THE Harrogate crime writing festival has a reputation for attracting the top names in crime fiction. But it may just have excelled itself this year. Not surprising, perhaps, given that this year the festival's 'programming chair' is one of the biggest names of them all: Ian Rankin.

He's put together a killer line-up of of special guests for the festival - officially known as the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival - including Michael Connelly, Martina Cole, Mark Billingham, Lisa Gardner, Kathy Reichs, Elly Griffiths and Mick Herron.

The festival, held at Harrogate’s Old Swan Hotel (scene of Agatha Christie's mysterious disappearance in 1926), will welcome more than 100 authors for a celebration of the crime genre like no other from July 23-26.

"It is for good reason that Harrogate is so well loved by authors and audiences alike, and the pressure has been on to make sure that this year lives up to its stellar reputation." Rankin says. "But we’re incredibly proud of the celebration of crime writing we have in store..."

Joining Rankin at this year’s festival will be No. 1 bestseller Martina Cole, who will share some of the stories behind her career as the 'Queen of Crime'.

Kathy Reichs will introduce A Conspiracy of Bones, the new thriller featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. And Festival favourite Mark Billingham will return to Harrogate to celebrate 20 years of Tom Thorne, one of British crime fiction's most iconic detectives.

Michael Connelly - creator of the unforgettable LAPD detective Harry Bosch - will be in Harrogate to talk about his latest thriller Fair Warning, featuring veteran reporter Jack McEvoy; Lisa Gardner, who has been described as 'the master of psychological suspense', will give the Harrogate audience an insight into the twists and turns of When You See Me; Elly Griffiths is set to reveal the secrets behind her much-loved Dr Ruth Galloway mystery series; and Mick Herron will mark ten years of his award-winning spy sensation Slough House and introduce his new novella set in the same world, The Catch.

Details of other guests will be revealed in April.

Sharon Canavar, chief executive of Harrogate International Festivals, said: “Year on year the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival continues to surpass expectations. It has been a delight working with Ian Rankin and we’re thrilled that the 2020 Special Guest line-up reflects the absolute best in the crime-writing business.”

Stephen Lewis

Literature Festival date for award-winner Milly

The Harrogate crime writing festival isn't the only local books festival that has a way of attracting big names. Our very own York Literature Festival isn't doing too badly, either.

Last week, Philippa Morris of York's Little Apple Bookshop revealed that Martin Edwards, one of the guests at this year's festival, had won the 2020 Diamond Dagger award - the Crine Writer's Association's highest accolade.

Now Philippa reports that another speaker at this years festival, which runs from March 19-28, has also been in the awards. Milly Johnson has picked up the Romantic Novelists Association's 2020 'Outstanding Achievement Award'.

"If you know that Jilly Cooper is amongst previous winners then you can see how big a prize this is," Philippa says. "Milly’s novels are much less raunchy than Jilly’s though. She focuses on the power of female friendship and the restorative effects of true love and happiness. I have heard Milly described as 'the queen of feel-good fiction' which is something I think there is a need for at the moment!"

An evening with Milly Johnson is at 6.30pm on Wednesday March 25 at York Explore.

Full details of this year's York Literature Festival, which runs from March 19-28, are at