I think most of us have at least heard of the UEA Literary Festival, but a crime writing festival in Norwich might come as something of a surprise. Crime writing? Norwich? There are quite a few churches and dodgy cobbled streets, but come on…
Well, try this: “Fenland wastes of East Anglia. Darkness came with the afternoon, dragging mist with it to fill the dykes and shroud the pollard willows”. Angela Carter could summon such atmospheres as though her pen was the darkness she spoke of itself, extracting the buried mist-like murk from deep within the soil, then lifting it and suspending it over the chill landscape. And the description, from The Man Who Loved a Double Bass, is unforgettable, especially if you’ve ever experienced an East Anglian autumn or winter. The end of the short story, with its “sodden wind” which “came in through the open window”, the “engulfing darkness”, and “no noise but the slow creak, creak, creak” is equally unforgettable, but we’ll not give away any spoilers.
If you imagine this mood extended, accelerated, given an injection of adrenaline and made more gripping, with a criminal edge and a trail of blood running throughout, it’s fair to say you’ll get an idea of the literary flavour of this upcoming festival. So our beloved UNESCO City of Literature isn’t all sweet and cuddly after all. It even lends its name suspiciously well to the shadowy pun created by the organisers of Noirwich, and the events in the festival promise to show a similar level of inventiveness and excitement.
Noirwich itself, which will take place between Thursday 17th September and Sunday 20th September, is only in its second year, and was “launched to highlight the depth and diversity of the popular crime thriller genre”. It’s the product of collaboration between Dead Good Books, UEA and the Writers’ Centre Norwich, with festival events taking place over the three days in venues including the Jarrold Bookshop, Dragon Hall, and the UEA Drama Studio.
The planned events sound refreshingly varied. There will be the author events you might expect, this year headlined by Lee Child, the creator of Jack Reacher, with James Runcie, Ann Cleeves and Nicci French also making appearances, and there will be creative workshops too. Andy McNab and Professor Kevin Dutton will talk about How to be a Good Psychopath, while Kate Rhodes, Laura Wilson, and Colette McBeth will run masterclasses in crime writing. Season tickets cost £45, with individual ticket prices starting from £5. The workshops cost £45, or £35 for concessions.
The fingers play across the keyboard, desperately punching the letters as the knocking starts again at the door and the raucous sound of Friday night revelry rises up to your window. You hear a clatter from the kitchen downstairs, then the determined ring of metal on solid wood, again and again and again and again. It’s probably just the chef chopping vegetables, preparing the stock for tomorrow’s soup. Then you hear a muffled moan. The knocking at the door continues. Could it be? You thought it would be safe here in Norwich…
Remember: Noirwich Crime Writing Festival. Mid- September. It’s going to be a thrill.