Last Sunday morning at Crimefest, I moderated a panel given the tag-line ‘Edge of Doom’ – in effect, about suspense and pushing characters as far as you dare. The four panellists were authors who have published with great success, but not for that many years, and (apart from a brief chat with Caro Ramsay a year back), I’d never met them before this week-end.
When you are moderating a panel discussion, you want to make sure that everyone gets their chance to speak, and also that the conversation is both informative and informal – so that the audience feels that they like, and are interested in, the people who are talking, and might therefore be inclined to like their books. Usually, I know at least one or two of the panellists when I’m moderating, but on this occasion I wasn’t at all sure in advance how things would go. One option would have been to draw up a fairly rigid framework, but that doesn’t seem appealing to me, and the panellists expressed a similar view when we exchanged emails in advance of the week-end.
As things turned out, I needn’t have worried. Caro, Brian McGilloway (like Len Tyler and Aliya Whiteley, a product of the excellent Macmillan New Writing project), M.R.Hall and Steven Hague interacted extremely well with each other and each of them had plenty of interest to say. They were a diverse group, and I felt this added to the pleasure of the morning. A special word for Steven, who has published just one novel so far, and who had never participated in a crime panel before that Sunday (when he did it twice!). He contributed with the assurance of a seasoned performer. I was impressed.