Oxford Literary Festival

March 18, 2024

Here I am between two literary legends in front of a full house at the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford. Last Saturday was the final day of the crime fiction programme, now such a popular element of the Oxford Literary Festival. The popularity of crime fiction amongst readers is only matched by its unpopularity with literary critics. The event I chaired was called ‘Some Places Cry Out For Murder’ and there to discuss that proposition were two of the finest writers ever to turn their hand to thrillers.

Ann Cleeves and Val McDermid were born within a year of each other in the 50s, had their first books published within a year of each other in the 80s and are now about equal in output (40+ books each) and sales (many millions across the world).

I did mention that whilst some places may indeed ‘cry out for murder’, the places they write about don’t seem to be amongst them.

Fife had one murder last year, Shetland has had two in fifty years and in Northumberland, where Vera plies her trade, I could only trace a single violent incident in one small village several years ago.

These two brilliant writers and raconteurs have known each other forever but this was the first time they’d ever appeared on stage together. I was privileged to sit between them with my new ‘Mangan’ mystery ‘Death on the Thames’ (published on March 28th) making it’s book festival debut.

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