Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Crime and Justice make for great Festivals

I'm back from the inaugural Crime and Justice Festival held at the Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne over the weekend. And what a wonderful weekend it was. All crime, all the time. Nirvana for a crime fiction addict like me. The atmosphere was so informal and friendly. Unlike bigger events, author's werent' whisked away for signings, publicity etc. yes, there were signings, but if you missed an author then, chances were you'd see them later on.

Which brings me to Robert Gott. Poor man. Everytime he turned a corner, there we were in our usual hunting pack configuration (books under arms, glass or something red or white in hand or perhaps a coffee).

The one major problem with the Crime and Justice Festival was the decision making. Leave it to the professionals with Robert Gott, Sydney Bauer and Dorothy Johnston; Crime and Reason - Forensic Psychologist Nigel Latta, Kerry Greenwood & Liz Porter talk about crime motivation or perhaps Leigh Redhead, Garry Disher and Jarad Henry on keeping it local? This is just one example of the agonising choices we had to make with clashing events. Truly spoilt for choice (for the record we went with keeping it local). But isn't that a wonderful problem to have. But enough of that. You want details (or perhaps you don't, but you're going to get them anyway)

All three authors on this panel have set their books in the areas they work and/or live. Jarad Henry spoke about St. Kilda at night and how the weather can affect what people do. Blood Sunset (the title of his second book, which you must read it's fabulous) is a term the police use when the sun sets on a hot summer day and turns the sky red. It often augers a hot night when people come out and drink more than they should. The heat frays tempers more than usual and that's when blood is shed. Beware the blood sunset Jarad writes when signing his books.

Garry Disher spoke about the changes in the demographics of the Mornington Peninsula over the years, the increasing difference between the haves and the have nots and how that has changed crime patterns. His observations of life in the area very much inform his writing.

Leigh Redhead has been a sex worker. That's where her books are set. As part of her research Leigh did a Private Investigator's course. She stressedn upon her audience in her own inimitable way the vital importance of taking a funnel on stake outs.

Crime and Verse with Dorothy Porter
Dorothy talked about the two crime novels she has writen in verse. Monkey Mask and El Dorado. She also spoke about how the way kids are taught poetry in school often turns them away from it. What's wrong, she mused, about starting kids off with song lyrics. After all, aren't some of them poetry? She's got a point. Anything would be better than having to learn off by heart "I wond'red lonely as a cloud" in grade 3 as I did. Do they still inflict that on kids? Poetry should be taught by people who have a passion for it is Dorothy's thinking and I suspect she's probably right.

Colonel Mustard in the Library
Kerry Greenwood and Robert Gott have both written books with settings that pre-date sophisticated forensic testing. Robert Gott confessed to having chosen World War II as his setting our of sheer laziness. Police procedurals? Have to learn about it. Legal Thriller? Would have to be up on law. That'd require hard work. Forensics? Too much reserach involved. I don't believe Robert for a minute. But his stated reasoning was as entertaining as his books. If you've read A Good Murder then you'll know that the opening of the book has a dead woman floating in the town's water supply for over a week. Robert grew up in Maryborough in Queensland and said this actually happened. Although they didn't have Australia's most incompetent Shakesperean actor investaging (at least one hopes not).
End of part 1. Part 2 to follow

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