Both last Saturday, and the Saturday before, I made the scenic journey from York to Richmond, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales to appear at Books and Boots, Richmond’s Festival of Walking and Books. I chose the scenic route because it was important to avoid the direct route, the A1, unless I wanted to arrive sweating and stressed out with road rage. Not the best approach to a book festival with ‘walking’ in the title, a festival which celebrates two extremely civilised activities. Perhaps I should have walked there, but my current fitness levels would have demanded I set off about a week in advance and given that I was invited to both weekends, I wouldn’t have got home before it was time to set off again.
On the first Saturday, I appeared on a panel with the wonderful Peter Robinson, creator of the Inspector Banks series of books, televised with Stephen Tomkinson in the lead as DCI Banks. There was an audience of around eighty people who were full of interesting and challenging questions. We had a great conversation with lots of laughter and I was delighted by how many people bought books at the event. Both Peter and I had long signing queues.
A week later, I returned as the guest of a specially convened Reader’s Circle at Richmond library. The audience had read Bones in the Nest as the book festival Chosen Read. Some had also read To Catch a Rabbit, either before Bones, or afterwards, to find out where the characters started their journey. We delved into plot and character, the nature of soap operas and how to give enough information in a series novel to keep people up to speed, if they read them out of order. It was extraordinarily humbling to sit in a room of twelve people who have such detailed knowledge of the words and ideas that had bubbled up and become Bones in the Nest. Politics and poetry got a mention; it was a safe space for both, and I felt I’d made new friends, and my books had made new friends too.
The invitation to the Walking and Book Festival came from Castle Hill Books. A wonderful gem of an independent bookshop, nestled at the feet of Richmond Castle. I first visited the shop in 2013, as part of Independent Booksellers Week, so I was delighted to re-connect with Wendy and Liz, and with Ann, the former owner, who came to the Reader’s Circle, as well as meeting Stuart, the current owner, who treated Peter and I, our spouses, and some friends of the bookshop, to a wonderful meal at Rustique restaurant, another Richmond gem.
I’m taking a step back from events over the winter while I get on with some writing (I know, but it has to be done), but what a joy to have been able to appear at Richmond, a small but perfectly formed festival of avid readers and enthusiastic booksellers. Check it out next year, if you’re in the area.