Thank you for joining us. Today as part of the Newcastle Noir Blog Tour we are joined by author, translator, festival organiser and publisher Quentin Bates. Quentin has written a piece about the role of book festivals like Newcastle Noir in translated crime fiction:
What’s your preference, something familiar – or something fresh that takes you by surprise, shows you new places and new faces, pushes horizons a little wider?
My shelves are packed with books by favourite authors, people whose work I love and enjoy. I reckon I’ve read less than half of these books. The books I tend to pick up before going to sleep, or read while stirring a pot, or used to throw into a bag back in those golden days when we could catch trains and buses are generally the oddities and the strange names, books I’m hoping will take me by surprise.
The old favourites and familiar names are stacked on the shelves against the day when I might have retirement leisure to spend whole days reading.
Right now, given the choice of the safe hands, the tale masterfully told but with a fairly good idea of the outcome, and something on its own on a shelf and with an unfamiliar Balkan or Iberian name down the spine, I know which I’ll opt for.
2020 is going to be the weirdest year. Travelling anywhere further than the local corner shop (which doesn’t sell books…) is out of the question for the foreseeable future, and the usual round of book festivals isn’t happening, taking with it one of my main opportunities for tracking down the work of crime writers from around the world.
If you’re a reader with a preference for something different, or with a novel slant or an unfamiliar setting, it’s at these festivals that you’re likely to find something new and tempting.
Festivals are also important for the authors and their publishers, providing platforms for writers from around the world to get a foot in the door – especially in Anglophone countries where readers and publishers are traditionally suspicious of translated fiction.
Go into any bookshop in Europe and somewhere between a quarter and a half of the fiction on the shelves will be translated. Do the same in Britain and – with a few high-flying exceptions – you’ll do well to find much that has come through translation. It’s always a battle to get noticed, and for fiction in translation it can be even more of a struggle.
So for an author whose work was written originally in Dutch or Faroese or Estonian or Galician or Hungarian, crime fiction festivals are about the best place to attract a little attention, to introduce yourself and what you do, with the opportunity to speak to the crime aficionados who live and breathe crime fiction, as well as the bloggers, critics, agents, and all the colourful characters who inhabit this criminal world of ours.
That’s on top of the opportunity to share beer, curry and laughter with the other crime writers, because in spite of the frequently macabre subject matter, I’ve rarely heard so much laughter as at various crime fiction festivals. These events can be massive fun as the business of the day inevitably extends to bars and eateries, and often well into the night.
So let’s hope that whatever new version of normal is awaiting us once things stabilise in a few weeks or months, that the crime fiction people will be able to gather again.