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September 25, 2019

London’s all new ‘crime’ festival opens this week

By Alec Marsh

Some of the UK’s top writers are descending on central London this week at the inaugural Capital Crime festival, the comic-con of crime fiction, writes Alec Marsh

Many of the greatest talents in crime and thriller fiction and television – including Robert Harris, Ian Rankin, Kate Atkinson and Mark Billingham – are gathering in central London this week for the inaugural Capital Crime festival.

Billed as a ‘celebration of books, films and TV’ the festival taking place at the Connaught Rooms is the crime and thriller genre event modelled along the lines of ‘mass participation’ comic book conventions in the US – a world away from the stuffy world of literary festivals we’re used to over here.

Among the 100 major names from crime and thrillers appearing in the series of panel discussions, talks and interviews are authors Tom Bradby, Anthony Horowitz, Martina Cole, Abir Mukherjee, Ann Cleeves and Catherine Steadman, and as well as the actor Robert Glenister.

Robert Harris

Organisers promise it will offer ‘fans unprecedented access to their favourite crime and thriller creatives’. Other major names appearing include Dame Stella Rimington, the BBC’s Frank Gardner, the Prime Suspect creator Lynda La Plante.

With a thousand tickets – priced at £80 per day or £150 for the three days – sold already for the event, its co-founder, the screenwriter and novelist Adam Hamdy, tells Spear’s that it’s already one of the biggest crime and thriller festivals in the UK.

‘It shows there is demand for something like this – what happens next is going to be up to the fans,’ he says. ‘The ambition is to the tens of thousands.’

He and the other co-founder David Headley, known for his Goldsboro Books, hatched upon the idea for the festival in July last year, while attending ThrillerFest in New York, an event now in its 14th year, where the ‘fan-author interaction’ is said to be unrivalled.

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‘We just thought that London should really have something like this,’ recalls Hamdy. ‘We ended up sharing a taxi to the airport and in that journey, we agreed that we were going to do Capital Crime.’

Robert Glenister

And what it isn’t is another literary festival, he insists: it’s a ‘celebration of the crime and thriller genre as a whole’, he says, adding: ‘What we are doing with Capital Crime is different. We are looking to reach out to people who don’t normally get engaged with literary events and for me the ambition would be to do something a bit like Comic-con.’ Founded in San Diego, Comic-Con is a comic convention which now draws some 170,000 attendees annually – it’s a world away from the blustery tents of the Hay literary festival.

One day Hamdy, whose who crime novel Black Thirteen in is published in January, hopes that if it takes off that Capital Crime will be able to take over one of the big London venues.

So why should those of us who might not consider ourselves devotees of crime or thriller fiction – but rather, occasional fans, come along to the Connaught Rooms this week? Well, Hamdy tells me, if you’re a fan of Robert Harris, you might get to see him there, and ‘there’s a very good chance you’ll discover another author that you’ll come to enjoy just as much,’ he notes, adding: ‘You’re going to have a good time.’

Capital Crime runs from 26 to 28 September at the Connaught Rooms in London. 

Read more 

Spear’s Midas interview: Ian Rankin

Robert Harris diary: ‘For connoisseurs of politics, it’s the greatest World Cup ever’

Diary: Alexander McCall Smith on finding joy through travelling

The Diary: Philip Kerr on football, Bernie Gunther and Berlin

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