I recently did a couple of events for Lowdham Book Festival, the largest festival of its kind in Nottinghamshire.
I won't be surprised if you've never heard of Lowdham. It's a medium sized village about midway between Nottingham and Newark, and it's a bit too easy to pass through it on the A612 and not notice it at all. But the book festival is 10 years old, and it's been growing in leaps and bounds. It even has spin-offs in the form of a film festival and a winter weekend, in addition to the summer festival.
This year, 6,000 people attended a total of 54 events in and around Lowdham. Every venue in the village is used, from the Women's Insitute to the Methodist chapel, and a series of tents set up behind the village hall. The village is also lucky enough to have its own independent bookshop, The Book Case.
Lowdham isn't really like any other book festival I know of. It has music, as well as books. And on the last Saturday it becomes a cross between a book festival and a village fete, with allotment holders selling their produce, and local people turning out in their thousands to support "their event". Every session on the last day (and there are lots of them!) is free. The atmosphere is buzzing.
One of the tireless organisers of this festival, Ross Bradshaw, has been blogging about Lowdham , and book festivals in general. His view is that many festivals become indistinguishable, with a similar line-up of 'celebs' promoting their latest books, and no real connection to their location. Lowdham does have its big names, but that's certainly not what it's about.
Congratulations go to Peak District independent booksellers Scarthin Books of Cromford, on being shortlisted for this year's Independent Bookseller of the Year Award.
Recommended by DC Ben Cooper in SCARED TO LIVE as "a quirky little bookshop", Scarthin Books is the kind of place you rarely find these days. In fact, even if you happen to be in Cromford you might not find it, as the shop is located up a steep back street known locally as 'The Promenade'.
Inside, you can have fun wandering through stacks of old books, or try to find the cafe - which is a bit like walking through the wall on the platform of King's Cross station to travel on the Hogwarts Express.
Great to see a team of unashamed individualists like Dave, Kathy, Guy and Wendy getting among the awards!
Way back in the dim and distant past (well, it was 1999, to be exact), I had a novel shortlisted for the first ever Dundee Book Prize.
My book was called THE HOWFF, and it was set in Dundee, which was one of the criteria for the award in its first year. I didn't win, of course - but a month later I signed a contract with HarperCollins for the first two titles in the Cooper & Fry series, so I wasn't too upset!
In those days, the Dundee prize was worth £6,000, which already made it the most valuable prize in the UK for an unpublished novel (outstripping the £5,000 Lichfield Prize). The winner in 1999 was Andrew Murray Scott with a book called TUMULUS, which was duly published by sponsors Polygon. But my main memory of the award presentations in Dundee was the fact that I was rubbing shoulders with literary types such as Rosamund Pilcher, Liz Lochhead and Douglas Dunn. Heady stuff for a crime writer!
This all came back to me this week, when the latest winner of the Dundee Book Prize was announced. Scottish writer Chris Longmuir received the award, now worth a whopping £10,000, for DEAD WOOD - a novel about a serial killer, inspired by a real-life series of murders in Dundee 30 years ago. Yes, folks, it's a crime novel.
Chris Longmuir has been struggling for years to get published, and I can imagine what it must feel like for her right now. You can read more about her on her website:
UK crime writer, creator of young Derbyshire police detectives DC Ben Cooper and DS Diane Fry, who are based in England's Peak District. Titles in the series so far:
DANCING WITH THE VIRGINS,
BLOOD ON THE TONGUE,
BLIND TO THE BONES,
ONE LAST BREATH,
THE DEAD PLACE,
SCARED TO LIVE,
DYING TO SIN,
THE KILL CALL,
THE DEVIL'S EDGE,
DEAD AND BURIED,
and a new one published in the UK in June 2014:
THE CORPSE BRIDGE