Literary surprises and delights for everyone

DISCUSSION One of several reading groups discuss the final five books for The First Fiction Award, at the Portsmouth Central Library. From left, Brian Jackson (obscured), Rita Jackson, Sylve Somorjay and Benita Oakley. Picture: Malcolm Wells (132382-9794)
DISCUSSION One of several reading groups discuss the final five books for The First Fiction Award, at the Portsmouth Central Library. From left, Brian Jackson (obscured), Rita Jackson, Sylve Somorjay and Benita Oakley. Picture: Malcolm Wells (132382-9794)
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David Curwen, centre, hugs his mother with whom he wa sreunited. Completing the group is his brother Keith

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Have you ever wanted to get inside the mind of a crime author to see what makes them tick? Or perhaps wanted to know what drove Harry Redknapp to make the decisions that changed Portsmouth Football Club forever?

These questions, and more, will be answered at the upcoming Portsmouth BookFest.

The literary festival, which runs from October 19 to November 3, has surprises and delights for readers of all ages at some fantastic venues across the city.

Now in its fourth year, Portsmouth City Council library service has once again teamed up with the Hayling Island Bookshop to put on fascinating events with world-renowned literary stars and highly-acclaimed local authors.

Clare Forsyth, service development manager for the library service, said: ‘We are really looking forward to this year’s BookFest. Since 2010 it has become very successful.

‘We’ve tried to make it a festival that’s accessible. We do get people from outside Portsmouth but we’ve very much tried to give it a local flavour.

‘We’re trying to get away from literary events that can be a little bit stuffy. We want it to be enjoyable and accessible and get people into reading books.

‘The events are not necessarily traditional author talking to audience events.

‘For example, our Girls Night In at the Central Library starts with a bit of pampering and then a panel discussion with three great female authors, Carole Matthews, Ali MacNamara and Christina Jones.

‘The atmosphere will be really laid-back – a light-hearted, informal chat with the authors about their writing and what’s inspired them.

‘But what I think is really nice is we’ve got some good events for men and boys this year.

‘John Crace and David Conn have both written books about football.

‘Harry’s Games, by John Crace, is a look inside the mind of Harry Redknapp and explains the many sides of his personality. He will be interviewed by David, who is a sportswriter at the Guardian newspaper, at Fratton Park.’

Stephen Cooper will also be talking about his fascinating book, The Final Whistle or a Rugby Club at War which is about 15 men who played for Rosslyn Park, London, and their role in the First World War.

There is a day dedicated to authors from West Sussex including Phil Hewitt, who will talk about his new books, A Chichester Miscellany and A Portsmouth Miscellany.

Budding authors will get the chance to take part in creative writing workshops.

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is the venue for CSI Portsmouth – an entire day devoted to crime fiction which will bring together authors, police and forensic scientists.

The night before Halloween, 10 local authors will read tales, some ghostly, some deadly, in the atmospheric surroundings of the Square Tower for Day of the Dead.

And, back by popular demand, is the Firestation Bookswap tour. Publishers and authors Scott Pack and Marie Phillips once again bring their evening of book talk, interviews and book swaps to Aspex gallery, in Gunwharf. Guest authors will include Will Sutton, a former member of the audience and now a published author.

And there will even be music from French for Cartridge at Southsea Library on October 24.

And watch out for pop-up performances of Charles Dickens’ work throughout the festival.

Author Dave Allen will be talking about the Portsmouth music scene between 1944 and 1969 in his event, Pompey Pop on October 23.

Clare added: ‘What makes BookFest so special is there is something for everyone in the programme. It’s not going to be traditional authors talking, audiences listening.

‘The audience will get to ask questions.

‘We’ve made sure that ticket prices for all events are very reasonable.

‘Also, the events are hosted in a range of interesting venues such as the Square Tower, the Guildhall, Aspex gallery and the libraries.

‘We think people are going to love it.’


This year sees the inaugural First Fiction award.

Forty-two debut novels written in the UK have been narrowed down to six by judges.

The books are now being read by Portsmouth library reading groups.

On October 19 voting and the award ceremony takes place and there will be a chance to chat to the authors.

The shortlist is:

· Melissa Harrison – Clay

· Kerry Hudson – Tony Hogan bought me an ice cream float before he stole my Ma

· Claire King – The Night Rainbow

· Kevin Maher – The Fields

· Kate Worsley – She Rises


Tickets for most events can be bought from either Southsea Library, in Palmerston Road, or North End Library, in Gladys Avenue.

Alternatively, call (023) 9268 8037. Some tickets may only be available through other sources. Please see or go to @PompeyBookFest on Twitter.