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A look ahead to the 2017 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival

PUBLISHED: 00:00 08 May 2017

Val McDermit best selling author and  co-founder of Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival

Val McDermit best selling author and co-founder of Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival

© Fenris Oswin

A major celebration of Agatha Christie is planned with a new exhibition at the festival.

Harrogate surely leads the way as a top literary location with its annual crime fiction fest, the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, hosted at Agatha Christie’s old haunt, The Old Swan Hotel. Christie was the woman who gave butlers a bad rep and cracked crimes over a cuppa. Perhaps it wasn’t such a great mystery that she was found in Harrogate – renowned for its genteel Midsommer-style flower beds and antique tearooms – after her famous disappearance in 1926.

When Christie’s car was discovered abandoned on a cliff, it sparked the biggest national manhunt the country had known. A banjo player recognised her, having a fine time on the dance floor, at The Old Swan Hotel.

Her spirit lingers as every year hundreds of authors and readers descend on the hotel for the world’s biggest celebration of the crime genre. The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, now in its 15th year, was co-founded by arts charity, Harrogate International Festivals and author Val McDermid.

A major celebration of Agatha Christie is planned with a new exhibition at the festival which will explore the connections between her writing, life and publishing career using rare photographs and documents from Agatha Christie archives and from the publishers HarperCollins.

The festival’s programming chair, Elly Griffiths, author of the Dr Ruth Galloway crime series, said: ‘The ghost of Agatha Christie clearly haunts the Old Swan Hotel. Nowhere is the genre she devoted her life to so enthusiastically celebrated than at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival - the biggest event devoted to crime fiction in Europe, if not the world.’

Festival goers will join the world’s most celebrated crime authors ‘in conversation, in action and in the bar’ from July 20th-23rd. Special guests are Dennis Lehane, Lee Child, Ian Rankin, Peter May, Stuart MacBride, Joseph Finder, Arne Dahl, Kathy Reichs, Brenda Blethyn, Robson Green and James Runcie.

The opening night features the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, in association with retail partner, WHSmith, and media partner the Mail on Sunday. Television panels will focus on ITV’s Vera, featuring author Ann Cleeves and actress Brenda Blethyn, and ITV’s Grantchester, with writer James Runcie and actor Robson Green.

Val McDermid’s annual New Blood panel, one of the most anticipated events in publishing, which features four hand-picked debuts work from Fiona Cummins, Jane Harper, Joseph Knox and Kristen Lepionka.

The day-long writing workshop, Creative Thursday also returns with a chance for aspiring crime writers to pitch to top agents and editors. The festival will also serve up its usual helping of heated debate. From digging into the past to skirting the supernatural, panel authors include Chris Brookmyre, Mick Herron, Alifair Burke, Denise Mina, Belinda Bauer and Graeme Macrae Burnet, who was shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize. There will also be a panel exploring reboots of iconic crime characters, from Poirot to Sherlock, with authors Sophie Hannah, Ruth Ware and Stella Duffy.

Elly Griffiths delivers a special author dinner murder mystery, Digging up the Past, with help from Francis Pryor of Time Team fame. There’ll also be a Graham Norton style Late Night Event with BBC’s Pointless star, Richard Osman, featuring authors Lee Child, Val McDermid and Mark Billingham.

The event, delivered by the Harrogate International Festivals, is one of the most important in the crime publishing calendar. Agents, publishers, publicists, readers and authors attend from all over Europe and the world. The festival is famed for its no barriers approach, as fans, fledgling writers and established superstar authors mingle in the hotel bar, bookshop and tents in the hotel grounds.

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate July 20th-23rd. For the full programme visit harrogateinternationalfestivals.com Box Office: 01423 562 303

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