The Dalkey Book Festival takes place from the 15th to the 18th June, and it is one of the best literary festivals that Ireland has to offer. Salman Rushdie called it ‘the best little festival in the world’. Ten years ago, I would have asked Salman if he’d ever heard of Electric Picnic, but now, I’m a sensible person, trying to write a novel, so I’d be more inclined to agree with him.
It’s a joy to attend the festival, not only for the events, but also because the village of Dalkey itself is absolutely gorgeous. It seems to have cloistered itself from the insanity that is Dublin and its suburbs since the economy decided to resurrect itself. Even with the additional hubbub of the festival, it never feels crowded, just buzzy and exciting.
The festival itself had an incredibly eclectic line-up of speakers and panels this year, and topics ranged from the political, to the satirical. I had hoped to make a few of the events but this year, because there were so many good speakers, but I only had the time for one. Given that my own novel is a psychological thriller, I decided to attend Dalkey Noir. We have always enjoyed a wealth of incredible writing talent in Ireland, but at the moment there is a kind of a Golden Age of crime/thriller writing taking place here, particularly amongst female writers. The panel for this event was made up of female thriller writers and they discussed the current boom in crime/thriller writing and in particular the female authors that dominate the best-sellers lists.
The panel consisted of Liz Nugent, who interviewed Sinead Crowley and Jane Casey.
I was so excited that Liz Nugent was the interviewer, as I’ve just finished reading Unravelling Oliver, her excellent debut. I hoped to hear a bit about her own journey as a writer, but as good interviewers do, she was single-minded in her focus on her guests, Sinead Crowley (who writes thrillers set in a fictionalised Dalkey) and Jane Casey (of the successful Maeve Kerrigan series).
It was fascinating to hear about the backgrounds of these two writers, before they went on to become authors, how they ended up writing crime, the resources that they use to research their novels and where they find the inspiration for their writing.
They shared their views on why women write crime so well. Jane Casey believes that it has its roots in the fact that women are, from a young age, taught to see danger everywhere, and I agree with her on that.
They also discussed how technology has impacted the way that thrillers are written. Sinead Crowley observed that the thriller has had to transform itself significantly with the advent of the smartphone. Most thriller writers either totally embrace the new technology in their novels or set their novels in the past. Interestingly, I decided to set mine in the 1970’s and I didn’t really know why I was drawn to that era initially. Looking at it now I realise that at least one of the reasons why, is that if smartphones existed during the time my novel was set, it would be a completely different book.
It was a very enjoyable talk, and I learned a lot from three very accomplished women. I hope to follow in their bloody footprints one day.