The first Dublin Ghost Story Festival was a hall-of-fame convention for me. And it was a big success for the organisers, so hats off to Brian J. Showers, John Connolly and their team for creating such a great experience; and into which went a great deal of time and thought (and some Dublin horse-trading by some accounts). I can’t recall enjoying panels so much either. I saw everything that was scheduled (on a perfectly balanced and curated programme) and it was all quality. I was ever warmed by the convivial atmosphere, and I think this con’ was of a perfect size.
Without a trace of hyperbole, it was a genuine honour to be Guest of Honour, and in a city with such a great literary tradition – the uncanny synchronicity of me deciding to be a writer, after reading Joyce’s Portrait’ at the age of 16, and then being a Guest of Honour in his city 31 years later, was special. I was also invited there by people who know their (Oliver) Onions, and who I also hold in such high esteem as publishers and writers (Brian J. Showers has been my mentor on the hardback of ‘Some Will Not Sleep’ from the beginning). Ultimately, I am, and will always only ever be, one of the guys who loves books (with a beer in his hand), but being offered this gig felt like I had inserted a new antler into my headdress (the one that only unlucky critics and motorists ever get to see). And also, how often do you get to hang out with John Connolly and David Mitchell in a Freemason’s Lodge – or was it a temple? David Mitchell had even read one of my books and bought me a cake … My hind legs nearly tap danced.
I also want to thank a few people who made the weekend extra special. Thanks to me old mucker from the class of newbies of 2004, Sarah Pinborough, who interviewed me. I’ve never been that keen on public speaking but she made this feel like two old friends chatting about horror, in a car (doing 15 in a 70), on the way to a writing retreat in Wales. Though we only covered half of them, her questions made me think a bit harder about what I have emerged from, and also about what grisly form I have assumed in 2016.
Robert Lloyd Parry was, as ever, outstanding on stage and wonderful company off it. He performed two M R James stories and one by Le Fanu over the weekend – all sublime. His new show is the Time Machine and touring the UK this year. If you haven’t seen him perform, you must. He adds so much class and character, and both new and lost dimensions, to the classic ghost stories in our tradition.
Thanks for Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane of HWA UK for the great company (as well helping me activate my phone and to then switch off the roaming on my return). Shout outs to Lynda E. Rucker (a terrific moderator), Alexandra Benedict, Angela Slatter, Maura McHugh, Sean Hogan, Lisa Tuttle, Helen Hopley, Martin Roberts, and Diala Atat for their company, and to all of the cool people I met for the first time in the bars and halls like John Reppion, Martin Hayes, Gerry Hayes, Owen Harris,Charlene Putney, Amelia Moriarty Bradshaw, John Mulvaney. And there were many others too, but after 24 hours sleep since last Thursday I am beginning to hallucinate everyone into a Francis Bacon painting made up of screaming faces inside a cube …
I didn’t take enough pictures inside the event, because I was too busy gassing, but there are a few attached. Some include scenes from the impromptu literary walk Brian gave us yesterday, that took in the residences of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Elizabeth Bowen, and the birthplace of Francis Bacon …
I no longer mind that the airport confiscated my drug of choice on the way out – nicotine liquid – because I vaped my fix in the gents anyway, so there.
As ever, it was soothing to drive back into the bay, which was warm and sunny and golden, and to get back to my girls. My nipper has lost a front tooth since I’ve been away and now has a little lisp that is achingly sweet. All is good.
Back to the coalface tomorrow after a good sleep to make some more ghosts. But I could still murder another draught Guinness right now.