Catching up with Catherine du Peloux Menagé
I imagine most of you reading this article already know what BAD Sydney Crime Writers Festival is, in fact I would bet that most of you have been waiting with bated breath for this year’s program to be announced. This assumption comes from the knowledge that the SMSA has two reading groups dedicated to the genre of murder, crime and mystery; therefore, I am sure that there are many crime novel fans among us.
For those not in the crime writers loop you soon will be, BAD Sydney Crime Writers Festival is an annual event that explores what crime can tell us about human beings today and in the past. Speakers include writers, reporters and film-makers, in addition, professionals from the justice system such as detectives, judges and psychologists.
We are thrilled to share all the gory details in this interview with Artistic Director of the BAD Sydney Crime Writers Festival, Catherine du Peloux Menagé.
Catherine, our readers will probably recognise you from our SMSA author in conversation events. You are usually on-stage interviewing authors, so this is a great opportunity to turn the tables and learn a little about your love of crime literature and what to expect from this year’s festival.
You obviously are very passionate about crime writing, can you tell us how this interest started?
I’ve always read as much as possible – not as easy as it sounds growing up in Mauritius, where there just weren’t many books around. I started with the Secret Seven and the Famous Five books – not that I thought of them as crime and also read all the Nancy Drew books but in French with the author given as Caroline Quine. It was decades before I realised this was Carolyn Keene! Then I moved on to my mother’s Agatha Christie books and never stopped!
As the Artistic Director of the festival, you must be clued in on every part of the festival. Do you have any secrets about this year’s festival you can share?
Well, we have 100 speakers this year which is a special number and I’ve been having a lot of fun writing food crime quiz questions for the Danger Awards night – what was Agatha Christie’s favourite drink – tea, gin and tonic, cream or champagne? Come along to find out.
BAD Sydney Crime Writers Festival is only one element out of an entire year of events, podcasts, and live talks. Can you tell us a bit about the BAD Sydney community and its role in the develop of this genre?
BAD was started 7 years ago by Michael Duffy journalist and crime writer and crime lover Denis Tracey to address the fact that crime was rarely represented in mainstream writers festivals. Over the years it has grown to be the home of crime writing in Sydney and in Australia more broadly. Covid meant we had to hold online events including online festivals with international writers. This year people want live events so we have been partnering with bookshops, libraries and regional festivals to offer crime writing events. We send out a monthly newsletter to share our events – what we’ve been reading and what crime events are going on nationally as well. Crime writers are really the loveliest, most generous people and we enjoy giving them opportunities to meet and share their stories.
This years Festival theme is “A place for every crime story and a crime story for every place” where did this theme come from and how has it influenced the event?
We’ve ‘adapted’ the title of Federal Government’s arts policy – a place for every story and a story for every place. The theme and the sessions grew organically together and has ensured that we represent as many stories, places and people as possible. So the opening session features addresses by four writers on what the theme means for them in the places where they write. Two great crime journalists – John Silvester and Mark Morri talk about Melbourne and Sydney crime and we’ll also find out what the Commission of Inquiry into LGBTI hate crimes has uncovered so far. So we look into as many crime stories in as many different places as we can.
The Who Dunnit? Crime Detection evening adventure looks like a lot of fun, do you have a favourite event on the program?
You’re asking me if I have a favourite child! I’m looking forward to the Whodunnit? evening– let’s hope all that crime fiction reading has honed my investigative skills. I love discovering new fiction in our debut fiction panels but it’s also fascinating to hear new books from established writers and to find out where crime writing is heading. I’m particularly excited about our first Danger Prize People’s Choice award! Everyone can vote for one of the books on the shortlist – all the details are on our website.
The program offers opportunities for aspiring crime writers to learn and share, can you tell us about the workshops on offer this year.
Last year we had two workshops and this year we have four – two on writing crime fiction with Candice Fox and RWR McDonald but broader ones on how to research a book whether true crime or fiction, through case studies as well as exploring how to self-publish successfully. We don’t only have workshops but also an Inside Publishing panel in conjunction with Writing New South Wales and the opportunity to pitch a book to agents and publishers – both in true crime and crime fiction.
Thank you, Catherine, for answering all our burning questions about this year’s BAD Sydney Crime Writers Festival. This year’s festival promises to be bigger, badder and better than ever. Check out the full program here.
SMSA members can borrow the titles shortlisted for the Danger Awards 2023 from our library on level 2. These books are also for sale at your local book shop, here is a link to our friends at Abbey’s Bookshop.