Portsmouth MysteryFest: Calling All Lovers of Crime Fiction

Bookfest, Portsmouth’s three week celebration of literature, is collaborating with Mystery People, the crime fiction promotion group, to put on an exhilarating event involving some of the best crime writers in the business. Local novelist Carol Westron explains further.

The festival will include fourteen great speakers, two panels, four individual talks and an interview with a Portsmouth-bred actor who has been described as a ‘national treasure.’ A cream-and-jam-scone lunch is included in the bargain ticket price of £15.

The actor Brian Murphy, famed for his roles in Man About the House, George and Mildred and Last of the Summer Wine, will be interviewed by his wife, Linda Regan, crime novelist and actor, who played Yellowcoat April in Hi-Di-Hi. In a humorous and lively interview, Brian will talk about his glittering career and his childhood in Portsmouth. Linda’s link to the city is that she did her MA in Creative Writing at Portsmouth University.

Other highlights of the day will include a short talk by Leigh Russell, sharing her secrets for writing a winning series. With over a million books sold, Leigh is definitely worth listening to. In other short talks, Dot Marshall-Gent will tell us what it was really like to be a policewoman in the early 1980s. Peter Tickler discusses writing gritty crime fiction set in ‘non-tourist’ Oxford in the aftermath of a certain famous fictional detective. And, in a city that houses the Conan Doyle collection, academic Gaynor Baker examines another great crime author who had an interest in spiritualism: Agatha Christie.

The Contemporary Crime Panel will will explore the question ‘Why Crime?’ and try to discover why crime fiction is so popular with readers and writers. The panel will be moderated by Linda Regan, whose latest book, Sisterhoods, tells the saga of an all-girl street gang. The panellists include Peter Tickler; Leigh Russell, creator of three crime series; local author Christine Hammacott, whose first psychological suspense novel is set in Lee-on-Solent and Portsmouth; and Carol Westron, author of several police procedurals set in the south of England. We are especially grateful to Jeff Dowson, author of the Jack Shepherd thrillers, for stepping in when popular author Angela Arney was unable to join us.

The History Mystery Panel will be moderated by Carol Westron and will discuss settings in historical fiction. Linda Stratmann is an acknowledged expert on Victorian crime – of both the factual and fictional kinds – and has penned two series featuring strong, female Victorian protagonists, Frances Doughty and Mina Scarletti. Other Victorian female role models are supplied by Ann Granger with her series featuring Lizzie Martin; Nicola Slade and her unconventional heroine, Charlotte Richmond; and Carol Westron whose first Victorian Murder Mystery, Strangers and Angels, is set in Gosport. To redress the emphasis on the Victorian, later historical periods are represented by Barbara Nadel and William Shaw. CWA Silver Dagger winner Barbara Nadel has written series set in Turkey and London, including one taking place in London during World War II, featuring undertaker Francis Hancock. William Shaw, whose acclaimed Breen and Tozer novels are set in the 1960s, will discuss the challenges of writing history novels set in a period within living memory and that many of us do not regard as all that historical.

Mystery Fest Day promises to be an exciting and enjoyable day, so please come along and share it with us.


Mystery Fest Day Itinerary

Portsmouth Bookfest, Portsmouth Central Library

March 3rd 10-00am-5pm

10.15am Introduction by Clare Forsyth to Bookfest/ Mystery People/library/facilities/ safety precautions.

10.25am: Contemporary Crime Panel

Linda Regan (participating moderator), Leigh Russell, Peter Tickler, Jeff Dowson, Christine Hammacott, Carol Westron.

11.45am: BREAK- Tea, coffee and cake will be served by Lily and Lime – your ticket includes this

12.45pm: Interview with Linda Regan and Brian Murphy. The Life Of Brian.

1.15pm: Talks 1,2, 3, 4 (20 mins each):

  • Agatha Christie – Stranger than Death: Gaynor Baker

A study of Christie’s use of Spiritualism in her inter-war books and short stories.

  • Not much like The Gentle Touch!: Dot Marshall-Gent

A personal perspective of life as a 1980s Woman Police Constable.

  • Murder and Moving Car-Parks in Oxford: Peter Tickler

Oxford crime writer Peter Tickler confesses all (well, some of it) about the problems, joys and sneaky tricks involved in writing crime fiction set in an authentic Oxford. And why one particular TV series set there has a tendency to drive him wild.

  • Writing a Bestselling Series: Leigh Russell

The challenges  and rewards of writing a series

2.35pm: Tea and coffee: Included in ticket

2.50pm: Audience questions for the 4 speakers

3.15pm: Mystery History Panel: The Past is a Foreign Country: How do members of the panel create the period they are writing about without over-burdening the reader with details? Do they think that certain crimes occur at specific times in the past?

Carol Westron (participating moderator), Linda Stratmann, Ann Granger, Barbara Nadel, Nicola Slade, William Shaw.

4.30pm: Bookshop

5pm: Close

Image by Carol Westron.