Off the Shelf celebrates a new golden age of crime writing
By Professor Chris Wigginton, Faculty of Development and Society, Sheffield Hallam University
I am delighted that we have been able to curate a crime theme for this year’s Off the Shelf Festival of Words. The series of events are truly reflective of the breadth and depth of the very best crime writing of today.
Both the city and the festival have long celebrated crime and writing in its variety of forms and genres, and it is upon these foundations that we wanted to develop something with slightly more critical mass for this year’s festival. Not only do we have a dedicated crime afternoon, but the theme runs as a strand throughout the festival and includes some of the world’s most talented fiction and non-fiction crime authors.
We hope that our crime theme will complement the growing number of specialised crime writing festivals that have emerged over the recent years in the UK and beyond. The popularity of crime writing has never been greater and in many ways this is a new ‘golden age’ of crime writing, an age that is concerned with the matters of today, even when the writing is historically focussed.
Whilst non-fiction writing about crime often clearly depicts events that have a contemporary resonance, it is also the case that fiction mediates the world and time from which it is written.
Several of the writers appearing as part of the crime theme are concerned with social justice and morality – and indeed personal and ethical responsibility – in a world (or worlds) whose moral code has exploded. Similarly, much of the writing we have in the festival is about borders – hard and soft, geographical or metaphorical – and what it takes or means to cross or breach these.
On a personal note, curating the festival’s crime theme has been very much a labour of love. Not only did I grow up on a diet of crime fiction and films that continues to this day, but I also avidly discuss and share recommendations with friends, family and colleagues. I hope that this year’s festival opens up many more of these conversations. We certainly have been fortunate to have the very best writers contributing to this section of the festival and I, for one, cannot wait for it to begin.
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