Did you know that 70% of crime fiction editors in France are women? That is just one of the surprising facts that I found out at the Quais du Polar in Lyon this last weekend.
What I also found there: a great intimacy between readers and writers, a fun-filled atmosphere, resilience to stand in the queue despite the rain and cold, and plenty of memorable quotes and valuable nuggets of information such as:
1) The Festival in Figures: 4 days, 70 authors, 35 panel discussions, 5 live recordings of radio programmes, 5 literary prizes (less to do with money, more to do with prestige and a spike in sales), 10 films introduced by authors, 10 theatre performances and an estimated 60,000 visitors.
Claude Mesplède was the President of the Readers’ Jury and the true beating heart of the Festival. Passionate about crime fiction since the age of 10, he has edited anthologies of crime fiction, written the definitive Dictionary of Crime Literature and been instrumental in setting up the Toulouse Crime Festival.
2) The Urban Panel: The urban landscape as a scene of desolation, poverty and deprivation, with petty crime and trivial, sensationalised news items. This is crime fiction at its grittiest, providing rich social commentary. Young writers Rachid Santaki and Jérémie Guez write about the Parisian ghettos from personal experience, Petros Markaris mourns the amnesia and almost casual descent into violence and indifference of Athens, John Burdett shows a side of Bangkok that the Thai Tourist Board would undoubtedly not approve of. It is left to Swiss writer Joël Dicker to round it off with a critique of the American media reporting on crimes in his runaway success of a debut novel ‘The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair’. (Oddly enough, Dicker has become a bit of a media buzz himself – however, in the picture I took of the panel he is not visible, so you cannot judge for yourselves if he is indeed as good-looking and boyish looking as he is hyped to be).
3) Quotes about writing, sources of inspiration and the joys of being read:
It’s not about faith or inspiration, it’s about work. (David Khara)
I never wanted to write anything else but crime fiction. Writing a story that grips people, with strong characters, seems to me such an art and an achievement. (Sylvie Granotier)
When a community and a society is starting to lose its conscience, perhaps a writer has a duty to act as the collective memory. (Petros Markaris)
The banality of evil is what makes crime fiction so interesting. We are always surprised to find a killer in our midst, which is why we always say ‘Who could have imagined X doing such a thing?’ But we never know people well enough to see what lurks beneath the surface. We seldom dare to look deep enough within ourselves even. (Joël Dicker)
I started out with crime fiction because it was something I liked reading and I thought I might be able to do it. But I didn’t think I would stay with it for so long. That’s because it is a genre that also allows you to say something true about men and women, and about the society in which we live. (P.D. James)
Amateurs wait for inspiration, the rest of us go to work. You can’t be in it just for the money – I don’t chase the money (although it’s nice when I get it), but the readers’ hearts. However, Dickens, Shakespeare, Dumas all wrote for money. The idea that a writer has to be lofty and above commerce is a very modern one. All I want to do is entertain. If a reader takes my book to bed with them for 15 minutes and is still reading it at 5 in the morning, I have more than accomplished my mission. (Harlan Coben)
Us younger French writers feel more like global citizens: we can write about America, about Japan, about anywhere in the world. A good story remains a good story, no matter where it is located. (Diniz Galhos)
The authors of obscure literary fiction who say ‘You have readers, but I have my dignity’ are kidding themselves if they think that their notion of success is any different from my notion of success. Everyone wants more readers. (Jeff Abbott)
90% of present-day French crime writers have been influenced by American fiction, especially Elmore Leonard. I am not sure that all those traditional differences between Anglo-Saxon and French literature still apply. (Elsa Marpeau)
Only bad writers think they are good, all others are insecure. Your book is never quite what you want it to be. That’s what motivates you to write the next one. (Harlan Coben)
But above all, I found ornate, sumptuous and unusual locations, just right to celebrate literary delights!
And here is my book haul from the festival. I really made an effort to restrain myself.