Live sex and public executions

I have just spent four days at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, and had a great time.

Previously I’ve only dipped into various literary festivals, but at Harrogate I was wined and dined by my agent and publisher, met up with good friends and made some new ones. I even got to sign a copy of my novel. But what was more fascinating than any single event were those random elements that set the festival buzzing – the gossip, scandal, confrontation and vitriol. (Agatha Christie would have approved.)

Michael Grade apparently once said that the only sure-fire way to deliver television audience figures is to offer ‘live sex and public executions’.

Given today’s tweets about Stephen Leather’s contribution to Friday’s event, ‘Wanted for Murder: The E-Book’, Grade was spot on. Mark Lawson, who understands that his role is to ensure that the audience is entertained, chaired the panel and encouraged Leather to offer himself up for public execution, which he did very willingly. Not understanding that it wasn’t the facts and figures that enraged the audience, but his tone and attitude, Leather became the perfect gladiatorial victim, allowing Mark Billingham – the festival organiser but speaking with passion from the floor – to emerge as the hero of the hour.

As for the live sex … 

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4 thoughts on “Live sex and public executions

  1. Janet O'Kane says:

    ‘ . . . it wasn’t the facts and figures that enraged the audience, but his tone and attitude.’ Exactly. But I don’t suppose he cares. I doubt many of us who were there are his target market, what with being so female and elderly.

  2. SL says on his own blog “Mark came over to me in the green room before the panel and had a quiet word with me. Basically there is a danger of the panels turning into a luvvie love-fest and he wanted me to take a view and be a tad confrontational if at all possible. He wanted the panel to be the talking point of the festival. I’m never one to duck a good argument so I said I’d go for it.”

    MB was the back of the room heckler (aided by those sitting near him) and he was the one who shouted tosser.

    2 + 2 = ?

    But I wonder if SL went too far in the heat of the moment on stage. (And I certainly don’t find his post event comments online to be impressive.)

    But it has people talking of course…

  3. Thankfully, we were spared live sex. There’s always next year for that development…

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