Some Thoughts about Leeds Book Festival

I am fortunate enough to live in the 5th largest city in the uk, and yet despite that we don’t have a decent book festival, Now before I go any other further I feel I should establish my credentials to rant about this, I am a massive book fan, I read between 200 and 300 books a year and love going to see authors at book festivals and conventions. I also have spent the last 11 years or so working at scifi, comic and manga conventions so I’m fortunate enough to have seen these events as an attendee and a worker and I know what works and what doesn’t.

Leeds and Yorkshire have a proud and awesome literary heritage, the area of Leeds I live in spawned both Alan Bennett and Barbara Taylor Bradford. However this year as in many of the others we once again fail to put on anything worth attending. Now I have been criticised for this opinion and told that the Leeds book festival is Fringey and just in need of support, I however think it lacks serious ambition.

This years festival can boast the likes of Daniel Ingram Brown (have you ever heard of him), a so called “children’s author” with one mediocre at best book. Cleckheaton literature festival on the other hand (I don’t know where cleckheaton is either) boasts Leigh Russell amongst its attendees (still not a massive name but better than the bookend has managed) and Morley which is a suburb of Leeds can boast Michael Portillo, Last year I saw Margaret Atwood in Ilkley (another suburb of Leeds). So why can’t the Bookend claim a big author, it claims lack of funds, but I disagree with this as a valid reason. A big name author can yield a higher ticket price the three biggest authors I have seen Charlaine Harris, Margaret Atwood and Armistad Maupin, cost me between 5 and 15 pounds for a ticket and would have happily paid double that amount to see any of them, In a mid sized venue of 200 – 300 people (200 fit in the top floor of the local book store) this would yield you a revenue of £4,500 alone, which would surely pay for such an author to attend.

There is a lot of Awesome stuff that happens in Leeds we have 2 film festivals that we could link a literature festival with, one of these already posts a pretty big comic convention as part of it’s activities, we also have three universities that would possibly happily help source some more academic speakers, and could also provide venues. The young peoples film festival run amazing workshops throughout the year that could easily be linked in, you could also combine film screenings, or combine a book signing with whatever bands were playing in many of our music venues across Leeds at the time.

There are also a number of other big literature festivals across the region that if you timed the Bookend alongside could allow you to tempt across a big name who had already been paid to attend a nearby city, this can and does happen Jo Nesbo, is the opening attraction of the Harrogate crime writing festival and is surprisingly doing a signing in Leeds very near the time. All of these ideas require very little effort or money putting in and could already result in something far better than the Bookend has put on for years.

And this is not counting all the great Local talent that they ignore or could easily find by visiting social networks, I Spent about 2 hors last year contacting authors on the Guardian book awards longlist to see if they wanted to speak to our alternative reading group that met in the local pub and we arranged to skype with 2 of the authors both of which were really nice decent people. I don’t think you would have to spend a great deal longer time to arrange something halfway decent for Leeds.

Another revenue earner that we have mentioned to the big bookend organisers in the past and they liked and then subsequently ignored is the idea of having a book fair, where you could charge local authors maybe £5 to come along and have a table promoting their books and local independent bookshops of which there are many in the surrounding region could have a table for £30, this again would easily make you another few hundred pounds to spend on getting in more people to make the event bigger and attract more book geeks like me who really want a great literature event in our amazing town.

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Some thoughts about Self published crime authors

Recently i have been on School holidays, this means a massive increase in my reading time and time available to write blog posts and i have had the opportunity to read some self published crime.

I recently received a Review copy of Kill or Cure by Thea Hartley – this was not a book i overly enjoyed, in teacher speak she could try harder. The writing is quite stilted and accompanied by some heavy handed dialogue, characters names are repeated extremely frequently in full just so you got them. The lead character is a kind of criminal psychologist who is investigating someone killing terminally ill people in quite gruesome manners, the trouble is you don’t really ever find out much about the lead character, and as such she’s quite 2 dimensional and you find it difficult to care about what happens to her. Also i have several issues with the people’s accents do people in Cardiff call their mum’s “Mam” i always thought that was a northern england thing, and do scousers use the word “Nowt” frequently, i always thought that was a Yorkshire thing. I’m not an accent expert i don’t overly have one of my own but they didn’t really ring true to me. Also to sound even more nit picky than usual one of the Victims had Huntingtons Chorea at an excessively young age (this can happen but is extremely rare) and the symptoms are described as including Psychosis and Hallucinations (The NHS website and my own inexpert Genetics Knowledge disagree). This is unlikely and inaccurate. Also the climax to the case doesn’t overly make a lot of sense there is no more evidence for it being one person than any other and indeed the so called experts profile fits about 3 different suspects.

I also read a book called Rope enough by Oliver Tidy, this intrigued me a lot more, for a start it doesn’t begin with a murder which is a refreshing change, the book is well written especially for a first book, compared to kill or cure which is that authors third novel. The book goes along at an interesting pace and the crime is solved in a logical way with a credible build up of evidence, any forensics discussed makes sense and the characters are interesting and well developed, you find yourself wanting to find out what they go on to do, he is an author that i am excited to read more of.

I think that Self publishing is often used as an excuse for lazy editing and poor writing, and this is a shame because there is a lot of really excellent self published fiction and indeed crime fiction out there. Some of this self published fiction should be attracting the eyes of publishers and more of the public alike. I think the overabundance of lazily produced, poorly written fiction can make it hard for the good quality self published fiction to shine through, and it can become a case of how good your social network is and how often you are shared that makes you sucessful rather than the quality of you work (this is especially the case when authors are media savvy and rate their own works highly on review sites). This frustates me a little as good quality writing should always be recognised and apreciated, and because of that I would advise anyone to go check out Oliver tidy’s work its amazing

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