I’m in Bristol for CrimeFest 2012. The festing got a lively start yesterday with an entertaining interview with Frederick Forsyth, who told great stories of his days as a foreign correspondent. (On crossing Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin the night President Kennedy was shot: “I’ve never seen such an arrogant bunch of people so absolutely panicked.”) He also insisted that, after pulling the final page of his first novel from the typewriter, he only made one edit: He re-inserted page one and added “The Day of” before his original title, “The Jackal.” The manuscript was published without a single change. Amazingly, when he said this, not one writer in the audience rose up to kill either Forsyth or himself.
Everybody attending CrimeFest is in an enthusiastically murderous mood. I had breakfast with a friend who blogs extensively about crime fiction and who, in her real life, works for the UK’s Supreme Court. She attends mystery conventions in the United States, and described the annoyance of being pulled aside repeatedly by U.S. immigration for fingerprinting. She hates being treated like a criminal — and she has told American passport control officials so, in a voice that could send chills down the spine of a supreme court justice. I nodded in sympathy. But I didn’t ask her if she’d gone through U.S. immigration in the black T-shirt she was wearing this morning, the one that says, “Got Bullets?”
And on a walkabout through Bristol, I spotted the famous Banksy painting above, which the BBC calls “the graffiti artist’s saucy stencil” for the city. Like all of the mysterious Banksy’s street art, it was put up in the dead of night. Bristol city council ran a public vote asking if it should stay or go. With 93% of the vote, it stayed.
Now it’s time to get ready for my first event: “Sorry, Officer — adventures in thriller research, or how not to get arrested.” Bristol seems like the perfect place to discuss this topic.