bump people off and dispose of their mortal remains, crime writers are a surprisingly approachable bunch.

Festival at night

The Old Swan gardens lit up at night

There’s always so much going on at the Festival, which runs from Thursday evening to Sunday afternoon, that it’s difficult to pick out highlights. But two of mine are Val McDermid’s Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award and her Friday night interview with Susan Calman. The first brought the entire house to its feet and the second reduced most of the audience to tears (the laughter must have been heard on the other side of Harrogate).

Val McDermid

As you can see the place was packed for Val and Susan’s panel.

Few of this year’s panels can have covered quite so much ground as You Couldn’t Make It Up. Or Could You? chaired by Sharon Bolton with Peter James, Mari Hannah, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir and Graham Bartlett. The range of inspiration that the panellists drew on said something for the breadth of the crime writing community and the diversity of crime fiction. The conversation ranged from elves and their influence on Icelandic life (no really), through the hard won experience of working as a probation officer, to the realities of life as a police officer and why the world’s worst bank robber carried his bicycle seat with him.


Icelandic author Yrsa proudly sported her country’s football shirt!

I attended a crime scene brought to life from The Moth Catcher novel by Ann Cleeves, in Pan Macmillan’s Would you make a good detective?

A fascinating forensics and crime scene experience, I also got to don a Tyvek body suit, mask and gloves in 26C+ degree heat! I really enjoyed trying my hand at 21st century crime scene forensics with the pros, before stepping back into the 20th century to consider the Legacy of the Golden Age [of crime fiction] with Simon Brett, Catriona McPherson, Susan Ware, Frances Brody and Ann Granger.

For me the most compelling session was Gerald Seymour in conversation with Joe Haddow. The publication of Gerald’s first thriller Harry’s Game was truly ground breaking. Quietly spoken and unassuming it was obvious from the moment that he began to speak that he had a gift for the telling of tales. His years as an ITV correspondent covering stories around the globe provided a fertile breeding ground for his extraordinary and productive imagination that has so far created no less than 32 books. His approach and his insights were an inspiration.


I only managed to be there from Thursday to Saturday, but whether you come to the Festival to be entertained, to learn, to meet up with old friends or to make new ones – you won’t be disappointed. It would be a crime to miss it.

 Posted by at 5:45 pm

Walks and talks: Avebury & Stonehenge landscape

 Events  Comments Off on Walks and talks: Avebury & Stonehenge landscape
Apr 142013

After the success of my Avebury Society Annual Lecture – it was packed out – I was asked about my other events.

The next one is May 8th: Walk and talk with an archaeologist – walk and talk with me at Avebury, plus lunch.

There’s also this link to Marlborough News Online’s interview with me where ‘..if you missed her [Avebury Society] lecture, you can catch a flavour of it’.

I thought I’d better also update the Events page of my website to include lots of new events planned for this year.

Archaeology events – my walks, talks, stone tools workshop and study weekend.

I hope you can come along, it’ll be lots of fun.

 Posted by at 1:25 pm