Iceland Noir; round two by Quentin Bates

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Part of any upwardly mobile crimewriter’s life these days is attending events. The chance of talking to half a dozen people who might one day buy a book or two, or better still, the opportunity to sign a couple of books, should never be passed up. There are the tough events, such as the obscure libraries where the staff can outnumber the interested readers – don’t laugh, I’ve been there – and then there are the larger, buzzing events where we obscure midlisters can take the opportunity to hang on the coat-tails of the stars and snatch a little attention. I’ve done a few of these and they are a bundle of fun, albeit exhausting, with the chance to speak to genuinely interested and attentive readers who ask searching questions, and time to swap gossip and off-colour jokes with other writers.

Last year Icelandic crimewriters Yrsa Sigurðardóttir and Ragnar Jónasson, and I took the plunge and organised our very own mini-crime fiction festival in Reykjavík, figuring that it was about time Iceland had its own crime festival, with minimal notice. It was almost a spur-of-the-moment thing that seemed like a good idea at the time. It turned out that while it was pretty stressful and hard work, it was also a really good idea. It was a load of fun, everyone enjoyed themselves and although we didn’t make any money (which wasn’t the intention) we didn’t lose any either.

There were around thirty writers, almost all of them people we knew and were able to cajole to travel to Iceland in the depths of winter, and around another hundred readers, writers, critics, journalists and others took part.

So we’re doing it again, and I’m taking the opportunity to use the Reality Check to give our crime fiction event a blatant plug.

This year it’s two days instead of one, as we figured out that if people are going to fly long distances, then it needs to be more than just one day. We have something between thirty and forty writers who have pledged to take part – we aren’t completely sure of the numbers yet, but it’s a healthy turnout and there are one or two more who have yet to confirm.

This time we’re also charging money, a flat fee for everyone; writers, publishers, critics and readers. That’s right, this time people will have to book and pay to get in. Two reasons… Last year we all pulled in all kinds of favours to fix the minutiae of organising such an event and we realised we can’t do that a second time, so the fee covers the badges, coffee on tap instead people having to buy a cup at a time, printing the programme and a few other bits and pieces. Secondly, last year we suffered from a few tyre-kickers, people who booked a seat and didn’t show, which grated as the place was full and we’d already turned a few people away, hence the fee.

It’s a little more organised this time, as we’ve had a year to do it instead of just a few months, plus the benefit of some experience. Never again will I take part in a festival and grit my teeth at the organisers for their choice of panels – I know first hand what a three-dimensional jigsaw it really is making sure nobody gets left out in organising the panels, interviews and readings, especially as the line-up can remain fluid almost up to the last minute.

But it’s all worth it. Last year we had a great time, once all the leg work had been done. This year we have a great line-up of crime authors from ranging from fairly cozy to thoroughly hard-boiled and chillingly spooky. We have a crimewalk through Reykjavík, organised by the magnificent Úlfhildur of the city library, taking in some of the spots featured in Icelandic crime novels. We have a large enough Murder is Everywhere contingent to give them a panel of their own, which while it isn’t a first, it’s still a pretty rare event.

So if you feel tempted to travel to Reykjavík in November… We can almost guarantee it won’t be warm and sunny. It will be pretty dark as dusk comes early at that time of year. It could be wet and windy, or it could be snowing. Just think of that as adding a dollop of atmosphere to the Nordic Noir.

There’s more info, list of participating authors (which includes the Reality Check’s Susan Moody), a link to the booking page and (when it’s ready) we’ll put up the two-day schedule at the Iceland Noir website, and at the Iceland Noir blog, and we’re on Facebook as well. It all takes place on Friday 20th and Saturday 22nd of November, with a few other events taking place on the Thursday and the Sunday as well for those who want the full experience.

Right now I’m not exactly looking forward to it… but once the schedule had been knocked into shape, the final arrangements have been made, the programme has been printed, the badges have been printed the bookshop organised and latecomers have been collected from the airport, it’ll be a blast.

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