‘NOIRELAND’ - The home of crime fiction

Tracy Mearns with Line of Duty star Adrian Dunbar.
Tracy Mearns with Line of Duty star Adrian Dunbar.

Lisburn woman Tracy Mearns was among hundreds of crime fiction enthusiasts who flocked to Northern Ireland’s first ever crime fiction festival last weekend. Tracy, who is married to local crime writer Steve Cavanagh, gives her take on what proved to be a hugely successful event...

Last weekend saw the launch of Belfast’s very first crime fiction festival. Cleverly entitled ‘NOIRELAND’ it was held over three days in the Europa Hotel and was the brainchild of David Torrans who is the owner of Northern Ireland’s only crime fiction bookstore, No Alibis.

Local crime writer Steve Cavanagh (left) with American author Robert Crais.

Local crime writer Steve Cavanagh (left) with American author Robert Crais.

For anyone expecting the inaugural festival to get off to a slow start they were in for a rude awakening as NOIRELAND burst onto the festival stage like a bullet from Harry Bosch’s gun, a knock-out punch from Jack Reacher and ran smoothly like a single malt whisky down the neck of John Rebus. This festival was simply world class and had booked the biggest names in crime fiction and in crime television shows alike.

Friday night saw New York Times best-selling author Brian McGilloway interviewing the cast of Line of Duty, with Adrian Dunbar taking centre stage. Afterwards authors and actors mingled in the hotel’s piano bar with readers and fans supping pints of Guinness and chatting happily.

This is the unique and wonderful attraction of a crime festival, everyone is there for the same reason, a love of the genre so readers, bloggers, authors and stars of the screen and stage are all on an equal footing and are just there to chat about books they’ve loved, to discover new authors and to chat about the hottest TV shows and movies around.

If you are an aspiring writer well, this festival is right up your alley as writing workshops were held by local authors Gerard Brennan and Claire McGowan and all those attending received expert advice and critique from two outstanding authors.

Tracy Mearns with award-winning crime novelist Adrian McKinty.

Tracy Mearns with award-winning crime novelist Adrian McKinty.

There are just far too many memorable events and authors to mention - Stuart Neville, Steve Mosby, Ruth Ware, Aiden Gillen, Liz Nugent, Craig Robertson, Arne Dahl, Sophie Hannah and Eoin McNamee being just a few - but my own personal festival highlights were attending the Identities panel which had Stella Duffy, Louise Welsh, Abir Mukherjee and Adrian McKinty in conversation.

Mr McKinty is simply a local superstar and his award winning Sean Duffy books set in Northern Ireland in the 1980s are stunning. Adrian is also probably the funniest man you are ever likely to meet and had the audience rolling in the aisles.

I was fortunate enough to have a couple of pints with him afterwards in the bar and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much in my life.

It was also with a sense of great pride that I watched my husband, author Steve Cavanagh, interviewing international bestseller Robert Crais, who is also one of Hollywood’s hottest screenwriters. Anyone heard of his shows Miami Vice, Cagney and Lacey, LA Law or Hill Street Blues? Of course you have! This was a fascinating insightful chat from a crime writing legend.

NOIRELAND drew to a close with Aiden Gillen closing proceedings and with everyone departing with smiles on their faces, overloaded with signed copies of the best crime fiction books, selfies with their favourite authors, stories to tell and looking forward to next year’s festival. Hope to see you there. You really don’t want to miss it.