I've returned to the UK after a truly memorable trip to the United Arab Emirates, where I took part in the Emirates Airline Literature Festival. I've participated in a great many literary events over the past twenty-five years or so, but I can safely say that this festival in Dubai was very special, and not merely because its remit is the whole of literature, rather than just crime fiction, or because all the authors are exceptionally well looked after. It was a chance to meet some fascinating people, and also to have a glimpse of a country and a culture which I found extremely thought-provoking.
I was involved with three events, notably a commission to create a Murder Mystery Dinner for about 250 people. My story, which involved a puzzle surrounding the arrival at a festival of a famously reclusive author was brought to life by a splendid cast of actors. Various luminaries, including Kathy Reichs, Tanya Landman, and Jim Naughtie's wife Ellie Updale, herself a notable author, played the part of "consulting detectives" to help or hinder the diners in their attempt to figure out the solution. It was great fun and when announcing the winner of the competition, I took the opportunity to point out that thankfully, the information had not been passed to me by Price Waterhouse Cooper...
Rob Davies of the British Library and I were interviewed by Ellah Wakatama Allfrey about the Golden Age of Murder, and I also took part in a panel with Kathy (whose debut novel I remember reading and admiring back in the late 90s, never dreaming I'd one day meet her) and Vaseem Khan, one of the rising stars of British crime fiction, moderated by Australia's Liz Porter. Both Ellah and Liz did a great job, and a question from the audience to Rob and me proved to come from a Daily Telegraph journalist, who duly wrote a story about the gender divide in terms of classic crime fiction.
If time permits, I'll write a separate blog post about Dubai and Sharjah, and the other events I became involved in. For now, I'd just like to say how much I admired the hard work undertaken by Isobel Abulhoul, Yvette Judge, and their team, not forgetting the army of 800 (yes, 800, it's not a typo) volunteers and the world's snazziest green room (below photo). They all contributed to making it a week I (and I'm sure many others) will long remember with great appreciation.