Thursday, July 23, 2009
This is a relatively new festival on Melbourne's calendar, and for many of us, a very welcome one. I'd booked my tickets and was looking forward to it when the program for the main Melbourne Writers' Festival was released. The theme for the MWF is 'Where Stories Meet' but for me, the program is sadly lacking in a focus on fiction writing. Maybe there were only so many sessions they could run on the difficulties of the short story (it was starting to sound like the same old stuff, apart from Cate Kennedy's insightful comments), but one of my favourites was always the Writer in Conversation. This year, MWF is running with the 'deep and meaningful ideas' again. Great for avid nonfiction readers who want to hear people talk about politics and social issues, not so great for me.
So the crime writing festival was going to be my thing! I booked three sessions, had a keen crime-reading friend to go with, and away we went. The Convent is a great place for the festival, all stone and slate and big windows - and extremely cold in July. But the rooms were warm. Pity the poor writers whose book signing table was outside the bookshop in the freezing wind! First up was Stuart MacBride, here from Scotland - and he was very easy to understand (sometimes I thought Scottish crime on TV needed subtitles). He was determined to have a good time, despite a series of disjointed questions from the interviewer, and had lots of funny stories to tell. When I asked him how he'd feel about his characters by Book No. 12, he almost blanched! But he is planning a couple of stand-alones for variety. Some of his books can be quite gory (Flesh Market in particular) but Stuart himself was very cheery and had lots of funny stories. (Stuart even managed to smile and be cheery while freezing to death at the signing table - above.)
The second session was Barry Maitland and Garry Disher, and the interviewer was Mary Dalmau from Reader's Feast. Mary was so obviously a fan and had a great depth of knowledge about crime fiction. She got both writers talking at length about their ideas, why they wrote what they did. Maitland was an architect, which explained to me where his book Silvermeadow came from - it's a fascinating insight into those huge enclosed shopping malls. Garry began writing about the Mornington Peninsula when he moved there and began to realise how much more you notice surroundings/weather/seasons change outside the city. Both of them agreed that writing several books in a series can get to be a strain. Maitland has just released a stand-alone - he said the Brock/Kolla series was never intended to be more than one book. Disher has been working on a new Wyatt novel, his first in seven years, but his stand-alone book has stalled at the moment.
The final session I attended was on forensic psychiatry. It was packed out (gee, I wonder why?) and fascinating. The panel consisted of two women and a man, all of whom have written books about real crime - gangs, murderous doctors and murderers in general. I've heard Rochelle Jackson speak before, and she is very straightforward and clear. Her stories of interviewing people like Ivan Milat's brother were amazing - she's pretty brave! There was a bit of a digression into where teenagers today might be heading which unsettled a few people. Are our boys and young men really headed down a road of violence? Or is it just that the media reports it all and makes it sound worse than it is? That question wasn't answered - I'm not sure it could be, and certainly not in a session like that. Mostly the discussion was about serial killers!
Posted by Sherryl Clark at Thursday, July 23, 2009