Lexie Conyngham's Blog: writing, history and gardening.

Monday, 25 February 2019

Granite Noir Day Three

Sunday, a short day for me as I have other priorities in the morning. I made it to Central Library in time for Dr. Kathryn Harkup’s excellent talk on Scottish poisoners, though – she treats it all as if we’re there to receive tips for doing our own poisoning. I devoutly hope no one is!

Her first poisoner was Madeline Smith, and her second was Neil Cream, also born in Glasgow. I’m not a big enthusiast for reading about true crime – I find a lot of it a bit disturbing in the coverage, but it’s worth knowing about as a crime novelist, and I knew at least a bit about both of these. I learned, however, that the plot of Dorothy L. Sayers’ Strong Poison actually wouldn’t work – it was correct according to the scientific theory of the day, as Sayers’ books are, but we’ve found out more about arsenic since. The third poisoner (though sadly I missed this as I had to report downstairs, but I asked her afterwards) was a man called Paul Agutter, who has served his time for trying to poison his wife with atropine and failing.

Anyway, downstairs I reported to the library staff in the Media Centre, a double-height room with a sort of half-closed off café space to one end. In the open end was part of the excellent exhibition of convict photographs I’ve mentioned before. The library staff kindly distributed the rest of my bookmarks around the room, and I sat about looking awkward and bored once again until they were ready for me.

This talk turned out to be very good for experience. I was in the corner of the café area with a microphone and my script, echoing up into the high ceiling, while people wandered in and out, looked at the exhibition, queued for the next talk … at least there was no clatter of cutlery and hiss of coffee machines, but it was moderately challenging. To their credit there were one or two who seemed to be hanging on my every word (or were simply asleep with their eyes open). Oh, just give me a microphone and stick me up there and I’m happy!

Then it was time to say thank you and scurry off to the back of the crowd again, where I thought I had successfully disappeared. Then two good things happened: one of the Waterstone’s staff hurried over and told me he’d already heard me talk yesterday and thought it intriguing, and where could he buy hard copies of the books? Blackwell’s, I told him firmly, pleased. Then a lady came over and asked ‘Are you Lexie?’

‘Yes,’ I said.

‘I hadn’t heard about that book,’ she said, waving back at the microphone, ‘but I’ve read your Murray of Letho ones. I think they’re wonderful!’

I could have hugged her, and taken her home for her tea. What a lovely thing to have happen!

Then it was upstairs for a panel chaired again by Fiona Stalker, three new authors all with interesting-sounding books – Claire Askew, Ruth Mancini and Harriet Tyce. It was curious to watch them learning how to do the panel thing, fitting into it with different levels of ease. It overran a little, so I trotted quite fast back over to the Lemon Tree. I hadn’t booked to see Sophie Hannah, author of the new Poirot books, but I felt like finishing off with a last visit to the Lemon Tree where I had spent most of Friday and Saturday, and the sheer bliss of being able to pop into pretty much what I liked with a wave of an author’s pass was not to be passed up despite my needing to get home. And I’m really glad I did – Sophie did a brilliant solo talk about how she came to write the Poirot books, very funny and informative. The hour shot by – and over again.

A bit of a theme this year, I noted, was the contrast between main characters as unchanging catalysts and main characters who develop as series go on and therefore have a limited shelf life. I prefer the latter, I have to say, both to write and to read.

And it was time to go. I paid my last (of very few) visits to the Authors’ Room to find Lee Randell, thank her for making us feel welcome, and give her a copy of my book (as I said to her I’m sure she is given several hundred per festival, but still, and she smiled politely and thanked me). She certainly worked hard to make sure everything came together.

Home to catch up on the dishes and scrub out the degu cage after No.1 Degu cut her tail. A crime scene bloodier than anything in Logan McRae’s experience.

Was it better to go to Granite Noir as a reader or as a local in the limelight? The latter, definitely: I saw more talks than I could have afforded to pay for, and met some interesting people whom I would not have met as just a reader. I enjoyed this year, which was also bigger and busier, more than the two previous years. Did I like getting up under the spotlight and reading to the crowd? Oh, yes: I loved it.

Did I eat my free buttery?

No (but don't worry, I gave it to someone who did).

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