Last weekend was the annual CrimeFest convention, held as always at the Marriot Royal Hotel in Bristol. This year was the tenth anniversary, which meant some of the most popular authors from the last decade turned out to help celebrate. These included Lee Child, Jeffery Deaver, Martina Cole, Peter James, and Simon Brett, as well as a host of other crime and thriller writers of all sub-genres.


The Marriott Royal Hotel, home of CrimeFest

I thoroughly enjoy events like CrimeFest, not simply for the opportunity to appear on panels, but for the general mixing and conversations you get to have with other writers, editors, bloggers, reviewers, publishers and, of course, with the most important section of those present, the readers.


Standing (or sitting) room only. I don’t flatter myself too much that they’d come to see me, as Lee Child was also on the panel!

As I was getting out of a lift in the hotel, someone made the comment that they were “just a reader.” I was quick to correct them. “Oh no, you’re never JUST a reader!”  They’re our reason for being. Without readers, after all, us scribblers would be left muttering to ourselves in an empty room.

notes from a panel

Don’t know who’d written this, but can’t help thinking that the abandoned name tag might be a clue…

Fortunately, there were no empty rooms last weekend. It was standing room only in many of the panels, including the ‘Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang’ classic thrillers panel, but I suspect that was largely because Lee Child was on it, along with reviewer Jake Kerridge in the moderator’s chair, CJ Carver, Mike Ripley and myself. The panel title was taken from Mike Ripley’s latest book,

Thriller panel 01- Phill Syron-Jones

The Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang Classic Thriller panel. From l to r: Moderator Jake Kerridge, Lee Child, CJ Carver, Mike Ripley, ZS. I don’t know who cracked a joke, but clearly Mike didn’t find it half as funny as I did! Pic courtesy of Phill Syron-Jones

After this panel, I was fortunate enough to be approached by celebrated biographer and fiction author, Sally Cline, who is writing a book about female thriller authors. She wants to include me in her latest work, which is hugely flattering. Had I not been there and she had not heard me speak, it’s doubtful our paths would have crossed.

Indie panel 02-David Penny

Ooh, very serious! Pic courtesy of David Penny

The bookroom, which at CrimeFest was run by Edouard Gallais and Adam Weeks from Waterstones at Bristol Galleries, is a valuable opportunity to see tables full of crime and thriller novels all laid out side by side. I always find this incredibly useful to look at the different styles of cover design and read the jacket copy descriptions.


Always a thrill to find your own books on display.

Plus I brought home a few, too, to keep me occupied, including Lee Child’s latest, the first in the Marc Portman series by Adrian Magson, and an extra copy of the CrimeFest anthology, Ten Year Stretch. As so many of the contributors to the anthology were attending the event, the organisers had a group signing for all those who wanted to grab signatures. (I’ve always said I’ll sign anything except a blank cheque or a confession.)

CrimeFest books

Some of my book haul from CrimeFest. The top one is the lone advance copy left of my new crime thriller standalone

I was moderating the Indie Alternative panel, on which four indie or hybrid authors took part. This year, those writers were Ian Andrew, Karen Millie-James, Alison Morton, and Debbie Young.

Indie panel 01-David Penny

The Indie Alternative panel, from l to r: ZS, Alison Morton, Debbie Young, Karen Millie-James, Ian Andrew. Pic courtesy of David Penny

Not only do they write a wide selection of books, from straight thriller to cosy village mystery, and cross-genre to alternative history (rhyming not intended) but they were all knowledgeable and informative about the indie publishing route they’d taken. Ian has started his own company, Book Reality, and Debbie particularly mentioned the Alliance of Independent Authors for their expertise and assistance.

Indie panel 03-David Penny

In the signing room after the Indie Alternative panel. Can’t you see the relief on their faces? Pix courtesy of David Penny


I talked to another author a couple of days after CrimeFest, who had not attended as they hadn’t been able to get a panel. “You missed a treat,” I said. Writing is a solitary occupation most of the time, and the chance to get together, to compare notes, to catch up on the latest trends in both publishing and marketing, is invaluable. Not to mention the thrill of meeting and talking to readers. What’s not to like?

Toz helping me unpack after CrimeFest

Tosca helped me unpack when I got back from CrimeFest.

This week’s Word of the Week is egregious meaning outstandingly bad, although it used to be a compliment, as the word also has an archaic meaning of something that is remarkably good, coming from the Latin egregius meaning preeminent, excellent, extraordinary. The literal translation is ‘Rising above the flock’ from the phrase ex grege. Ex meaning ‘out of’ and grege, from grex ‘herd, flock’. In a legal context, egregious refers to actions or conduct that is wrong beyond any reasonable measure.

CrimeFest – where the pen is bloodier than the sword – celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, with one of its best-ever programs, in which I am once again privileged to participate. The event well deserves its accolade from ‘The Guardian’ newspaper as one of “the best 50 festivals in the world.”

  • Saturday, May 19th @ 9:00 – 9:50am
    ‘W Is For Woman – Something To Prove?’
    Sharan Newman (Moderator), Jane Casey, Niki Mackay, Christine Poulson, Zoë Sharp
  • Saturday, May 19th @ 2:00 – 2:50pm
    ‘Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang: Classic Thrillers’
    Jake Kerridge (Moderator), CJ Carver, Lee Child, Mike Ripley, Zoë Sharp
  • Sunday, May 20th @ 9:30 – 10:20am
    The Indie Alternative
    Zoë Sharp (Moderator), Ian Andrew, Karen Millie-James, Alison Morton, Debbie Young.

Ten Year Street anthology coverTwenty superb new crime stories have been commissioned specially to celebrate the tenth anniversary of CrimeFest, described by The Guardian as ‘one of the fifty best festivals in the world’.

A star-studded international group of authors has come together in crime writing harmony to provide a killer cocktail for noir fans, in the form of Ten Year Stretch: Celebrating a Decade of Crime Fiction at CrimeFest.

I’ve been an attending author at CrimeFest since its inaugural event in Bristol when it was actually Left Coast Crime. Since then, I’ve hardly missed a year and I’m a huge fan of the festival. So, I was honoured to be invited to submit a story for Ten Year Stretch, although I confess I still hanker after the title that was originally suggested—Decade Bodies.

Published this month (April) by No Exit Press, the foreword is by international bestselling thriller writer Peter James. The editors are Martin Edwards, responsible for many award-winning anthologies, and Adrian Muller, CrimeFest co-founder.

All royalties are donated to the RNIB Talking Books Library. The anthology is available in Kindle and paperback from and, and in EPUB format from leading retailers.

The contributors to Ten Year Stretch are: Bill Beverly, Simon Brett, Lee Child, Ann Cleeves, Jeffery Deaver, Martin Edwards, Kate Ellis, Peter Guttridge, Sophie Hannah, John Harvey, Mick Herron, Donna Moore, Caro Ramsay, Ian Rankin, James Sallis, Zoë Sharp, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Maj Sjowall, Michael Stanley and Andrew Taylor.

My own contribution is ‘Caught on Camera’, a snapshot of what might be our future in post-Brexit Britain where the best of the police force is now in private hands. It follows the start of newly-minted Detective Olivia Milton’s first day on the job, the ink still wet on her university police degree. She thinks she has a lot to offer her new boss, the highly experienced Lieutenant Job. She has a lot to learn.