More Violence than Sex, and the faint smell of fear

Three in the morning, that’s when we left the hotel bar, having quaffed mightily from the cup of Bacchus. Or had a skin-full if you’re of a less classical bent. However, I have been Mr Cleverpants and been drinking water the whole evening in addition to the beer, wine and whisky. This means that I am able to function on Friday morning and can enjoy a vast fried breakfast before wandering into Harrogate for a look around. Nice place - puts me in mind of Guildford. Then it’s back to the hotel for Sex & Violence with Mark Billingham (well, he was gagging for it in the bar the night before). Good panel, though it was more violence than sex orientated. Which isn’t that surprising really, when you think about it. Can you picture the discussion? “Hello? My question is for Simon Kernick: when you write about willies, do you use your own for reference, or just make them up?”

Then it’s off into town for lunch – fish and chips – and back in time to change for the Fresh Blood panel. This is the reason I’m down here in the first place, and I’m sort of looking forward to it, in much the same way that a mongoose looks forward to falling arse-first into a cobra’s bedroom, wearing nothing but a tutu and a smile. Everyone else is a little squinky too, but we have Val to keep us right. She is seriously one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, and takes the time to tell each of us in turn how much she liked our books, making everyone relaxed and embarrassed at the same time. Then it’s show time and brave faces all round.

Val sits us round the table so that I’m on the end, next to Louise Anderson who’s a natural blonde and trouble with it. Everyone else is pretty sensible and sane, and Val keeps the whole thing moving with considerable aplomb. At the end of the thing no one has thrown anything, and I’ve only had the piss taken out of me once or twice. So better than I thought. People even buy some copies of Cold Granite afterwards, which is nice.

Five o’clock sees the Serious About Series panel, which is good, but as they’re queuing up to see Ruth Rendell a half hour before the doors open, I decide to give it a miss and go to dinner with Agent Phil instead. It’s a small tex-mex style place where the steak rules supreme – fillet for me, T-bone for Phil. When it arrives it’s bigger than his head, but he manages it anyway, gnawing away on his bone* in the corner of the restaurant like a tiny, shaved caveman. Then it’s back to catch the Ramon Chandler radio quiz style thing, which is excellent, and on to the bar to drink beer, gin (not in the same glass) and talk bollocks, both literal and figurative. I hold forth on my theory about Boobahs** and Tellytubbies*** and then The Nameless Horror goes badger crazy. Then it’s on to other biting mammals and rodents before I start winding Fiona McIntosh up. Which is kinda cruel, but fun. She’s been out to dinner with Michael M Smith ESQ and Alex Barclay (who I’d always thought was a man) and has possibly had a sherry or two, which leads to much loud laughing and fondling of John’s eggy chest, aided and abetted by Louise Anderson.

Someone not involved in any variety of fondling (well, not that I saw anyway) was Kelly. Kelly Edgson-Wright who complains she never gets mentioned on the blog. Kelly, Kelly, Kelly, Kelly (for those not in the know, Kelly is the Marketing Tsar at HarperCollins, and extremely funny, even without a couple of drinks in her). One by one the sensible people drift away to their beds, leaving the usual suspects to do the heavy lifting. Until half two in the morning.

Can you see a theme emerging?

* tee hee
** mind you, if I’d seen this bloody site first, I would have been able to add ‘Psychedelic Sixties Drug Craziness’ to the list of ‘they’re big sentient testicles’ arguments.
*** If you want to see a bearded crime write-ist go off on one, come up to me in a bar and start talking about Tellytubbies. Sinister Orwellian bastards.