Literary festivals are heaven for book lovers. Finding new works to read, meeting readers and writers, hearing fantastic live fiction – there’s fun for everyone. Hot on the heels of the International Agatha Christie Festival in Torquay, the focus switches to the northern reaches of the M5 in October. It’s truly a road to paradise, connecting three high profile litfests in Bristol, Cheltenham and Birmingham. Agatha’s fans will find plenty of crime to keep them interested, but there’s much more besides.
Regency Cheltenham kicks off the party on Friday 2nd October. As you’d expect from a prosperous Cotswold spa town (did you know it has a massively high millionaire quotient, fact fans?), Cheltenham begins with a bang. Big names booked for the first Friday include Caitlin Moran and thriller maestro Frederick Forsyth. My absolute festival faves are crime writer Kate Atkinson (wowing the crowds on Saturday 3rd) and novelist David Lodge (Sunday 11th). They both have a punchy, witty style that’s similar to mine, and I can’t get enough of their books.
As well as the famous names, there’s the sheer joy of soaking up the atmosphere in this gracious spa town. Villas and terraces painted white like giant wedding cakes, tree-lined promenades and pleasant watering holes greet the festivalgoers. If the pace gets too fast, the Cotswolds sit obligingly on the doorstep, offering picturesque walks, country pubs and a chance to potter in antique shops.
Although most of the Birmingham Festival of Literature events begin just as Cheltenham is finishing, there is a deliciously spooky Night At The Coffin Works on 4th October, as the fabulous Rachel New guides writers to craft new work through the night in an old coffin factory. (Should that whet your appetite for ghost and horror stories, come along to a night of live fiction at one of TheCultureHour’s lovely live events at Brewsmiths coffee shop on Monday 26th October – I’ll be there!)
Rachel also promises a literary salon of Short & Sweet story readings on 9th October. Although there are talks for readers of fiction and non-fiction, the Brummie bash takes a different tack to Cheltenham, with lots of workshops for writers as well. Again, Birmingham is a brilliant city to visit, with a thriving coffee culture and cocktail bars to die for. Simply rock up at the shiny new Grand Central station and look forward to hard-living hedonism – there’s plenty to choose from!
Finally, Bristol rounds off October from the 15th to the 24th. For a city often labelled as laid back, there’s an impressively packed schedule. “We’re doing things differently – lit-shape and Bristol-fashion,” they promise, and they’re true to their word. There are book swaps, story strolls, live fiction and competitions. I’ll be taking part in the Flash Slam on Friday 23rd and also reading at the Fear Institute on Thursday 15th. As for cocktails? I’m rather partial to the Milk Thistle bar – not easy to find, but so worth the effort! Chin, chin!
As well as indulging in all those lovely British litfests, I’m a crime thriller writer. My latest book, The Bride’s Trail, is already gathering great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads! Read taster story, The Gap, here.