Tuesday 22 July 2014

Edge-Lit 3, Derby, 19th July 2014

It was pouring with rain as I parked up at the Assembly Rooms car park in the centre of Derby.  I’d been here once before, almost ten years ago, to celebrate the graduation of my sister but it was to be my first experience of the Edge-Lit festival (now in its third year), held at The Quad.  I got signed in and made my way up to the first floor (the Con was set over the first and second floors), saw Peter Coleborn, Jan Edwards and Mike Chinn, said hello to them and then Jay Eales & Selina Lock arrived, then Andrew Reid came over, his lovely daughter shyly clinging to him.  Steve Harris and John Travis turned up, closely followed by Phil Sloman and James Everington and so that was our Andromeda gang all assembled.  Since we were clogging the stairwell - and Rod Rees passed by, on his way to his panel - we moved and saw Chris Teague setting up the Pendragon Press stall.  My novella “Drive” was supposed to be launching but, as is often the way, there’s a slight delay but he was taking pre-orders (which apparently went well, as the day wore on).  Standing with Chris was Ross Warren, so I introduced him to the rest and we all went down to the ground floor café for both a respite from the heat and a much needed drink.  Crowded around a little table, we then had the kind of writers-together conversation that makes a Con for me, with all of us comparing rejection horror stories (as James points out in his great blog on the event, it was like the scene from “Jaws” when they compare scars).

me, Alison Davies, James Everington, Phil Sloman
We went upstairs to watch Simon Clark mostly shave Theresa Derwin’s hair off (for the Breast Cancer Research Campaign) and I then bumped into Alison Davies, who I haven’t seen in ages (several FCon’s ago, in fact) - she looked well, we caught up with each others lives and it was really good to see her.  By now, it was lunchtime so we rounded up the troops - now with Richard Farren Barber - and headed out for something to eat.  Passing the Acropolis café, which each one of us mentioned without apparently hearing anyone else say it - and working on my decade-old knowledge of the town centre - managed to not find anywhere we wanted to eat.  Wandering back, someone (I don’t know who it was) suggested the Acropolis so - amongst the pensioner specials (and yes, each of us said “I don’t want a pensioner”) - we ate and chatted and laughed and had a nice time.  James and Phil left early, for their reading and we took our time but went to the Knightwatch Press launch and listened to the readings.  It was the first time for both Phil and James and they did really well, the game raised by the wonderful K. T. Davis who is clearly a born performer.
the lunch crew (from left - Richard Farren Barber, Steve Harris, John Travis, me, Ross Warren).
Acropolis cafe not pictured
Back in the foyer, Johnny Mains was at a signing table with Conrad Williams, so we had a chat, grabbed a photo with Peter Coleborn and Pixie Puddin and Johnny showed me a huge stash of paperbacks he’d picked up from a stall in the market.  I left my stuff with Steve (who was sequestered in the café) and followed Johnny through to the Eagle Market, talking about his Pan Book Of Horror Stories Scrapbook (which has since finished successfully) along the way.
left to right - Peter Coleborn, Conrad Williams, me, Pixie Puddin, Johnny Mains
Eagle Books was brilliant - a cube of a stall and filled to bursting with books, Johnny & I were in our element.  I went through the horror box, picked up a load of stuff and then checked out the rest of the place.  Johnny found a Corgi Books shelf sign and bought that - which took the owner by surprise - and it was like standing inside a very well organised, however chaotic it might have looked, treasure trove.  As we were leaving, Johnny asked if we’d been good business - sadly, the old boy told us we mostly were business.  “Since the Kindle,” he said, looking at the filled shelves, “nobody buys books much any more.”  What a sad and sobering situation, from a bloke who clearly loved being a bookseller.  So if you’re in Derby at any time, go to the Eagle Market and support that stall!
Outside Eagle Books (look at those shelves!) with Johnny Mains and his Corgi Books sign
My stash from Eagle Books
On our way back it began to rain, then it began to thunder.  Outside the venue, a carnival was in full swing and nothing - rain, thunder or lightning - put those dancers off.  Johnny was off to a panel, so I showed off my purchases (and met Paul M. Feeney, who’d joined our group) and then headed up to the “What An Editor Really Wants” panel which Conrad Williams was moderating and sat with Richard, who was already in there.  We stayed on for the raffle, Chris Teague joined us and we waited, with bated breath, hoping for another Andromeda-One-style whitewash.  It wasn’t to be, sadly, though I picked up a whole stack of SF Masterworks books and John Travis also exchanged his Hitchikers Hardbacks with me.
The Derby Dhansak Daredevils
(left to right - James Everington, Richard Farren Barber, Ross Warren, Chris Teague, John Travis, me, Paul M. Feeney, Steve Harris)
By now it was getting on for seven and thoughts turned to dinner.  Following the Brum Balti Balls-up (at Andromeda One, when the four of us - me, Steve, Phil and James - couldn’t find a curry house in Birmingham), James had already located a venue and so, after saying goodbye to Phil who had to go and catch his train, we set off.  The venue wasn’t close, it wasn’t really even nearby but it did give us a chance to chat as we walked (and James & I discovered that Paul, who we’d badgered to come along, wasn’t as close to the Con as we’d thought but, in fact, lived in Berwick On Tweed!  Oops, sorry Paul).  The restaurant was nice but pricey, upstairs was decadently decorated and highly air-conditioned and we took over a table for eight and had a fine old time.  We discussed writing, books, films, gave away spoilers (I was talking about NOS4R2 and Richard, sitting next to me, hadn’t read it so I got him to look away but he still saw the move I made pertaining to one characters fate - a gesture that re-appeared several times during the meal) and it was perfect, just what a curry run at a Con should be, a bunch of like-minded mates talking about what they love.

We finally got away for about 9.30 and discovered we’d all parked in the Assembly Rooms car park, so we paid for our tickets (all different prices), tried to finish conversations, made plans for FCon and said our goodbyes.

It was a good Con (I’m definitely up for Edge-Lit 4), in a good location and the day was helped by great company.  Brilliant fun.


  1. Great account, Mark. Sorry I couldn't make it.

    Would that book stall be one that sells secondhand books?

    1. Wish you could have been there, Sue! Yes, there's a stall in the other market, but they do the remainder editions, this one was purely 2nd hand.

  2. Always enjoy your blog of a con Mark