Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Bristol Crime Fest 2008: Where Were You When We Were Getting High? # 1

A Minister for Propaganda Elf writes: “The first thing to be said about Bristol’s Crime Fest 2008 was that there was really no need for the good burghers of Bristol to go to all the bother of erecting statues (right) of the Grand Viz. Still, it was a nice touch, and his black, twisted heart pumped briefly in gratitude on Friday lunchtime, when the miserable curmudgeon finally deigned to put in an appearance.
  “Friday afternoon was something of a dispiriting experience, it has to be said, as the most frequently mentioned phrases at the panels the Grand Viz attended were ‘sales force’ and ‘marketing strategy’. Meanwhile, every single writer at the BCF was adamant they were paupers who couldn’t even afford an unheated garret, while the industry in general, as we all know, is loud in proclaiming that books are a bust, people don’t read anymore, the business is leaking capital, yadda-yadda-yah.
  “It did occur to the Grand Viz that expecting imaginations – those of reader and writer – to be fired by the strictures of accountants is probably asking too much, and that the relentless homogenisation of the industry to maximise profit is short-term thinking of the most self-destructive kind, and a business practice that could be broadly equated with strip-mining. Ever the romantic, the Grand Viz couldn’t help but fondly remember the bloated corporate monolith the music industry had become before Johnny Rotten started gobbing all over his audience, and wondering if perhaps the books industry, given recent technological innovations, is now primed for a 1976 punk DIY revolution that bypasses the traditional structures, or at least forces the contemporary model to recalibrate its approach in mediating between artist and audience.
  “Mind you, that was very probably because the Grand Viz was spending too much time in Mickey No-Mates mode, other than with his trusty sidekick Insatiable Ego, because the fool had forgotten to make arrangements to meet with anyone in Bristol. But lo! Along came a spider, aka the Book Witch, to whirl him away into her sticky social web and introduce him to the mellifluous Rhian, for whom no vowel is so soft and sweet it couldn’t do with another coat of honey. Then Donna Moore passed by. When the movie is made of the Grand Vizier’s life, he wants and needs Diane Lane to play Donna Moore.
  “Out to dinner, then, with Ms Moore, the ever-radiant Ms Witch, the disgustingly youthful Chris McEwan, and Pat, an American lady taking the Grand Tour and deigning to drop in on Bristol to share her stories about Lawrence Block and the Mitford sisters and sundry other weird and wonderful experiences. Allan Guthrie was there too, but he’s shy, so the less said about him the better. Oh, and a lovely woman called Kate, whose first words were, ‘You had a baby recently, didn’t you?’ Yes, ma’am, we most certainly did. Her name is Lily (right) …
  “Then it was back to the hotel for a dry sherry or two and a wee chat with Karen Meek and Maxine Clarke, which was rather disconcerting, as Maxine turned out to be more in line with the harsh-but-fair dominatrix-type the Grand Viz had been hoping Karen Meek was, whereas Karen was the bubbly, vivacious blonde he’d always presumed Maxine was. Perceptive stuff from Ireland’s third-most relevant crime fiction blog, eh? Ms Witch disappeared entirely, sadly, given that it was her 29th birthday, although it’s entirely possible she had to leave before midnight and the whole coach-into-a-pumpkin malarkey kicked in. A pity. Sample quote from Ms Witch’s Bristol update: “Next after the psychics came the comedians, and it worried me slightly that I had had dinner with three of the four [comedy award nominees] on the panel. The losers, I have to point out.”
  “Anyhoo, the rest of the evening was something of a blur, happily, until the shutters came down at 2am. Seriously, people – what’s up wid dat? A hotel bar stuffed with crime writers and readers and YOU CLOSE THE BLUMMIN’ BAR AT 2AM?
  “Up at the crack of dawn-ish on Saturday, then, for a panel hosted by Donna Moore that included Shy Al Guthrie, man-child Chris McEwan, man-mountain Martyn Waites and Tony ‘Bet-On’ Black. Huzzah for the restoration of the Grand Viz’s will to live, as the panel had fun (gasp!) talking about series characters with nary a whisper of marketing ploys or cynical exploitation – albeit within the context that the self-perpetuating series character is the industry’s holy grail. Still, it was a huge advance on the bean-counting and ledger-fiddling of the previous day. Plus, Ms Moore was wearing some eye-watering shoes. And Shy Al Guthrie’s ‘homework’, an excerpt from a possible blockbuster in the criminally underrated ‘bucolic erotica’ sub-genre, had the Grand Viz wondering anew at the sexual potential of turnips. All in all, a marvellous success. Oh, and afterwards Ms Moore presented the Grand Viz with a copy of her tough-to-get debut GO TO HELENA HANDBASKET, with which he was well pleased.
  “Leaving the venue, we had the good fortune to bump into Norm from Crime Scraps. Your secret’s safe with us, ‘Norm’. And don’t listen to the critics – THE ENCHANTRESS OF FLORENCE is one of your best novels yet.
  “Lunchtime on Saturday being a good place to snip the weekend report in two, we’ll leave it at that for now. One last pertinent thought on what might well be the most important issue the crime fiction industry will have to face in the immediate future. To wit: has anyone else noticed Shy Al Guthrie’s (right) eyelashes? Like kitten’s whiskers, they are. Enough to make a Grand Vizier kick a hole in his stained-glass harem window. Peace, out.”


cfr said...

Is that a pic of Lily on seeing her daddy arrive home? "Ooh, it's my daddy!"

It's sometimes odd to get out from behind the PC screen and discover others' perceptions in real life. I've always admired the "mellifluous" crowd and now I seem to have joined it!

Love your comments on the ever-youthful Chris Ewan - does he look old enough to be married?

You will have to do Harrogate at some point in the future. They keep the bar open. Not driving at that time, I am one of the last few for whom the staff breathe a sigh of relief when we decide it's finally time to seek sleep and bed. Honestly, you can carry on until breakfast, if you choose! Your sort of gig, I think, Dec.

Nice to see you home safely and up and about with fingers on the keyboard in your usual style.


bookwitch said...

I found that I could actually tolerate your company for up to 15 minutes at a time, without too much damage being done. The pumpkin at midnight is a good excuse. Was it you lot who drank my drinks, if you know what I mean?

Wish I'd seen that statue.

Shy Al said...

Just wait till you see Stuart MacBride's beard. It's so kitten-like, it purrs.

Declan Burke said...

Rhian - Lily did indeed remember her daddy. Or pretended to. Which is what most of the women in my life tend to do. Either way, I'm not complaining. Ms Witch - did you get stiffed for drinks on your bill? That's a tragedy, especially for a teetotaler. I think I'd have kicked up an unholy fuss. Shy Al - even the thought of Stuart McBride scares me. I'm still not over the size of Martyn Waites ... what do they feed 'em on up in Newcastle, steel girders? Cheers, Dec

bookwitch said...

The Royal is a such a genteel establishment that you don't need to get angry at all. But had I needed to, there is nobody who does it better than the witch.

You can't go stroking men's beards! Or their eyelashes.

Donna said...

Diane Lane? I'm more like Brick Lane. It was great to meet you Dec. Glad you enjoyed the panel - even I had fun after the nervous vomiting stopped. Of course, now I'm having turnip nightmares. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole weekend (apart from falling over on sunday evening and cracking my kneecap on those bloody cobbles).
Cheers, Donna

Uriah Robinson said...

Come on Dec, if I really was a distinguished literary author do think I would be hiding out among crime fiction writers.
I think tough guys Martyn Waites, Al Guthrie and Tony Black would have given me up for the bounty.
But I will say this is the last time I am going to Walmart for my plastic surgery.

best wishes Norm aka John Banville

Declan Burke said...

'Norm', man - where else would a distinguished literary author hang out than with a crew of sub-literate ne'er-do-wells like crime writers? Nice thinking, sir ... I like the cut of your jib. Cheers, Dec

maxine said...

"harsh-but-fair dominatrix-type" - my goodness I am reeling. Maybe I had better stick to my reclusive better self and not go to any more of these things! (what does the world think of me, compared with what I am really like, I wonder?)

While you were out on the town, I was enjoying a quiet dinner a trois with my sister and the aforementioned bubbly Karen. Dominatrix indeed, hah!

Uriah Robinson said...

'Harsh- but- fair dominatrix' isn't that a general description of a wife?

I had Maxine typed as the attractive brilliant but slightly zany professor type who we all want to attend future CrimeFests.