Last Monday, my husband and I – can’t help but come over all regal whenever I hear that phrase – attended the first of this year’s events at the Manchester Literature Festival. This was Danish Crime featuring ‘two of Denmark’s hottest crime writers’ (according to the guide), Elsebeth Egholm and Lene Kaaberbol, and was chaired by Peter Guttridge, a fellow crime writer and critic.
Maybe I’d been spoilt being present at last year’s opening event with Jo Nesbo because, sadly, this year’s bore no comparison. On that occasion, it was hosted in the hallowed halls of the Banqueting Room at Manchester Town Hall and obviously oversubscribed as was evident by the number of people left standing, such was the popularity of the author. The International Anthony Burgess Foundation – the site of this year’s first event – was smaller to create a more intimate atmosphere, the audience numbers clearly not expected to be as large as those attracted by a major writer. Despite the notably arty and trendy feel of the venue, it lacked the ambience of the Town Hall and the overall sense of the proceedings was one of amateurism compared to the professional finish of the previous year.
There appeared a distinct lack of dynamism from authors Egholm and Kaaberbol as they read extracts from their individual works, and the passages they chose appeared protracted, almost prosaic, and dare I say, boring. They failed to sell themselves as writers, to me, anyway, and isn’t that why they agree to appear at these festivals in the first place: to increase their profile and, hopefully, their sales. It didn’t work on me! I didn’t feel at all compelled to rush out and buy their books or, come to that, remotely inclined to even saunter to their stand.
I’m certainly not decrying these particular authors’ talents: they are both published many times over, in different genres; an achievement in itself, and something I have yet to accomplish. But when you attend these events, you come to have certain expectations of leaving satisfied having been informed, entertained and made somewhat wiser for the experience. I can honestly say that on this occasion, I failed to undergo this transformation. Disappointed, can’t begin to sum it up!