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Belfast festival will celebrate Northern Ireland crime novelists

The rise in locally-produced crime fiction will be showcased at an event in Belfast this weekend. (stock picture)
The rise in locally-produced crime fiction will be showcased at an event in Belfast this weekend. (stock picture)

By Donna Deeney

The rise in locally-produced crime fiction will be showcased at an event in Belfast this weekend.

The Noireland festival at the Europa Hotel offers aspiring novelists the chance to pick up tips from established home-grown and international authors.

It is one of the UK's premier events for bringing together big names in crime fiction, who will share their experience with those beginning their journey towards becoming a published author.

Angela McMahon, the co-director of the festival, said the crime fiction scene has evolved over the past two decades.

She said: “In the mid 90s there were one or two crime writers coming out of Northern Ireland and the crime being written about was  reflective of the Troubles but as time as gone by there has been a huge Renaissance in crime fiction and within Northern Ireland some brilliant names have been coming forward.

“Irish people love crime fiction and I think that has encouraged people to start writing their own.

“We are lucky in that we have some world class writers who have been picking up awards and best sellers and for the size of Northern Ireland that is extraordinary.

 “Northern Ireland has become quiet an interesting place to write about but more than that, the crime fiction world is evolving but we are also looking outward and I think that is what Noireland is trying to do.

“We are saying, this is what is going on in Northern Ireland but we are also bringing people over here and have a really interesting mix of crime writers from right across the world.”

Belfast-based solicitor Steve Cavanagh is among relatively new names making huge waves in the crime fiction scene.

Cavanagh wrote his first book The Defence in 2015 which was later followed by the Gold Dagger award-winning The Liar and the critically acclaimed Thirteen.

He said: “I always loved crime fiction and writers like Lee Child, John Connelly and Michael Connelly were my inspiration and was amazed to learn that Lee Child who writes the Jack Reacher books isn’t American at all.

“That made me wonder if maybe I could do that because there were so many brilliant writers writing about Northern Ireland.

“There are a varied number of writers from Northern Ireland who are writing America based thrillers

“Writers are all very supportive of each other, none of us is in competition with each other and that is important and it is important to share our experiences with people who are interested in writing crime fiction.

“It is hard to get an agent, I had around 40 rejection but once I had an agent I had no problem getting a publishers so keeping going is the important thing.

Finn Og is a Co Down-born fledgling writer hoping to follow in the footsteps of Cavanagh and other successful local crime writers.

He is writing the third in a trilogy of crime novels about a lone wolf called Sam who confronts very 21 century crimes such as people trafficking while dealing with his own human frailties in a hard hitting, no punches spared, page turner of a book.

He said: “I went to Noireland last year and sat at the back of the room just listening to what other writers  had to say.

“It makes you feel you are not on your own and  I was inspired to write about all the really horrific things I had witnessed in places around the world but to set them in the context of a novel that people will hopefully want to read.”

Brian McGilloway, author of the hugely successful Inspector Devlin and Lucy Black series, set in the wider North West area of Northern Ireland, penned his first novel, Borderlands in 2002 which took five years to get published.

He thinks the seeming unquenchable appetite for crime fiction by Northern Ireland writers has not gone unnoticed by publishers who are now showing a level of enthusiasm which was sadly lacking previously.

McGilloway said he was inspired by a post Good Friday Agreement Northern Ireland and the idea of a story based here that wasn’t Troubles-related.

He said: "One of the things that encouraged me to start writing was having someone like Ian Rankin who was writing about modern day Edinburgh and having success from it and again with John Connelly who was someone from Dublin and was able to write these fantastic thriller.

“That inspired me to think, if someone can set a crime novel in Edinburgh, then someone can set a crime novel in Strabane or Derry.

“I think it is fantastic that publishers are now seeking out Northern Ireland because for a long time there was a real resistance from publishers in sending anyone here.

“When Borderlands came out in 2007, Declan Burke had set up a blog about Irish crime writing and he had a list of about 15 Irish crime writers and his list now is about 200.

“There has certainly been an explosion in Northern Ireland and it all good -  I think this will only encourage more people to try writer and the more the merrier.”

David Torrans owner of No Alibis Book store in Belfast who has been credited as a leading force in creating the environment that has helped create so many successful and aspiring crime writers believes there is still more to come.

He said: “I think there will be a continuation but I would like to see more female writers because there seems to be a bit of an imbalance in the North but that is steadily changing.

I think it definitely will happen because while there are lots of fine male crime writers out there who try and encompass the idea of gender and what it means within crime fiction but we want to hear female voices.

People like Sharon Dempsey, Clare McGowan and Kelly Creighton are all authors who write about this place who are all new authors that I would love to hear more from.

“Historically it is the female voices on so many levels that have actually been one who have paved the way.

I don’t think there is a gender barrier in crime fiction but I think we need to get more of them writing in that fashion but I do think that will happen.”

The full programme details can be viewed at www.noireland.com

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