CrimeFest 2019: Crime Cymru, Nordic Noir & The Petrona Award winner!

The sun shone for almost all of CrimeFest this year, helping to smooth our transition to the convention’s new home at The Grand in Broad Street, Bristol.

As ever, the entire festival was wonderful – thank you Adrian and Donna! Here are a few of my highlights.

The Crime Cymru panel: ‘It’s not all Rugby, Sheep and Singing’

This was such a special panel – the very first dedicated to Welsh crime writing at CrimeFest. Authors Cathy Ace, Rosie Claverton, Alis Hawkins and John Lincoln were in discussion with G.B. Williams, and explored everything from how the Crime Cymru collective came about, to the richness of Welsh settings (gritty urban Cardiff; the rural Teifi Valley), and the Welsh concept of ‘hiraeth’ or ‘longing for home’ – which Swansea-born Cathy particularly relates to as a Crime Cymru writer based in Canada. The panellists have produced an impressively varied body of crime fiction between them – offbeat P.I. novels, cosy crime, historical crime, true crime, cold case investigations – demonstrating that Welsh crime fiction is in rude health.

The ‘Scandi is Dandy’ panel took the ‘dandy’ bit to heart – especially Jørn Lier Horst, who turned up in a truly arresting Norwegian jacket. He’s pictured here on the right, if you hadn’t guessed, with Finnish fellow panellist Antii Tuomainen (bedecked in paisley), and the more soberly attired Norwegian crime writer Gunnar Staalesen sandwiched in the middle (who like Jørn was shortlisted for the 2019 Petrona Award).

The ‘Nordic’ panels are always great, and moderator Kevin Wignall helped to bring out plenty of light and shade in the course of the discussion. Jørn revealed that the starting points for The Katharina Code were a cold case he’d worked on and the question ‘what’s it like to be a murderer trying to lead an ordinary life?’ Yrsa Sigurðardóttir and Antii discussed how a desire to push themselves as writers had led to a change of series and subgenre respectively. They all had high praise for the talented translators who made it possible for their works to be read in the English-speaking world: Anne Bruce (Jørn), Vicky Cribb (Yrsa) and David Hackston, whose musicality Antii felt helped hone his deft translations.

As a Petrona judge, a clear highlight for me was the announcement of the seventh Petrona Award winner at the Gala Dinner – Jørn Lier Horst for The Katharina Code, translated by Anne Bruce (Michael Joseph). Jørn is the first writer to have won the award twice (+ The Caveman in 2016).

Here’s what we judges had to say about the winning novel: 

THE KATHARINA CODE is a twenty-year-old mystery and failure of justice that haunts its investigator. From the code’s intriguing introduction in the novel’s opening pages to the duel of wits at its end, Jørn Lier Horst has crafted an outstanding and thrilling police procedural. The judges were particularly impressed with how the author takes established tropes – the ‘cold case’, the longstanding suspect, the dogged nature of police work – and combines them in ways that are innovative and fresh. THE KATHARINA CODE is the seventh novel in Horst’s ‘William Wisting’ series to be superbly translated by Anne Bruce from Norwegian into English, and is a highly worthy winner of the 2019 Petrona Award.

You can read more over at the Petrona website – and see the entire shortlist of six novels from Norway, Denmark and Iceland: http://www.petronaaward.co.uk/

Jorn with the Petrona Award team and Kristin from the Norwegian Embassy.

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I have to confess that I attended less panels this year than I normally do. This was partly because I only managed to get to CrimeFest on Friday afternoon, and partly because I really wanted to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in ages. So often you cross paths with someone as you’re going in or out of a panel and say, ‘let’s meet up later’… and then somehow it doesn’t happen. This year I caught up properly with some dear crime buddies including Anya Lipska, Quentin Bates, Louise Mangos, Marina Sofia, Jackie Collins, Ewa Sherman, Tana Collins, Ayo Onatade, Ali Karim, Sarah Ward, Karen Meek, Raven (that G&T was *really* good), and someone I hadn’t seen in over 30 years – it’s a small world Mick Finlay!

Criminally good friendships – what more could we want?