The Crime Readers' Association

The Inaugural Capital Crime Event by Ali Karim

8th October 2019

It was a brave decision for thriller writer Adam Hamdy and his partner the literary agent David Headley (and bookseller) to start a new convention (Capital Crime) showcasing the crime and thriller genre – in the nation’s capital.

Firstly, we have competition from well-established events such as Crimefest (Bristol), Theakstons Crime (Harrogate), Bloody Scotland (Stirling) as well as many smaller regional events such as St Hildas (Oxford), Bute Noir, Noir-Wich, Noir-Ireland, Morecombe and Vice, Deal Noir, Newcastle Noir among many others.

Secondly, putting on a convention or festival is not a task for the timid. I know from my association with the American Bouchercon non-profit organisation (which included co-chairing programming for 2015’s event in Raleigh, North Carolina). It takes immense courage, stamina, contacts and resolve to put on an event which a US colleague once conjectured “…it’s like herding cats…” when it comes to managing a convention / festival.

Though Capital Crime’s Co-Chairs Hamdy and Headley had advantages. Firstly, their event would be hosted in the nation’s capital – the centre for British publishing. Secondly, they had assembled a strong team, with Lizzie Curle a professional event organiser and a solid team of volunteers. Thirdly, they managed to gain good sponsorship agreements, an excellent venue – the Grand Connaught Rooms in London’s West End and attract a veritable who’s who of speakers and attendees.

Mention should also be made of activity behind the scenes by Midas PR and Tribe PR, all supported by Goldsboro Books, who set up a bookstore adjacent to the signing tables.

The key to success would be exciting and informative panel events to attract readers of crime and thriller fiction. I am delighted to report that the 2-day array of panels exceeded the expectations of even the most battle-hardened crime reader, because it celebrated the diversity of the genre’s offerings. The event ran on two parallel tracks, utilising the Grand Connaught’s Grand Room (which could seat ~700), as well as the Edinburgh Suite which could seat (by my estimate ~400). And crucially with an excellent on-site bookstore (provided by Goldsboro) in close proximity to a signing area for authors – and in my opinion (and that of many others), complimentary coffee and selection of teas available throughout the weekend thanks to the generous sponsorship of Pan Macmillan publishing. This treat can not be underestimated, as the quality of coffee was excellent, and the flasks kept re-filling. Due to the array of events, the coffee and tea kept attendees caffeinated as the day turned to evening, before it was time for gin.

The panels catered for all subgenres, including espionage, legal, Nordic/Scandinavian, gender, thrillers, forensics, true-crime, social commentary, golden age, contemporary, weird / fantasy crossovers, historical, screen-writing, a quiz, audio, international and the craft of the writing process (screen as well as page).

There were big-name authors such as Martina Cole, Ian Rankin, Robert Harris, David Baldacci, Peter James, Lynda La Plante, Charles Cumming, Don Winslow, Kate Atkinson, this year’s CWA Diamond Dagger recipient Robert Goddard and last year’s CWA Gold Dagger winner Steve Cavanagh.

Of particular mention, CWA Dagger nominated Publisher-of-the-Year, Karen Sullivan of Orenda hosted a lively session ‘Chilled to the Bone’ with authors Ragnar Johnasson, Will Dean, Antii Tuomainen and Yrsa Siguroardottir was most amusing. John Connolly’s career retrospective an equally amusing and insightful affair. Legal Professional Ayo Onatade kept order with lawyers Tony Kent, Imran Mahmood, Harriet Tyce and Steve Cavanagh in a lively and funny session where the Old Bailey met the creative stenographers.

Key note events, such as K J Howe’s interview with David Baldacci and my own conversation with Martina Cole discussing London’s attraction as a backdrop for crime and thrillers; and former police chief Graham Bartlett’s grilling of Mark Billingham were well attended and illustrated the Connaught’s Grand Hall as an impressive venue.

It was little surprise that Capital Crime attracted London journalists (and broadcasters) to participate, including Barry Forshaw, Jake Kerridge, Karen Robinson, Chi Chi Izundu, Jon Coates, Joe Haddow, Peter Guttridge among others.

The international nature of the event was augmented with an excellent session between CWA Gold Dagger awarded Don Winslow and Ian Rankin, while Jake Kerridge managed to persuade writers Robert Harris and Kate Atkinson to give readings from their work as he interviewed them.

Len Tyler and John Curran were at hand with Sophie Hannah, Ruth Ware and Christopher Fowler to discuss the importance of Agatha Christie’s legacy.

Screenwriters Adam Hamdy and Anthony Horrowitz talked by the genesis of ideas and how to wrangle them onto a blank page and make them coherent from a stream of consciousness. This was augmented by a session between S J Watson and Paula Daly with Adam Hamdy on the adaption of books for screen.

Dame Stella Rimmington’s presence with Charles Cumming, Frank Gardner and Adam Hamdy was an excellent session indicating how modern technology is impacting the espionage thriller.

Augmenting the panel discussions was an exclusive evening screening of Widows based on the work of Lynda La Plante on the Friday, and an awards ceremony as part of the closing ceremonies, which bookend Thursday’s opening party. I am happy to report that readers were present in force, evidenced by how busy Goldsboro Books’ staff were throughout the event, with their onsite book room.


The Capital Crime 2019 Reader Awards

Best Mystery: In a House of Lies, by Ian Rankin

Also nominated: Cruel Acts by Jane Casey; The Sentence Is Death by Anthony Horowitz; The Island by Ragnar Jónasson; and Metropolis by Philip Kerr

Best Thriller: London Rules, by Mick Herron

Also nominated: Twisted by Steve Cavanagh; Out of the Dark by Gregg Hurwitz; A Treachery of Spies by Manda Scott; and Changelin, by Matt Wesolowski

Best Debut: My Sister, the Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Also nominated: The Rumou by Lesley Kara; Blood & Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson; Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce; and To the Lions by Holly Watt

Best E-book: Sleep, by C L Taylor

Also nominated: Brothers in Blood by Amer Anwar; Last of the Magpies by Mark Edwards; The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides; and Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Best Audiobook: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, by Stuart Turton, read by Jot Davies

Also nominated: Lethal White by Robert Galbraith, read by Robert Glenister; The Sentence Is Death by Anthony Horowitz, read by Rory Kinnear; Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman, read by Catherine Steadman; and Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce read by Julie Teal

Best Independent Voice: Red Snow, by Will Dean

Also nominated: Little by Edward Carey; Good Samaritans by Will Carver; What Was Lost by Jean Levy; and Changeling by Matt Wesolowski

Best Crime Novel: In a House of Lies, by Ian Rankin

Also nominated: Our House by Louise Candlish; The Mobster’s Lamen, by Ray Celestin; The Puppet Show by M.W. Craven; and Stone Mothers by Erin Kelly

Best Feature Film: Black Klansman

Also nominated: American Animals, John Wick 3, The Sisters, Brothers, and Widows

Best TV Show: Killing Eve

Also nominated: Bodyguard, Bosch, Line of Duty, and You

After the late (and hard) drinking Saturday night, it was time to thank Adam Hamdy, David Headley, Lizzie Curle and the Capital Crime team for their bravery in putting together a top event, one that celebrates the dark edge of literature and film – crime and thriller.

Remember any event that runs like clockwork disguises the hard, hard work that occurs behind the scenes.

I am glad to report that the same team are on course to put on a sophomore event in 2020, and I for one, look forward to head back to the smoke to participate. Where else can one keep going when excellent coffee is provided on a complimentary basis? This innovation, sponsored coffee and tea stations were such a marvellous idea, I have to thank the capital crime team and the generosity of Pan Macmillan because I was ‘wired’ throughout, and as a lover of coffee, I have to say that the beverage provided was indeed truly life affirming, like the meeting of friends and colleagues who share a passion for dark and interesting narratives. In my experience it is those with the darkest imaginations who make for the most generous and insightful of people.

The Bookseller reported after sending journalists to the event:

David Headley, who co-founded the festival with author Adam Hamdy, said: “Capital Crime exceeded all of my expectations. We have all been overwhelmed by the support and praise for our programme and venue. I am also delighted by the incredible book sales, with some authors saying that they had never signed so many books at a festival. I couldn’t have wished for a better start for our new festival.”

The festival sold just over £14,000 worth of books through Goldsboro Books with nearly 600 people attending the event each day to enjoy a busy programme featuring panels discussing the influence of Agatha Christie, screen adaptations, crime fiction and feminism.

Martina Cole and Ali Karim discussed London as an iconic setting for the crime and thriller genre which saw Cole also take questions from the audience. Asked about working class writers in crime writing, Cole said: “I do think it’s hard.” She added: “I think we are hearing more working-class voices because it’s fashionable.”

Elsewhere Rankin and Don Winslow were in conversation with Chi Chi Izundu to discuss the human cost of crime. The lively hour saw Rankin and Winslow praise the genre’s authors for helping to champion other writers.  “The thing I find with crime and thriller is everyone is really happy to help people up that ladder, a lot more so than other genres I think,” said Rankin. “So many great writers spend a lot of their time and energy helping others, Lee Child, Val McDermid.”

The festival also saw Ashley Harrison win the Capital Crime New Voices Award for The Dysconnect. In association with D H H Literary Agency, the award champions the next generation of talent in the crime and thriller community and gives entrants the chance to have three opening chapters of their debut novel read by agents, publishers and readers, who voted for their favourites. The Bookseller understands Ashley Harrison has now signed with D H H Literary Agency.

Read More from The Bookseller HERE

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© 2019 A Karim

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