I spend as much of my leisure time as I can afford, in normal circumstances, going to different book festivals, and mostly crime festivals at that. In their different ways they are all good, from the very special Bute Noir to the magnificent Bloody Scotland. I’ve been to Edinburgh Book Festival, Ullapool, Wigtown , Capital Crime and of course to Theakstons Crime Festival in Harrogate where I usually pick up a good six months’ worth of proofs. I even managed to fit in my first ever Iceland Noir which I loved so much!
Newcastle Noir is though special in my heart. I should have been there at the end of this month and not being able to go ahead has created a rather sad vacuum, so it’s good to know that they’ll be mounting some fabulous online events to keep me engaged.
As the end of the month approaches, I’ve been thinking about what makes Newcastle Noir so good. Clearly the energy of the team that put it together is one dimension.Dr Noir aka Jacky Gramosi Collins’ expertise in the field of European Crime fiction is legendary, and one of the reasons I like #NN so much is that exposure to European authors that I don’t see anywhere else.
I’m going to reprise my coverage of their Romanian panel as an indicator of the kind of investment that #NN offers to the international crime market. The festival is just right in size; small enough to allow you to chat to authors and participants, big enough for a good crowd to gather and to enable prestigious authors to attend.
Last year, Newcastle Noir changed venues to the central library and this enabled not only an accessible venue for those mobility restricted people like myself, but also shouted out that being in the library meant that it was accessible to all the people of Newcastle and around; not an elitist affair, but happening in a public space – and one that has a damned good café inside, too!
Panels are really carefully put together. Themed, with expertly chosen moderators and a good mix of authors and with due care and attention to gender equality. I love that new writers are given space and exposure and the opportunity to win over readers to their debut novels and also that writers from the North are profiled at their own local festival.
The really good news is that Dr Noir and her team are putting together 6 of the panels that would have taken place this year, have invited questions from their audiences and these will go online as a taster of the Festival that we would have experienced. To access the events go to The Newcastle Noir YouTube channel
Here’s my report of last year’s Romanian panel:
PANEL 2 Friday 3 May 2019 The Romanian Connection.
BalkanNoir to BucharestNoir Moderator: Quentin Bates.
I find that all crime festivals are brilliant events to attend and I love meeting new authors and hearing about their books. Newcastle Noir this year had lots of especially good panels and two that I think will be unrivalled anywhere else this year.
The first of these was from Team Romania. Anamaria Ionescu was born in 1976 and has lived in Bucharest all her life. She qualified as lawyer but for the last 20 years has been a producer with the Romanian Broadcasting Company. Her debut publication was a book of short stories in 2009, followed by a second short story collection and three novels. Her novel based on the 1989 fall of the Communist regime The Christmas That Never Came was one of Tritonic Publishing’s best sellers in 2017. She has also contributed to five collections of short stories including Bucharest Noir (Tritonic 2017) and Gastro Noir (Tritonic 2018).
Teodora Matei was born in 1971 and lives in the city of Ploiesti in Prahova county. She writes in a range of genres from sci-fi and fantasy to mystery, thriller and romance. She has contributed to nine literary collections. Her work includes novels co-written with Lucian Dragos Bogdan; two volumes of short stories and 4 novels of her own. Her fantasy novel, Master of the Castle is one of Tritonic Publishing’s best sellers.
Bogdan Hrib was born in 1966 in Bucharest. After graduating as a civil engineer he was variously a photographer, journalist, advertising agency director and book editor. He has a PhD in photojournalism is currently a lecturer at the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration. He is the author of the Stelian Munteanu series of which Kill the General, the fourth in the series, is the first to be translated into English. The Greek Connection is the first in the series, now also translated into English.
In Zodiac four murders are committed in four different locations. Each body has strange markings. The only thing that connects them is that they are all from the same small spa town, Voineasa. Two very different investigators team up to investigate. Trained killer, Sergiu Manta and Police Inspector Marius create a tense interplay as they edge their way to the truth.
Living Candles conveys the murkier side of living in urban Romania. This is a place where everyone knows the other’s business; where pensioners gossip outside the entrances to blocks of flats so close together you can see the atmosphere between them and where the machismo is so thick, you could cut it.
Kill The General features Stelian Munteanu. Lover, killer, Bucharest boy, Stelian is a hero of our times. A book editor with a sideline in international police work, is in a position where he has to kill the General whose book he has just published. Will he pull the trigger? Described as an exciting and suspenseful thriller, this is a ‘roller coaster ride through some of the transitions which have taken place over the last decades in Romanian history’.
Each author talked about their books and their protagonists. Stelian Munteanu was a sniper during his military service, now he is both a journalist and a maverick. He has friends amongst the Secret Service and the spy community so he can often pick up on snippets of useful information. The first of Bogdan’s books is a police procedural, then a historical thriller akin to a Romanian Da Vinci Code. The third is a military thriller based around a foreign vessel with a Romanian crew and the 4th is Kill the General. The 5th is about the absurdity of news.
Anamaria’s protagonist is a true to life character with a hint of James Bond. A cold blooded murderer, but sensitive. His morals tend to get in the way of doing his job efficiently and part of his struggle is trying to cope with that dilemma.
Teodora’s protagonist is Antonio. Fat, balding, he is an average man doing an average job. He has a boring wife and 2 naughty children, and he is only a little bit unfaithful.His lack of fidelity tends to be more in the thinking than the doing.
What makes Balkan noir special, Quentin asked? The authors felt that it was everything they had been through from Communism and a dictatorship through to the difficult transition. Romanians are survivors who have learned to appreciate good food, and a beautiful environment, while still struggling with issues such as corruption and smuggling.
We learned that Romanian crime fiction struggles in its own country because readers seem to prefer translated fiction from big names outside the country and so no big name has as yet broken through. But next year there will be a volume of Bucharest Noir – the creme de la creme translated into English and it is hoped that will gain some traction. (Note: I am delighted to say that Corylus Books is now publishing some of these authors in new versions of their works alongside other Balkan authors, so that worked!)
All in all a fascinating panel, and something very special from Newcastle Noir. I bought one of each of these author’s books and can’t wait to get started.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this flavour of what I love about Newcastle Noir. See the other blog tour posts for more fabulous Newcastle Noir experiences.
The Virtual Newcastle Noir Festival Panels are as follows:
Friday 1 May
4pm – Robert Scraggs & Rob Parker
8pm – LJ Ross
Saturday 2 May
4pm – Judith O’Reilly & Trevor Wood
8pm – Mari Hannah & Jane Casey
Sunday 3 May
4pm – Adam Peacock & Chris McGeorge
8pm – Yrsa Sigurdardottir & Liz Nugent