Our blogger-in-residence for Noirwich Crime Writing Festival, Jamie Bernthal, reports on his experience from Friday to Sunday at the major crime writing event in England's first UNESCO City of Literature.


What a ride. From Ian Rankin to Sophie Hannah, from domestic suspense to Brit Noir, from quite a lot of alcohol to the most bacon I’ve ever seen in a sandwich, Noirwich packed a rollercoaster of bloody thrills into four days on the mean streets of Norwich.

Friday 16 September - Ian Rankin at the Thomas Paine Study Centre, University of East Anglia

The first thing I saw on entering the building (okay, not the first thing. The first thing was about a hundred people enjoying the booze, and getting their Young Bond books signed. The second thing, then) was a UEA archive exhibition titled 'Blood, Ink, Tears: The Making of a Crime Novel'. Three authors on display here: Charlie Higson, Alan Hunter, and the King of Scotland himself, Ian Rankin, with a couple of draft pages from the new Rebus, Rather Be the Devil.

There were also publishers’ reports – some glowing, some not so glowing – and even a rejection letter for Alan Hunter’s first Inspector Gently novel, Gently Does It. Charlie Higson, he of the Young Bond books, had bravely contributed feedback young people who’d read his work before publication. I’ll just say this: young readers know what they like. I know a lot of people who think crime writers just tap out their bestsellers and drink the profits but it’s clearly much harder work than that!

Rankin’s Edinburgh looks beautiful but it doesn’t take long to find the sordid cogs behind the face.

Ian Rankin brought the house down on Friday night, discussing his Edinburgh life, his now thirty year-old (in written terms) ex-Inspector Rebus, and how to become – well, Ian Rankin. The answer? Be in a lot of bands as a teenager, know your rock. spend some time in the pub, keep a scrap book of crime cases, and write very, very well.

UEA’s Henry Sutton put Rankin under the spotlight, the Rolling Stones fading them in. But what does being a crime writer mean?

Rankin’s Edinburgh looks beautiful but it doesn’t take long to find the sordid cogs behind the face. ‘I wanted to make sense of Edinburgh’, he said. Rebus explores the parts we don’t want to see, and his outlook is partly that of his creator. But they’re not identical. We learnt to what extent Rebus is Rankin, and to what extent he isn’t.

Then there was more alcohol. Grab your hat and watch your back, because the next day at Writers' Centre Norwich, Dragon Hall was bursting with fiendish minds.

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