Monday, June 5, 2017

Dispatches from Crime Fest UK with Cathy Ace

Cathy Ace & Ann Cleeves

Cathy Ace, author of the Cait Morgan and WISE Enquiries Agency mysteries, joins us today from Bristol, UK where she's been at Crimefest. She's published eleven mysteries between the two series. Cathy was a finalist for not one, but two prestigious awards this year. Her novel, The Corpse with the Garnet Face (Cait Morgan Mystery #7) was a finalist for the 2017 Bony Blithe Award for Best Canadian Light Mystery. And her short story, Steve’s Story, which appears in The Whole She Bang 3, published by Sisters in Crime Toronto, has been shortlisted for Best Short Story in the 2017 Arthur Ellis Awards for Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing. Cathy is one of our favorites here at Mystery Playground, check out her Drinks with Reads posts

CrimeFest UK is a fan and author convention which celebrates crime writing. Fiction and non-fiction authors abound, and it’s a relatively small convention where the informal rubbing of shoulders is encouraged. Friendly authors and keen readers huddle in the rightly-famous bar until the wee hours, sharing their love of all things criminal (in a good way, you understand). 2017 is the ninth year the convention’s been held; it grew out of an association with Left Coast Crime and has taken on a vigorous life of its own.
Pub Quiz Teams in Action

This was my second year to attend CrimeFest UK, and I enjoyed it even more than last year. This might have been because I better understood what to expect, or maybe because I just felt more “at home” with the people who are, it turns out, habitual attendees. The Pub Quiz was great fun again – this time held in the magnificent Palm Court at the convention hotel (The Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel) and, once again, I was lucky enough to be on the winning team (it must be admitted that any team with Martin Edwards on it is likely to win!).
 Panel discussing sub-genres – L to R – Parker Bilal, Felix Francis, Cathy Ace, Christopher Fowler, Barbara Nadel.

I also sat on a fun panel about what “cozy” means (it seems most conventions have such a panel, probably because it’s such a knotty topic) and was honored to be chosen to moderate a panel this year too. A first for me at CrimeFest UK, it meant I discovered two new-to-me authors, and had an excuse to read books by two other authors whose work I enjoy. We all write across various sub-genres, and we had a terrific conversation about what constitutes a “sub-genre”. We all agreed that, whilst we might not care for being labelled, we see the market necessity for such shorthand terms. (NB: no blood was spilled during either panel.)

I was delighted to meet Peter Lovesey, whose work I have always admired and enjoyed. I was able to meet him and chat, as well as take the chance to get him to sign a copy of a book I’ve had since it was published in 1990. Why present him with such a relic? Well, it was an anthology for which he wrote the introduction and within which he had two short stories, and it was also the book in which the first short story I ever wrote was re-anthologized (it having been published a year earlier for the first time). The slim volume entitled “Thrillers” was published specifically for the UK’s GCSE English language syllabus (the exams all 16 year-olds take in the UK) and I was utterly thrilled (yes, sorry, pun intended) when my work was selected to sit alongside stories by Ruth Rendell, Dick Francis, Elizabeth Ferrars and Peter, amongst others. It was a special moment for me to meet Peter, and one I shall always cherish, because that was the short story that got me started: it was found on a bookshelf by BBC producers and broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2007…and that’s what made me want to write more, and believe I could give it a try!
I also enjoyed the company of Ann Cleeves, whose wonderful Vera Stanhope and Shetland books both inspire me, and sometimes make me wonder why I ever bother to write another sentence, they are so stunningly well- written.

All in all, it was a fun convention for me – and I thoroughly enjoyed the banquet for which we all got gussied up. One of my panel members, Felix Francis (yes, son of the aforementioned Dick – both excellent writers – if you liked his father’s work you’ll also like his) escorted me along the red carpet.
Until next year (yes, I have already booked!).

You can find Cathy on Facebook and Twitter: @AceCathy
She also has great book club guides for her series


  1. How could a mystery conference not be fun with the likes of Cathy Ace and co? It was as fun as it looks and great job on the highlights! The panels were excellent.

    1. It was great fun - thanks for your company, Eleanor :-)

  2. I see Felix buys his ties from the same shop as me Cathy.

  3. Thank you for a fabulous dispatch, Cathy. It's almost like I got to go.

    1. You're most welcome, Deb....thanks for the chance :-)

  4. Your report about the conference just may well double the number of attendees next year. Sounds like a wonderful conference. Thanks for your blog covering it.