Gollancz Fest 2014: Ben Aaronovitch

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There are plenty of book events to visit in the UK and beyond (including Iceland Noir in November), but today publisher Gollancz took a bold step with its inaugural virtual festival featuring dozens of its authors on social media. And there was plenty of interest for crime lovers.

The digital element of the Gollancz Festival 2014 includes Facebook Q&As, Twitter updates, interactive video interviews, author readings and their favourite one-star reviews. All the news and events post during the day are featured here.

The digital programme was followed by a more familiar type of festival event tonight at Waterstones Piccadilly, featuring panels and readings with authors including horror writer Joe Hill, Joanne Harris (who’s written fantasy, thrillers and romance) and Ben Aaronovitch, who’s melded crime and magic in his series featuring London cop Peter Grant.


Wizard cops
Aaronovitch was certainly the biggest draw for crime readers – as long as they’re willing to accept a supernatural element. His Rivers of London series continues in November with Foxglove Summer, the fifth book about a branch of the Metropolitan Police that deals with magic. The novels have been so successful there’s even a plaque dedicated to this former Waterstones bookseller at the Covent Garden store where he dreamed up plots for Peter Grant.

“I like police procedurals and I like magic and science, so I thought what if there was a police squad that did magic?” he said in a video interview with associate publisher Simon Spanton for the festival. “What if there were wizards on the police? A squad that did the arcane stuff – that is where the basic idea came from.”

He added that he was inspired by Columbo – the shambling LA detective with a clapped-out car who never got into fights – to invert certain crime clichés. So Grant, unlike many literary cops, “really likes being a policeman, gets on well with his superiors, is actively romantic but not tragically so… And he’s not white.”

Aaronovitch did a reading from Foxglove Summer, which is a change of scene for the policeman and would-be wizard. “Peter Grant was too comfortable in London, so I decided to send him off to the countryside to see what he made of that – but only for one book,” said Aaronovitch, hastily reassuring his team at Gollancz.


Big in Germany
The series has enjoyed huge success in the UK and abroad thanks in part to its evocative, contemporary London setting. Apparently he has a particularly loyal following in Germany.

“Germans like crime and they don’t have this very narrow vision of crime,” said Aaronovitch. “They have a whole range of crime ranging from very cosy Bavarian mysteries to your usual detectives who can’t get out of bed because they’re so depressed.”


Gollancz specialises in science fiction and fantasy, so if you’re looking for crime with a twist then there are some intriguing authors to discover at this festival.

Crime meets fantasy
John Hornor Jacobs’s The Incorruptibles, published on 14 August, is a gritty fantasy with a contemporary hardboiled feel and a pair of roguish mercenaries. Jacobs says he was inspired by ancient Rome as depicted in Lindsay Davis’s Falco series and the tough westerns of Elmore Leonard. We’ll be reviewing it on CFL this month.

There are shades of John le Carré in Peter Higgins’s science fiction thrillers Wolfhound Century and Truth and Fear, which are set in an alternative Russia. Adam Roberts’s Jack Glass was inspired by locked room mysteries and the works of Michael Innes, while Hannu Rajaniemi’s far future protagonist is modelled on Arsène Lupin, the gentleman thief created by Maurice Leblanc in 1905.

Foxglove Summer is published on 13 November. For more crime events click here.

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