Season’s Greetings From The Dorset Book Detective

Thank you very kindly for supporting The Dorset Book Detective blog throughout 2020. I’m taking some well-deserved time off, so I thought I’d post this message early to let you know how much I love and appreciate everyone who has supported me over the past 12 months.

I appreciate that this has been a dreadful year, but all of the support and help has really made a huge difference.

Personally, I’ve not always had the emotional or physical strength to be as supportive as I would have liked, but I have tried my very best to be kind.

It’s not been an easy year, but I’ve still had a lot of support from others, including regular readers, authors, book promoters, blog tour organisers and others.

Everyone has done an amazing job of helping me to create my content, so I’m externally grateful. My blog wouldn’t be possible without support and encouragement, so thank you so much.

To wrap up, have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Five Incredible Long Reads To Keep You Entertained Over Christmas 2020

Christmas 2020 is going to be a strange one, but with restrictions being eased for a few days, some individuals will be travelling as usual.

Even if you’re not travelling, you’ll probably find yourself with a lot of extra time on your hands, as you’re not able to attend the parties and family gatherings that you usually go to during the festive season.

With so much extra time, you have no excuse not to curl up by the fire in a warm blanket with your favourite snacks and reading.

While the length of a book isn’t usually a big issue, shorter texts mean that you’ll have to take more books with you on your journey, and that you’ll have to get up and grab another, which is a pain when you’re already comfortable.

That’s why I’ve listed 5 amazing long reads that will keep you out of trouble during the festive season this year.

5. A Promised Land: Barack Obama wasn’t a perfect president, but he is a good man with incredible moral standards and a unique vision for his country. While he has written non-fiction books before, A Promised Land is the first part of his series of memoirs, which detail his life experiences, including becoming the first black president of America. The book goes charts his journey from his first political ambitions through to his time in the White House, and the challenges he faced trying to unite America and battle against a corrupt system and systematic racism. His wife’s memoir, Becoming, is an amazing read, and the same can be said for A Promised Land.

4. Vesper Flights: Written by the author of the incredible H Is For Hawk, Vesper Flights is a collection of nature essays from this renowned nature expert. Helen Macdonald shares her thoughts on a wide range of topics, including trees, nests, mushrooms and even the issues that come when farming ostriches. Much like its predecessor, the book is a combination of pastoral excellence and personal memoir, making it a fascinating insight into both the natural world and Macdonald’s life. As a collection of essays, it makes for varied reading that will ensure that you’re enthralled throughout your time travelling or curling up in front of a warm fire with a tub of celebrations. As a non-fiction book, Vesper Flights is not only enjoyable to read, but it will also inform you and teach you about both the world of nature and human nature itself.

3. Furious Hours: If you’re a fan of true crime, then Casey Cep’s Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud And The Trials Of Harper Lee could be the perfect option. It’s split into three parts; the first tells the tale of the Reverend Willie Maxwell, whose family members died in mysterious circumstances only for the Reverend to collection on their insurance policies. Then Cep moves on to the tale of the Reverend’s murder, at the funeral of his stepdaughter, who was also killed in mysterious circumstances and with a large insurance policy waiting for the Reverend to collect on. Finally, the author moves on to the tale of how Harper Lee, author of the acclaimed To Kill A Mockingbird, tried and failed to document the murders and create a book to rival Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. The book is an incredible true crime expose that will keep you intrigued for many hours over Christmas.

2. Troy: The follow-up to Mythos and Heroes, Troy: Our Greatest Story Retold is Stephen Fry’s latest attempt to make the Greek myths accessible to those who aren’t classics scholars. The book brings the myths and legends of the city of Troy into a whole new light. It’s a long book that breathe new life into these classic tales. Fry has an amazing knack for turning complicated topics into accessible books (his poetry book The Ode Less Travelled is a fantastic primer for anyone looking to get into writing, reading and generally understanding poetry), and he uses it again when writing Troy. If you want to learn and be entertained at the same time, then this a perfect book for you to grab before you head off on your Christmas holidays.

1. The Killings at Kingfisher Hill: The latest in Sophie Hannah’s series of reimagined Hercule Poirot novels is engaging and unique. It incorporates the unique nature of the protagonist with new, creative story lines. The novels would make the original Queen Of Crime, Agatha Christie, incredibly proud.  In this latest novel, Poirot and his sidekick, Sophie Hannah’s own creation named Inspector Catchpool, try to uncover the truth behind a series of mysterious deaths at Kingfisher Hill, a fancy private housing estate. Even before the pair arrives at their destination, they encounter unusual occurrences that give them a taste of the strangeness that’s still to come. For mystery and crime fiction fans, this is a must-read.

Awesome Crime Fiction Books To Give As Christmas Gifts

Following on from my Christmas Gift Guide for 2020, I’ve decided to put together a selection of amazing crime fiction, thriller and mystery novels that make for great presents.

While book-themed presents are awesome, if you must get your friends and family books, then you want to make sure that you choose a beautiful book that is enticing and will look amazing in their home.

After all, grabbing the latest off the bestseller list doesn’t require a lot of effort, and that shows. If you want to prove your love for the crime fiction reader in your life, then you need to find them an edition that they can cherish.

That’s why I’ve listed some awesome novels that will entice all thrill-seekers; whether they’re already major crime fiction fans or you want to introduce them to the genre.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection

As most of the Sherlock Holmes tales are out of copyright, it’s possible to pick up beautiful, illustrated versions for less than £20 at many online and physical bookstores. The books promise many hours of fun and are an amazing gift for fans of the Sherlock TV show or anyone who just loves Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s intuitive and ingenious sleuth. Many collections have all four of the full-length novels plus most of the short stories, so readers will be kept busy during the early months of 2021 with this collection.

A Folio Society Edition Of Their Favourite Mystery Novel

I’m a huge fan of the Folio Society’s gorgeous illustrated novels, so if you know a crime fiction fan who deserves a treat this Christmas, then why not treat them to a glorious edition of their favourite novel? I’d recommend the Folio Society’s stunning version of Agatha Christie’s classic The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd, but there’s plenty to choose from, ranging from classics through to modern mystery masterpieces. There are also books from a variety of other genres and non-fiction works, so there’s something for everyone. Each piece is stunningly illustrated and beautifully bound to give it a prestigious and unique look that’s perfect for any sophisticated home. As a result, you’ll be able to select the perfect gift for the book lover in your life no matter what their tastes.

One (Or All) Of The Bodies From The Library Anthology

The Bodies From The Library anthology series has three versions, each featuring an overview of the Golden Age of Crime Fiction from expert and editor Tony Medawar, followed by a selection of incredible short stories and novellas from renowned writers from this pivotal period in crime fiction history. Many of the stories are either previously unpublished or haven’t been issued in a collection before, and have only appeared in obscure newspapers decades ago. As such, you’ll be able to give an amazing gift to someone in your life who loves cosy, Golden Age crime fiction stories. Each anthology has a selection of work from renowned writers of the time, such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers, as well as lesser-known writers from the period such as J. J. Connington, Freeman Wills Crofts, Georgette Heyer and many more. As such, readers get to find new favourite Golden Age crime writers as well as check out previously unknown work from the authors they already know and love.

I hope this guide helps you to find the perfect Christmas present for the crime fiction, mystery and thriller reader that you know and love. Stay safe this festive season and make it a merry one!

The Dorset Book Detective’s Christmas Gift Guide For 2020

If you’re shopping for presents for book lovers and avid readers, but don’t want to get them an impersonal gift certificate or add to their collection of books, then this is the gift guide for you.

Like my past guides, all of the gifts in this gift guide are unique products that can make their lives more fun. Rather than adding to their collection of books, you can get them cool products and experiences that they’ll love.

This year has been insane, so it’s understandable that Christmas will be a little bit different this year. Still everyone wants to make the people they love feel happy this festive season, which means finding not only great snacks for them to eat but also amazing gifts that they can treasure.

No one wants, or needs, more tat- the best gifts are the ones that they will use for many years to come. Finding those presents can be tough, which is why I put together an annual gift guide to help you find presents for the readers you know and love.

Without any further ado, here’s my guide to buying gifts for book lovers in 2020. Instead of a gift voucher or another book, try one of these slightly different options.

A Subscription Box For Their Favourite Series

If you know someone who loves a particular series, such as Harry Potter (despite J.K. Rowling’s flaws) or The Lord Of The Rings, then you can get a cool subscription box for them. They can receive mystery items of a specific value that allow them to show off their love of their favourite series of books. Find a box that gives them a selection of lovely treats and has good reviews, then order them either a one-off mystery box or an on-going subscription for a gift that keeps on giving.

Tickets To A Virtual Literary Event

Thanks to the pandemic, many authors and literary festival organisers have moved their events online. Some events are free to watch, but others require payment to get a ticket and attend. A ticket to a virtual event is easier to enjoy than a ticket to a physical experience, as your friend or family member won’t need to take time off, get a baby/ pet sitter or travel to the venue. Instead, they can use your ticket to enjoy an engaging talk from the comfort of their own home, so long as they have a good Internet connection. If you know their favourite author, then try and find a talk that they’re giving online and buy them a ticket, so they can enjoy an experience rather than a piece of junk that they don’t need and probably won’t use more than once.

A Freestanding Bookcase

If you know someone who loves books and is always buying more, but never seems to have anywhere to put them, then you could try buying them a cool freestanding bookcase. Some larger bookcases require assembly, which will give them a fun (or frustrating) activity for Boxing Day. Alternatively, you could get them a small freestanding bookcase that doesn’t need assembly. I personally have a little spinning bookshelf that’s about 2 foot high that I bought for a fiver from a charity shop and I love it. It’s the best piece of furniture I own, and I’d recommend getting one for anyone who loves books even half as much as I adore them. They’ll receive a physical present that they will actually use that makes them happy.

Handmade Book Ornament

Over recent years, a big trend in crafting has seen many creative turn old books into beautiful ornaments. Many people cut out the pages of books to create unique products that look quirky and can be personalised. Consider checking out Facebook marketplace or Etsy to find a small manufacture who can hand make a innovative book ornament that your friend and family member will enjoy. These stunning cutout books are a great way to reduce waste by not throwing out old books that no one wants to read anymore, but which are still good to be used to brighten up your friends’ homes.

I hope this gift guide gives you some inspiration. Good luck finding the perfect gift for the book lovers in your life!

The 5 Best Louis L’Amour Novels For Western Lovers

This week, I’ve decided to show you my favourite novels by a renowned western novelist. Like crime fiction, westerns are a great pandemic read because they’re interesting, action-packed and easy to read.

Crime fiction is the literary genre of the pandemic because it is a thrilling escape that’s easy to read and comes in a wide variety of styles.

There’s a crime fiction author for everyone, and the same could be said for adventure or western authors.

As someone who loves western films, I was excited when I realized that many were based on books.

Over recent weeks, I’ve discovered a wide range of western authors who have created amazing stories set in the Wild West. While some authors have problematic representations of women and other races, these are often the products of their time, and some are surprisingly progressive.

I’ve enjoyed a lot of westerns when I needed to read a book that was exciting but not too complicated. One of my favorite authors is Louis L’Amour, mostly because some of his novels have been made into movies starring the amazing Sam Elliott.

As a big fan of Elliott, who’s the epitome of the old west, I found L’Amour quickly and enjoyed reading his books. He wrote many dozens of short novels throughout his career, so there’s a lot to choose from. Most of these novels are westerns, although some are longer epics and others are incredible action adventures.

If you’re looking for gripping tales of the Wild West filled with action and hardboiled characters, then check out my list of his top five.

5. Son of a Wanted Man: One of several novels featuring one or more members of the Sackett family, this novel is about an outlaw who’s looking for someone to take over his reign. His adopted son is the favourite, but he’s not a lawbreaker, and so he’s stuck in a tug of war between his adopted family and lawmakers who want him to use his skills with guns and knives for good, not criminal deeds. The novel is gripping and an intriguing study of good and bad in the Wild West. The Sacketts are reoccurring characters, and this is one great book that features some of them. 

4. Silver Canyon: This novel, which is both set and published in the late 1950s, is a creative western that focuses on a young drifter and gunslinger, named Matt Brennan. This protagonist is a favourite of L’Amour, and he creates them well, making gripping individuals who are an intense combination of rugged and believable. In this novel, the protagonist falls in love while travelling around, and gets caught up in a fight between warring factions in her hometown to win her freedom to be with him.

3. The Lonesome Gods: In this book, a young man is abandoned by his family and left to die in the desert. Partially raised by native Americans, he becomes an educated and gentle man who enjoys adventure but also has deep emotions. He falls in love, but his path to happiness is blocked by the past as it hurtles to catch up with him. This novel gives a great insight into a variety of different religions and cultures in rural California. It’s an epic tale that will keep you hooked from the first page to the final one.

2. The Sackett Brand: There are more than a dozen novels featuring the Sackett family, and I’ve not read all of them, but I have checked out a few, and this later novel is my favourite featuring these proud characters. The family has a unique code of conduct, and every novel that they feature in is intriguing and riveting. In The Sackett Brand, L’Amour’s renowned family of outlaws, ranchers and more face off against a band of gangsters who are threatening Tell Sackett. The action is fast-paced and the reader quickly becomes immersed in this enticing and beguiling novel.

1. The Quick And The Dead: This short, enticing novel can be read in one sitting, and it won’t disappoint. One of the best things about L’Amour is that he jumps straight into the action; we’re immediately introduced to a stranger, who comes upon a family travelling and joins them for coffee. While sitting with them, he mentions that he noticed that their horses have been stolen by a local band of criminals. What ensues is a gripping chase across the west and a unique study of human nature.

Oh Goody Another Lockdown: Get Your Books In Quickly

As you’ve probably noticed if you’re in the UK, we’re going into another lockdown because of the Government’s incompetence.

I’m sure you’re excited for the prospect of being stuck in the house again, so while you’ve got a couple of days left of non-essential shopping, you should buy yourself some treats to keep yourself entertained.

While some people enjoyed puzzles or cooking delicious treats, most people reading this blog post love reading books. There’s a book for everyone, so you can find something fun to keep yourself occupied throughout the next month.

Online shopping will still be allowed, but you should probably get your books in while you can. Being able to buy your books from independent bookstores means that you can use your few remaining days to support small, local companies and booksellers before they go through another period of turmoil.

So, when you’re stocking up on treats and books before the lockdown starts, try taking a trip to your favourite local bookstore. Once the lockdown begins in earnest, you should try your best to buy from small local stores that offer home delivery. If they don’t, then try to buy through their Amazon store, but remember that big companies like them take a lot of cash from small businesses, so if you can buy direct, then do so.

If you’re not able to buy from an independent bookstore, then consider contacting the author directly to find out the best way to buy their books. Many smaller authors, and even some bigger ones, are happy to respond to readers and let them know the best place to buy their work. Sometimes, they have their own online store on their website, or their own Amazon account, so that you can get your money directly to your favourite writer.

Another great way to support your favourite writers during the lockdown is to post a quick review online. Consider setting up a Goodreads or leaving a review on Amazon to give them a little extra publicity. These are hard time we’re living in, and writers are the best. Without good books and poems to read, no one would get through this hard time with their mental wellbeing intact.

Supporting the writers you love means that you can enjoy their work for many years to come. If you can’t get access to the newest releases from local bookstores, then grab some from another online seller. Amazon is just one option; other stores such as We Buy Books and World Of Books give you the chance to buy books from someone who isn’t a legit trillionaire.

You could even consider getting an e-reader, or downloading an app on your phone, although reading books on a screen isn’t always the best option. If you don’t like reading books off a phone or tablet, then you might consider re-reading some of your old favourites. Re-reading books you’ve checked out before can allow you to remember the happy times.

As a final thing, I just want to let you know that I hope you get through the lockdown OK. It’s not easy, but with a few good books and the help of your favourite book blogger (me), you’ll be all right in the end.

Why Boosting Diversity In School Reading Lists Is Essential

One of the best things Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the incredible supreme court judge who died recently, ever said, was:

“When I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court] and I say, ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”

That’s exactly how I feel about diversity in educational reading lists. Kids read enough books and see enough art made by white people in their daily lives. Reading lists should be filled with art from people of other races , genders and sexualities. People often call this a radical belief, but personally, I think it’s a bloody radical belief to think that kids should only read work by straight white men.

Clearly I’m not alone in thinking that reading lists in educational establishments, primarily schools, should be more diverse. A recent campaign is highlighting the issue and pushing for more exam boards and schools to focus on work from a wider range of authors.

The campaign, launched by Penguin Random House and The Runnymede Trust, aims to improve diversity in GCSE reading lists, but, frankly, we need to improve diversity in all parts of the UK’s education system.

Even at university, the reading lists are often dominated by straight white men. I did a post-colonialism course at the University of Chester, which was run by a guy who had limited knowledge of the genre and felt like a filler course designed to offer greater variety on a course list that was almost exclusively feminist work and romantic poetry. Most of the texts were by white male authors, such as E.M. Forster and Ryder Haggard.

The few that weren’t written by white authors were discussed the least, and it was only when I did my Master’s degree at the University of Exeter that I got to discover a truly diverse reading list of post-colonial work by non-white writers who had actually experienced the issues that they were discussing. My course was taught by a woman, but still a white one, and we had few non-white lecturers.

At schools, the same issue can be seen, with only one exam board offering students the chance to read a diverse range of texts. As the examples from my own university days show, one of the key issues behind the lack of diversity in education reading lists is that there isn’t enough diversity throughout the education system.

Many members of the BAME community are from poorer backgrounds, and they often find themselves struggling to earn the expensive and time consuming qualifications required to become a teacher. Even if they do succeed in becoming a teacher, they struggle to make their voices heard and achieve the leadership positions needed to influence decisions such as school reading lists for exams.

This struggle to reach the top is prevalent in practically every industry, and it’s one of the main problems with the world today. However, in education, it often means that kids of all ages and backgrounds end up reading and learning about the world from a very narrow viewpoint; that of white men.

If we want a world where there’s less police brutality, institutional racism and general ignorance of other cultures, then we need to start by educating our kids. Diversity shouldn’t just be the topic of the odd school assembly; it should run through the curriculum to penetrate kid’s minds early and give them the chance to become the open-minded people we need.

If all they’re reading is stuff like Of Mice And Men, written by a white guy and with only a passing mention of slaves, and where black men are all slaves and given that cheery ‘I’m a slave but I like it’ persona, then kids will take longer to understand the real state of the world.

There are already many campaigns out there that seek to drive the UK’s education landscape to teach more BAME history, but in my opinion, this needs to go further. Diversity needs to penetrate to the books kids read; not just when studying literature, but also their textbooks.

As someone who suffered through years of whitewashed schooling, I can tell you that it took me a bloody long time and a lot of hard work to truly understand the importance of diversity and reading stories that aren’t just about the BAME community, but that come from within it. Many school boards probably sit and pat themselves on the back for including texts like To Kill A Mockingbird, which are about black rights. However, that text and most of the others studied in our schools, colleges and universities currently, are written by white people.

While that isn’t to say that they’re not valid, these books can hardly been seen as truly representative of the lives of real black people. We need to read more books from BAME writers, of which there are many. It took me a lot of work and research to find out about them, having been raised on mainly white voices until I started studying for my Master’s in my early 20s.

As a fairly privileged person with access to education and resources that many others don’t have, I consider myself bloody lucky to have achieved a reasonably rounded education, which I had to give myself, because the institutions I attended did not provide it. Part of the reason why I was interested in reading the works of non-white authors was because I spent a lot of time among members of the BAME community and was encouraged by them.

However, it’s not their job to push white people towards a greater understanding of race and prejudice, nor is it each individual’s own responsibilities. Schools and education providers have a duty to provide a rounded, comprehensive education, and that starts with creating reading lists that aren’t dominated by ancient classics written by old white guys.

So, in the future, I personally don’t think it’s unreasonable for parents and community leaders to demand that school reading lists become dominated with works by members of marginalised communities, telling their stories in their own words.  We’ve had it the other way around for centuries; it’s time the tables were turned.

Netflix’s Rebecca And The Continued Appeal Of The Gothic

When I saw that Netflix was remaking the classic gothic thriller/ romance Rebecca, I wasn’t overly surprised.

I’ve noticed over recent years that the gothic genre has been making a comeback, and it seems to have come to a head with this reimagining of classic Daphne du Maurier novel. The novel, and the subsequent film directed by the great Alfred Hitchcock, are both the epitome of gothic fiction.

They encapsulate every aspect of the genre, including the over-the-top characters, the ominous settings, and the dramatic plot twists. In my mind, they cement the fact that the gothic is an enduring genre that keeps coming back.

It has to be said, that some of the most renowned early examples of the genre, such as The Yellow Wallpaper, The Monk: A Romance and The Castle of Otranto aren’t exceptional popular, but others have enjoyed enduring renown, both in print form and on screen. Dracula, Frankenstein and Jane Eyre all get remade or reimagined every few years, and they’ve never gone out of print.

The gothic has also crept into work that was written at around the same time, but aren’t necessarily what you might call gothic novels. One notable example is the Christmas Agatha Christie adaptation, which, for the past few years, has gotten darker and darker. They’ve also taken on many gothic traits in the way that both the BBC and ITV create their adaptations.

While some Christie fans might lament the fact that the adaptations aren’t always entirely accurate to the source material, I for one think that they’re interesting TV shows that put a new spin on old classics. These adaptations also prove that some aspects of gothic horror and literature, such as the sumptuous period settings, isolated properties and eerie characters, remain a popular troupe on screen and in writing.

Another great example of the gothic and its dark, twisted portrayal of human nature is the Dickens adaptations that the BBC has put out in recent years, also usually around Christmas or in early winter. One notable one was last year’s version of A Christmas Carol.  The dark and sinister version bought out all the worst in the classic characters and showed that gothic elements troupes remain relevant even when they weren’t overtly visible in the original text.

The new Netflix film isn’t the most stunning example of gothic cinema- in fact, I’d go so far as to say it falls flat in a number of places. However, it shows that viewers still crave, and production companies are still willing to create, films that are supposed to embody the gothic tradition, even if, as in this case, they fail miserably.

The remake has nothing on Hitchcock’s original. Despite its sumptuous backdrops and clearly extensive costume budget, it fails to thrill, surprise or shock the viewer, which is the whole bloody point of gothic cinema. The actors constantly look like they’re trying far too much to look scared that they fail to do so.

At the end of the day, in 2020, gothic horror and psychological thrillers are a welcome escape from the terrors of reality. With their beautiful décor and stylish costumes, these films and shows are a beautiful, yet terrifying, and a welcome relief after the trauma and sheer stupidity that is the current global crisis. I’d personally like to see a new film adaptation of Jane Austen’s hilarious gothic satire, Northanger Abbey, in the future. It’s a funny and witty take on the genre, and I think that modern viewers would be thrilled and get a laugh out of it, which, frankly, is what we all need right now.

Virtual Literary Festivals: Are They Here To Stay?

If you haven’t noticed that 2020 is a steaming shit show, then climb out from under your rock!

The pandemic, along with the disastrous political situations and social upheaval around the world, has left many individuals stressed out.

Even if you have been living under a rock, you must have noticed how much the world is changing, and how the environment around you is less disturbed by people, as we all travel less and stay home much more.

Events have been cancelled, meaning that many people don’t even get a fun celebration to look forward to during this crazy year.

To help everyone get over the disappointment, many events, conferences and festivals have moved online. Hosts use video conferencing software to bring people together to speak about the books they love.

Some literary festivals offer free talks and resources, while others put up pay walls and ask attendees to buy tickets to help fund the festival. Either way, guests can enjoy a unique literary experience from the comfort of their own homes.

While this is an enterprising way to make the most out of this shitty year, I do worry that event planners and festival hosts will make it the norm to save on costs in the future.

After all, it’s much cheaper and easier to host an entirely virtual conference or festival than it is to manage a physical event and all the various components and preparation entails.

However, I’m a big fan of physical events, especially literary festivals. I’m from Bridport, in Dorset, hence the name of the blog, The Dorset Book Detective. In Bridport, we love a good festival; we even have a hat festival! The town hosts many literary festivals, author talks and other book-themed events, so I have a personal affinity with them.

A physical event is very different to a virtual one. During this pandemic I’ve enjoyed attending virtual events, both for my professional work in the SEO industry and as part of my love for writing and reading great books, particularly crime fiction.

While these virtual events and conferences have been fun, and a great way to overcome the many challenges that the pandemic has caused, I sincerely hope that they don’t become the norm in the future. I hate the idea of permanently only having access to authors and literary festivals through the Internet. One of the best things about literary festivals is meeting new people in the flesh and talking to them. Also, you get the chance to walk around, see new things, and generally just broaden your mind and your knowledge.

When you’re attending a festival online, you can’t move; you’re literally stuck in your own home. You can’t speak to or meet new people, because conversations over video conferencing software are practically impossible. Everyone always ends up speaking over each other, so most moderators and virtual festival organisers have to make sure that Q&A sessions are carefully cultivated and managed. So, you don’t get to make new friends and speak to new people.

Also, at physical literary festivals and events, there are usually loads of different talks or workshops to see, so you can meander around and see the ones that you fancy attending. I often find myself wandering into rooms I’d have never considered and learning about new writers, books or even series.

At a virtual literary festival, you can’t wander. You can’t ponder. You could dip in and out of different virtual rooms, but you won’t get the atmosphere that you find when you attend a festival in the flesh. So, you often find that most attendees only watch the talks that they plan to, and don’t try anything new or exciting. As such, you lose out on the chance to enrich your knowledge and find new books to read.

One downside for authors and publicists at virtual literary festivals is that they can’t sell as many books and as much merchandise as they do at physical events. People wandering around literary festivals buy loads of stuff, because they treat themselves and they enjoy the feeling of paying the author directly, rather than buying through a shop or another intermediary.

I do understand the appeal of virtual festivals and events. They’re a lot easier for hosts, which means that the tickets can be cheaper or even free. There’s no travelling for anyone, so it’s easier to plan and quicker to attend. It’s also a great way for writers to overcome the pandemic and the lockdowns, but in the future, when we can get physical events up and running again, I would like to see them.

Going forward, I’d personally like to see literary festival organisers combine a physical event with the option for those who can’t travel to tap in virtually. I think that no amount of convenience can ever make up for the fun experience that you get when you attend a literary festival in the flesh. I think that by combining the two approaches, festival hosts can create incredible experiences and still allow guests to tune in from home if they want to, meaning that the experience can be shared among a wide range of participants.