Last year, at the very first Felixstowe Book Festival, I helped out at an event with Mark Mower, local historian and crime writer, who promised to reveal to the audience some of the grisly secrets in Suffolk’s past. Scandal, mystery and murder were all on the agenda. The event was enormously popular and turned out to be a great success – the venue was packed and we were even forced to turn some people away. As we make preparations for this year’s impressive array of crime events, I ask myself: just what is it about murder and foul deeds that we Suffolk folk love so much?
Perhaps the simplest explanation is that we like to read about something outside of our daily experiences. Living in a peaceful, picturesque setting as we do, it’s only natural that we seek a little nerve-jangling diversion. Many works have exploited the juxtaposition of rural tranquility and dark secrets, from Agatha Christie’s mysteries to Midsomer Murders, and it proves time and time again to be a tantalising combination. It’s the ultimate guilty pleasure to indulge in, offering us exciting escapism from the cosy comforts of our surroundings and, perhaps, providing a cathartic release, in allowing us to imagine ourselves acting impulsively and taking revenge…but only for the most fleeting of moments, of course! These guilty instincts will be explored by two celebrated crime writers, Alex Marwood and Ruth Dugdall, at what is set to be one of our most intriguing festival events. Come and hear them discuss the ups and downs of crime writing, and the challenges of satisfying readers’ secret appetites for nastiness and gore! Saturday 28 June, 3.30-4.30.
Beyond this innate desire to shake up our peaceful surroundings, it helps that Suffolk’s own, often sinister, history has much inspiration to offer writers. Take for example Ruth Dugdall and Nicola Upson, who have both written novels inspired by the infamous murder of Maria Marten in the Red Barn, Polstead, and who will be joining us at the festival to discuss the enduring legend of this case. Come along on Sunday 29 June, 11-12, for what is sure to be a fascinating exploration of Suffolk’s sordid past.
Other crime writers from Suffolk and beyond have used historical settings as a springboard into new and exciting scenarios for their work. Karen Maitland takes us all the way back to the Middle Ages with her nail-biting thrillers, full of action, intrigue and a wicked dose of magic. You can hear her talk about her novels and her collaboration with historical crime writers’ group ‘the Medieval Murderers’ on Saturday 28, 4.30-5.30. The Middle Ages have also proved fruitful for author Peter Tremayne, whose Brother Eadulf has earned the honour of being the most famous fictional character to have emerged from Saxmundham. Find out how a seventh-century Suffolk crime-solver has helped make the Sister Fidelma series an internationally-acclaimed bestseller, on Sunday 29, 11.15-12.15.
For Donna Fletcher-Crow, author of 43 books and creator of a number of series including ‘The Monastery Murders’, the rationale of crime writing is simple: “at the centre of the plot I have a dead body to keep everyone on their toes— most of all me.” She joins us on Sunday 29, 10-11, to tell us more about her motivations for writing, and the challenges of balancing duel genres of historical and crime writing. Donna tells us more about her criminal ambitions in an exclusive blog post here.
If the thrills of crime writing appeal to your own creative side (and perhaps your darker side too!), why not take up the pen yourself and join in with our crime-plotting workshop, run by star crime novelists Sarah Hilary and Colette McBeth. They’ll offer pearls of wisdom to help you build up the suspense, ratchet up the tension and keep your readers guessing until the very last moment…Sunday 29, 1.30-3.30.
So, if this has whet your appetite for some mystery, murder and intrigue, be sure to join us on the 28th and 29th of June! You can find out more about all of these events here. See you soon, crime fans!