So that was it, then?

I am returned, tired but happy, from Harrogate. It was a good festival, but strangely grown up. Sad to report, but I don't think anyone misbehaved particularly, not even Agent Phil.

I guess it's inevitable that, having been three years in a row, some of the regulars now know who I am. More surprising, given my colander brain, is that I can remember most of them too. It makes for a busy three days, constantly greeting and catching up with people you've not seen for a year.

The theme, if theme there be, for me this year was sleeplessness. I don't think I made it to bed much before three on any night, and the dawn was beginning to show on Sunday before I made the trip back to the Swallow St George Hotel. Yet somehow I managed to drag myself, bleary-eyed, from bed by nine on Friday, eight on Saturday and Sunday. Consequently I made it to some of the morning panels, which is a novelty for me. It's just a pity that the main conference room was so hot and stuffy. Apparently they couldn't open the fire door at the front to get a good breeze going, as that cut off all the electricity. Good plan.

Most who attended will, I suspect, agree that Mr Stuart's fine balloon debate impression of Edgar Allan Poe, complete with sock-puppet raven, was the highlight of the festival. The panel on Cosies was good too, proving that just because you write them it doesn't necessarily follow that you're mild-mannered, meek and gentle. I was also very impressed by Tess Gerritsen, who stood up at a podium and talked for almost an hour without pause, or being boring, to a packed and very warm auditorium.

There was more, of course. And I can even remember some of it. Al Guthrie and the film crew trying to film an interview with him were thrown out by an irate Hotel manager who seemed to have forgotten just how much money the festival was bringing in. All they wanted was somewhere quiet for an hour or so, but that, apparently, was too much to ask. Apart from that, though, the hotel staff were remarkably tolerant of a bunch of noisy crime writers and fans keeping the bar open until dawn.

Laura Wilson takes over the chair from Simon Kernick next year. I'll have to start saving my pennies, and getting into practice for sleep deprivation.


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