Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Crime and Justice Festival - Saturday

Back from Melbourne after a fabulous weekend attending the inaugural Crime and Justice Festival. A similar event held last year was the forerunner to this festival. What could be better than spending a weekend immersed in crime fiction, surrounded by like-minded souls (well ok, I could probably think of one or two things that might be better!)

The Festival was held at the lovely old Abbotsford Convent, whose history includes being a home for orphans and 'fallen women'. On arrival, almost the first thing I saw was a sign pointing to the Magdalen Laundry which immediately made me think of Ken Bruen's terrific book 'The Magdalen Martyrs', and made me sincerely hope that conditions here weren't as bad as those he depicted in his book.

The organisers at Reader's Feast Bookstore put together a marvellous programme and should be congratulated. The hour break between sessions gave plenty of time to talk to authors, get books signed or get some nourishment at one of the cafes or the bar. Although attendee numbers were not high, they were quite reasonable for a first time. Hopefully publicity and word of mouth will boost attendance next year. The small numbers helped make the whole event more relaxed and friendly than any other literary festival I've attended. Authors hung around before and after their sessions, attended other authors' sessions, hung around the bookstore and chatted with readers, and were happy to sign books at any time.

The following reports on the sessions are from memory (as appalling as it is), as I took no notes. The sessions we attended on Saturday were:

Keeping it Local with Leigh Redhead, Garry Disher and Jarad Henry. The three authors all set their books in Melbourne and surrounds where they also all live. They talked about how Melbourne inspires their crime writing - it's architecture, it's atmosphere and it's weather were all integral to their stories and their characters. It was felt that if they had set their stories anywhere else they would be very different books. Leigh Redhead is the author of three books in the Simone Kirsch, ex-stripper PI, series. Garry Disher is the author of too many books to mention, most recently the Challis and Destry police procedurals. Jarad Henry is a new author with his second book featuring Detective Rubens McCauley published recently.

Crime and Verse with Dorothy Porter. Porter is the author of numerous books of poetry including two crime verse novels, The Monkey's Mask and El Dorado. One thing she mentioned was the unexpected connection between crime fiction and poetry, about how many crime authors have a passion for poetry, and vice versa. And, as the weekend progressed, we noted a number of the other authors mentioning their love of poetry.

Spotlight on Declan Hughes. Irish author, Hughes was hugely entertaining as he spoke on all manner of topics including his life as a playwright, the frustrations of screenwriting, and what led him to writing crime fiction. He got quite worked up at times, having to stop himself at one point before he got too carried away. :) One of the interesting things he said was that crime fiction brings the high and the low of society together, and this is what makes it fascinating. He is the author of three books in the Ed Loy series.

Crime and Humour with Lenny Bartulin, Robert Gott and Leigh Redhead. This session explored the wit and humour present in many crime novels, whether they are deliberately funny or just use the incidental humour that forms part of our everyday lives.
Lenny Bartulin is a new author with his first book, A Deadly Business, published earlier this year. Written in the style of the old noir hard-boileds it has a hero and a femme fatale, and lots of dry humour. His protagonist, Jack Susko, is a second-hand bookseller who gets mixed up with with a wealthy family's deadly doings.
Robert Gott is the author of three books in the William Power ("dickhead hero") series. According to Gott, the humour in his books comes from the fact that his hero is so completely self-centred that he genuinely has no idea just how clueless he is.
Leigh Redhead's protagonist, Simone Kirsch, is a stripper turned PI. Her stories show us not only the seedy side of Melbourne's adult entertainment industry, but also the inherent humour in it.
Highlight: Leigh Redhead demonstrating how female PIs, errr, manage to, umm, go, while on stakeout. Her shuffling about in her chair while describing the use of funnel and bottle were hilarious and certainly left most of the men in the audience a little flushed.

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