Celebrating National Crime Reading Month 2023
I’m taking a moment to catch my breath and look back over National Crime Reading Month and it feels like it is getting better and better each year. This is the first year I’ve been directly involved with the campaign and, for me, there was a real buzz about it even before the start. It felt like jumping on a train which was already moving as authors, libraries, media, bookshops big and small were eager to know more about and celebrate crime fiction. Of course, I quickly realised that Sam Blake and other colleagues from the Crime Writers Association (CWA) and the Reading Agency had already laid the tracks. In fact they probably built the train.
We kicked off with simultaneous launches in London, Belfast and Edinburgh. It seems like more than a month ago now but launch events alone brought almost 300 crime lovers together with some of the UK’s biggest authors – Steve Cavanagh’s star-studded online event reached another 150. Most importantly, readers attended in numbers too and I believe they caught the same sense of excitement as I did.
There have been over 150 events listed at crimereading.com from Scotland to the Channel Islands, online and in person including workshops, talks, panel events, crime board game sessions (what a fabulous idea) with huge support from libraries – there was ‘literally’ something for everyone.
I know this has only been possible due to the incredible energy and positivity (and courage) of crime fiction authors going out there online or in person to talk to readers about their books. I can speak personally about the courage part of this equation as this has also been my first year of running author events myself. On an impulse, I went into my county library and asked what they were planning for NCRM. It was gloomy old February and it all seemed a long way off but they knew about the campaign and had some ideas. Maybe my surprise visit (surprise to me as well) encouraged these ideas into being a plan.
This seems a good point to give a shout out to all libraries and librarians as they have shown their support in so many ways. From book displays to chocolate biscuits; in facilitating events and in their warm support for nervous authors. My own events at Worcerstershire libraries included all four of these elements. I was bowled over by knowledgeable crime readers who put us through our paces at Malvern Library where I was on a panel with Jacquie Rogers, Duncan Peberdy and Sarah Hawkswood. We fielded lots of informed questions from the enthusiastic crime reading fraternity and expert librarians. And I haven’t forgotten the crime reading club in Worcestershire who told me with a twinkle that they give their authors a score out of ten!
Our ambassadors have done a fantastic job of promoting events and supporting other authors. In being involved with the ambassadors and the CWA, I’ve felt even more part of a crime-writing community and witnessed firsthand authors’ generosity and warmth. An example of this is the Waterstones blog, which you can also read on the website, in which authors recommend their own favourite crime books. We have a link on the site to the Waterstones recommended reads plus podcasts and posts so readers can read/watch back after June.
There were plenty of online events too, enabling more people to attend – even across continents. I confess to a favourite online session. Emma Christie is one of our Scottish ambassadors and has been running online sessions all month from her camper van as she tours Albania. The one I attended had the theme of writing about remote locations, which seemed appropriate, and Emma has showcased a wide range of Scottish crime fiction talent in her sessions. Emma admits that it’s been a challenge at times to host events from the campervan. But, she adds, ‘it’s very apt as well. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you’ll find crime fiction and crime fiction writers!’ You can see examples of events – including some videos of these and other online sessions at crimereading.com
This year we decided to highlight the many subgenres within ‘crime’. We made a conscious decision to be as inclusive as we can. In every sense. Although there is definitely more we can do on this next year, I’m proud of the range of people and their books that were on show. We involved all the Chapters in the CWA and had a magnificent response from members plus of course other authors, the libraries, independent bookshops and Waterstones nationwide.
I have to tell you about another first. This year, a school got on board in spreading an interest in crime fiction. In Yavneh College in Borehamwood, librarians ran a series of crime-related events. Students were treated to a crime-themed ‘books and biscuits’, a regular lunchtime reading event for years 7-11s. They ran their first ever school-wide ‘murder mystery’ with clues in the library and beyond to work out whodunnit. The CWA’s Abi Silver was invited to speak on different types of crime fiction; psychologist Brendi Waks ran a fascinating session on psychopaths for sixth formers and Carl Woolf, criminal advocate, discussed his murder cases. They said, ‘We have made book displays, including crime fiction, psychology and true crime, and there is a real buzz amongst our students!’ Again this gives us inspiration for next year.
National Crime Reading Month cultimates with the Daggers, the CWA’s internationally recognised awards held on 6th July in London when the best of crime writing is recognised.
For me, I’ve found that it’s exciting to get out there and meet readers, who gave me all sorts of insights and ideas about what they love to read. I feel even more part of a crime-writing and reading community, who are generous and informed and who are themselves supported by some great organisations such as LoveReading.com, the Crime Writers Association and the Reading Agency. With this sort of track record, I’ve got to believe NCRM 2024 will continue to inspire and include on an even bigger scale.
(c) Linda Mather
Linda Mather, author of the Jo Hughes murder mysteries available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09NJMX371
Find me on Twitter @ILindaMather and Instagram @lindamather.writer