What a weekend! I have been to CrimeFest in Bristol twice before, in 2018 and 2019. I was booked to go in 2020 but the pandemic intervened. But CrimeFest is back, and in 2022, it was wonderful. Huge thanks to Adrian and Donna and their team for organising it so superbly. Where to start.
It has to be with Andrew Child. I am a huge Reacher fan. And I am a huge Lee Child fan. I’ve read every Reacher novel, many of them more than once. I have watched the Reacher series on Amazon, and the Tom Cruise films.
And I have seen Lee in the flesh twice, once at CrimeFest in 2018, when he was the main event. I was sitting on the terrace of the Bristol Marriot where it was held that year writing a submission for my UEA course (which turned into my novel Hunted) when Lee and a couple of other people came onto the terrace. I looked up, I looked down, kept writing.
Then a couple of ladies came onto the terrace and noticed Lee. They whispered together. One of them took a book from her bag, passed it to the other, and after a bit more whispering, walked over to Lee.
‘I’m sorry to bother you,’ she said. ‘But would you mind signing your book for my friend. She’s too shy to ask you herself.’
Lee was instantly attentive. ‘Where is your friend?’ he said. The lady pointed.
Lee left the people he was with and went to sit with the lady too shy to approach him. He sat with her and her friend and chatted for nearly twenty minutes, only leaving when someone came to tell him he, as the keynote speaker, should already be on stage.
I worked in the same office as another author (Leye Adenle, new book imminent) and he told me a similar story. He was at the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Festival in Harrogate one year and his former agent introduced him to Lee Child, telling Lee that Leye had a book out. Lee promptly disappeared. He reappeared five minutes later having bought a copy of Leye’s book. He asked Leye to sign it. The story didn’t end there. The following year at Harrogate, same festival, Leye was chatting to folk when he heard a shout. ‘Great book,’ was the shout. Lee Child was the shouter.
On my UEA course we were lucky enough to have a masterclass with Dreda Sey Mitchell. She had a Lee story too. She went to CrimeFest for the first time and arrived unsure of where she needed to be. Her uncertainty was evident enough for a tall man to ask her if she was OK. She explained she wasn’t sure where she needed to be. The tall man took her to where she needed to be. She worked out later that the tall man was Lee Child.
Hence, I am a fan of the Reacher books, but I am just as much a fan of Lee Child for his support for other authors, for his attention to his readers. Seeing Andrew, his brother, in his first interview since he has picked up the Reacher mantle, was a thing of some trepidation. He’s not Lee. How Lee is he?
Very. His CrimeFest interview with Peter Gutteridge was wonderful. Andrew tells stories the way Lee tells stories. After his book signing Andrew was asked by a couple of random event attendees (my publishers, Hobeck books) if he would be prepared to be recorded for their podcast. He agreed straight away and spent the next forty minutes recording it with them, and then another twenty just chatting to them.
Reacher is in good hands.