Activities this Autumn

The Richmond Books and Boots Festival seems a long time ago now, though it took place between 25th September and 4th October, 2009. Perhaps it took me that long to recover! Also, between then and now, I have been on a two-week visit to South Africa, with stops for book events and dinners with Exclusive Books managers in Johannesburg, Durban and Capetown, all organised by South African publishers and distributors Jonathan Ball. And I have to say, they did us proud. It was first class treatment all the way, all handled smoothly and professionally by publicist Anika Ebrahim, who may not drink, but certainly knows a lot about which wines to order!

Among the highlights were “Fright Night” with Jenny Crwys-Williams at The Venue, Melrose Arch, Johannesburg; a launch at the Exclusive Books, at the Pavilion Mall, Durban; a dinner hosted by Jonathan Ball and his wife Pam at the Constantia Uitsig restaurant, outside Cape Town, where I had a long and interesting talk with local crime writer Margie Orford; and the Cape Times Literary Lunch at the wonderful Catharina’s rsetaurant on the Steenberg Estate, with Gorry Bowes-Taylor. Among the culinary delights of the trip were langoustines, warthog carpacccio, kudu and Namibian oysters. The wines were too wonderful and too numerous to list, but on a day spent visiting wineries around Stellenbosch and Franschhoek with Anika, Serai and our expert Meryke, we took in Meerlust, Tokara, Glen Carlou and Kanonkop, with lunch at the beautiful Haute Carbriere restaurant, with spectacular views over the valley near Franschhoek pass. Perhaps the highlight of the trip, though, was a three-day visit to the Mala Mala game reserve, adjacent to the Kruger National Park, where we saw lions, leopards, elephants, giraffes, buffalo, rhinos, zebra and many more animals close up in their natural habitats, and witnessed one or two examples of nature red in tooth and claw that I won’t forget in a hurry.

The Yorkshire summer wasn’t much better than last year’s, though there seemed enough fine days to go walking around Richmond, and the weather during the official “Inspector Banks” walk I led from Reeth during the festival couldn’t have been more lovely. I think the twenty or so people who walked with me had a good time, and there was, of course, a well-deserved pint of Jennings’ Sneck Lifter at the end, in The Bridge, at Grinton.

The festival events certainly kept me busy, and most of them were sold out well in advance. A few days before the walk, I interviewed Baroness Rendell of Babergh, better known to crime fans as Ruth Rendell, on stage at the Zetland Centre, Richmond. What was supposed to be about forty minutes plus Q and A turned into about sevently minutes plus a short Q and A, and we covered a range of topics, from her early work, through Barbara Vine, Wexford and non-Wexford, TV adaptations, Chabrol’s and Almodovar’s movie versions, to what Baroness Rendell has on her iPod.

Ruth Rendell with Peter Robinson.

A week or so later, I had an on-stage conversation with Ian Rankin at the same venue, against the backdrop for “Home on the Range,” Nobby Dimon’s excellent play about women from North Yorkshire on the Oregon Trail, which opened at the festival. For Ian and I, it was a reprise of similar events we’d done before in Harrogate and Toronto, and the conversation took in Rebus and beyond, Banks, music, movies, Yorkshire, Scotland, Canada and many other topics, again running longer than the allotted forty minutes. I just hope the audience enjoyed it as much as Ian and I did.

Peter chatting with Ian Rankin.

Finally, I had a musical event with the incomparable (or as Paul Morley called her that day in The Observer, “glamorously feisty”) Eliza Carthy, this time in the ballroom at the Kings Head Hotel in Richmond market square, the very same room where Franz Liszt performed a concert on 27th January, 1841. We did the same story we had done earlier in the year at the Beverley Folk Festival, “The Ferryman’s Beautiful Daughter.” Of course, the nuances turned out quite differently, as I think I was a little more responsive to the music, and Eliza was quite capricious this time.

Peter and Eliza Carthy.

After the story, we chatted on stage for a while, then Eliza performed a few songs, accompanying herself on violin, always the highlight of our events for me. One of the songs she sang was “I Wish That The Wars Were All Over,” definitely one of my favourites. At the end of the evening we adjourned to the hotel bar along with a few others and drank wine well into the night. I must thank Gilian Howells, for all her hard work in making the festival such a success. I’m already looking forward to next year!