When I was invited to attend Huellas del Crimen - Mexico’s first crime-writing festival - I didn’t hesitate. I have travelled a lot since becoming an author, but never to somewhere as exciting as Mexico. I flew from London Heathrow with fellow crime-writer Mari Hannah, spending a day in Mexico City, where we caught up with ‘Queen of Crime’ Val McDermid, and forensic engineer Sarah Hainsworth. That evening a packed audience listened to Val, Mari, Sarah and French author Bernard Minier, discuss the connection between Shakespeare’s work and the crime fiction genre. It was a great event to launch the festival, and the following day we travelled to San Luis Potosi, a fascinating town filled with beautiful squares, great restaurants and an array of shops - handy for those all-important presents for the family at home!
The festival was held in el Centro del los Artes, a superb arts venue created from San Luis Potosi’s former prison. Much of the architecture has been left intact, with cells now housing museum exhibits instead of prisoners. The programme was packed; workshops, panel discussions, talks and films, all related to the crime genre. As English-speaking guests we were grateful for the expert simultaneous interpretation provided during events, keeping the discussions fast-moving for panellists and audience alike. The sun shone, and everywhere we looked people were reading books or talking about them.
Most authors I know love to attend events, and I am no exception. My debut novel - Te Deje Ir - has sold more than half a million copies in the UK, and it has been wonderful to travel around the UK speaking to readers. Hellas del Crimen gave me the opportunity to speak to Mexicans about my writing, as part of a discussion with Mari Hannah, moderated by Mauricio Montiel Figueiras, National Coordinator for Literature. We discussed our journeys from crime fighters to crime writers (Mari was previously a probation officer, and I spent 12 years in the police service), and talked about our methods of writing. We debated the reasons why ‘noir’ fiction is so popular, and determined that the most successful novels are those which explore universal concepts that readers can relate to, whatever their nationality. It was a fascinating and extremely enjoyable event, and I’m grateful to the audience for their interesting questions.
I would like to thank the British Council for enabling me to travel to Mexico, and the Secretaria de Cultura for their hospitality and organisation. I have no doubt that Huellas del Crimen will become a firm fixture in the Mexican cultural calendar, and I am honoured to have been there at the start.
Clare Mackintosh is a British author and former police officer. Her debut psychological thriller, I LET YOU GO, has sold more than 500,000 copies and has been translated into more than 30 languages. Her second novel, I SEE YOU, will be available from July 2016.