Of crime and cows…

Many weeks ago now I promised to blog about the Noir at the Bar: Carlisle event… and then forgot.  ::headdesk::

I’ve finally dug out the piece I wrote afterwards, and hope it’s not too late to share my thoughts on what was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.  And don’t forget – if you missed that one but would like to join in, then you can.  Just pop along to the Town Wall bar on Pink Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, at 7pm on Wednesday 1st June when another collection of crime writers will be strutting their stuff.  But for now… here’s Carlisle, and my apologies for the delay.

The 10th of March seems like ages ago but it’s really less than a month since I, Other Half and a whole heap of authors, friends, relations and interested parties headed to Carlisle for the first ever English ‘Noir at the Bar’ event.

This was held at the Moo Bar on Devonshire Street, a perfect venue in terms of size, facilities, and the sheer friendly welcoming attitude of the staff. Thanks to them for helping to make the evening such a success.

In the end there were nine performing seals, otherwise known as authors reading their work. On the night, Hull-based writer David Mark gatecrashed the party to read a thoroughly entertaining and atmospheric extract from one of his crime novels set in Hull. My Other Half thoroughly enjoyed that because he knows the city reasonably well and could immediately conjure up the locations from David’s words.

After that, in no particular order, it was the turn of Neil White, Zoe Sharp, Lucy Cameron, Jay Stringer, James Hilton, Paul Finch, and yours truly to read bits of our latest or greatest work. My personal favourites were part of a hilarious short story about carp (sorry, Koi) from Jay Stringer, and a slightly surreal offering from Zoe Sharp featuring a bunch of dead celebrities, but all the readings were skilful and entertaining. There’s no beating an author reading their own work out because they know it, and the intonations and intentions, better than anybody.

The final reading of the night came from a willing victim, oops I mean volunteer, plucked from the audience. Hats off to crime writer Linda Wright for having the guts to come out and do her bit with a whole lot less notice and practice time than the rest of us.

My own piece was an excerpt from my forthcoming novella ‘Raise the Blade’ (due from Caffeine Nights in the next few months), where the first of a series of murder victims is discovered… except that as I explained, it may not be the first body after all! I’d been terribly nervous about speaking in public, not least because I’d never used a microphone before, but in the event I needn’t have worried. The mic behaved itself (although the less said about me the better) and the audience were lovely, paying attention and listening to every word.

In that respect the format helped. Four speakers doing around five minutes each, followed by a break of half an hour, followed by the remaining speakers. It meant there were no long gaps and the evening rattled along, with the audience able to get caught up in the action and stay there.

A special thanks goes to the three hosts on the night – Matt Hilton, Graham Smith and Mike Craven – for their organisation, their compering and their general hand-holding and support. And for inviting me to take part in the first place. I know I couldn’t have done it without them and I’m sure most of the other seals would agree.

Finally I leave you with two photos. One of muggins lurking behind a microphone (taken by fellow Caffeine Nights author Lucy Cameron) and one of a cow on the wall. I leave you to decide which is which.

small cow     verysmallnoirgroup1

Good, er, moos

noirprofilepicTwo bits of good news in one, in fact.  One, Noir at the Bar, the popular and successful event series held regularly in the US, is now coming to Britain.  To Carlisle, in fact, on 10 March at the brilliantly-named Moo Bar.

And two, I’ll be taking part.  Only a very small part, alongside a raft of other well (better!) known crime, noir and thriller authors, hailing from the Far North of England and southern Scotland.  Names booked so far include Graham Smith, Mike Craven, Matt Hilton, Zoe Sharp, Neil White, Paul Finch, Jay Stringer, James Hilton, Lucy Cameron, and yours truly.  There’ll also be a guest slot on the night which members of the audience can compete for.  Less ‘Gladiators’ than ‘the Sorting Hat’, I hasten to add.

So, why not come along to the Moo Bar (3-5 Devonshire St, Carlisle) at 7pm on the 10th, to hear these authors reading from their work, and hanging round for a chat afterwards.  There’ll even be free books on offer.  And drinks.  It is a bar after all!

My own freebie is a copy of Shotgun Honey presents: Locked and Loaded (Both Barrels #3), which includes my short story ‘Running Late’, about a less-than-pure cop who’s running out of time.

Noir at the Bar looks set to turn into a regular fixture over here as well, but you’d be a silly moo to miss this inaugural event, which should be absolutely brilliant.  I hope to see you there.