Fielding a team of crime writing talent comprised of players from either side of the channel the third event of Institut Francais‘ Noir is the Colour festival put together a package of talent proving that Europe is an unbeatable world champion in the Noir stakes. Alongside Barry Forshaw’s recently published Euro Noir, this celebration of the potent contemporary scene offers up a melange of the familiar and unknown. Authors new to UK readers sit alongside more established names discussing common ground and differences in stylistic approaches, influences, and working methods. For those who prefer the allure of the printed page to a soccer tournament the opportunity to sit in an enchanting reading room and see four of Europe’s most vital current writers talk about their craft and careers before that all important first publication was a fruitful experience. Akin to a camp fire conversation, an informal and inviting commemoration that embraced newcomers and rewarded long term enthusiasts.
Current co-director of Books by the Beach festival and former crime critic for The Observer, Peter Guttridge is the author of the well received Brighton mystery series and a remarkable account of The Great Train Robbery. His latest novel Those Who Feel Nothing has been published by Severn House, a review will be posted on this blog at a later date. A visible passion for the genre, familiarity with the European scene paired with an informal style of questioning that set the tone for an evening in which the panellists were made to feel completely relaxed and the audience were stimulated proved Institut Francais had picked the right person to referee the opening match between the World Cup and literature.
Playing for team Europe were Nicci French and Bernard Minier, unlocking the secrets of writing and confirming that within a crime book are moments every bit as dramatic as the action on a Brazilian soccer pitch.
Published in 2011 Bernard Minier’s print début The Frozen Dead was met with a warm reception, this tale of murder in a snowbound valley became an instant best-seller. The UK edition was issued in 2013 to widespread critical acclaim. Growing up at the foot of the Pyrenees Minier knew that the landscape was an incredible environment which would make the perfect backdrop for a Noir crime novel.
A lifelong love of literature was formed during primary school after hearing a teacher read Robinson Crusoe to the class. Entranced by the written word’s power he spontaneously decided that his life would be dedicated to crafting narratives. Cutting his literary teeth writing short fiction, he submitted stories to contests. This confidence building exercise replayed over many years sharpened his talent to the point that after completing a six hundred page draft of his première novel he was able to submit it to publishing houses with accompanying evidence of a clear vision for exciting future literary projects.
Describing himself as a “young, old writer” he worked as a civil servant whilst composing his first book. The product of two and a half years creating the cinematic vistas so elegantly described in The Frozen Dead was a lonely experience. With nobody to bounce ideas off he toiled away in relative isolation and wouldn’t allow anybody to see the product of his work before a publisher had given its verdict.
The sequel novel is currently being translated into English, a third has been released in France and a TV series is in the early stages of pre-production.
Former journalists Nicci Gerrard and Sean French write together under the pseudonym Nicci French. Masters of the genre, this husband and wife team, best known for a series of novels featuring psychotherapist Frieda Klein, have authored eighteen books. Thursday’s Child their most recent publication sees the analyst turned investigator confronting some painful demons as she returns to her home town.
Revealing a few tricks of the trade, Sean French admitted that sometimes the ideas which light the blue touch paper of the creative process are comparatively simple. The work begins when along with his writing partner he evaluates this creative seed to ascertain if it has potential to grow into something which will excite them over the many months of sculpting a narrative they hope will enthral their readers. Armed with that initial plot point they discuss why it needs to be written and once both are animated the hard work of translating it into compelling prose begins.
As Nicci Gerrard explained, the evaluation process doesn’t stop with the writing of a first draft, sometimes only after they have a finished manuscript in their hands is it possible to appraise the core concept’s worth. She once scrapped an entire novel after falling out of love with it but instantly got back in the saddle after becoming excited by a new story concept.
Currently working on the fifth Frieda Klein book, Nicci offered an insight into an author’s mind when she revealed that for most writers reaching the end of a book is a terrifying experience because of the fear that never again will be they be able to recreate the alchemy of transforming an idea into a dramatic book that readers are unable to put down. With acute perception Sean French noted that Stephen King’s two most terrifying novels concern writers; Misery and The Shining.
As London settled down to watch the première match of the soccer tournament Institut Francais provided an arena for some of the most distinct writers in Europe’s contemporary crime fiction scene to reveal details about their working methods, personal backgrounds, and approaches to genre. A relaxed and informative evening that gave those who were fortunate to attend an increased awareness of the precise disciplines required to create a book length manuscript.
The latest titles from all the authors appearing at Noir is the Colour can be ordered from Amazon:
For more information about Noir is the Colour contact:
Institut français, 17 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2DT
Info & booking: 020 7871 3515 – http://www.institut-francais.org.uk/