Fights broke out amongst fractious factions as fiction friction marred the opening session of the Melcombe Horsey Book Festival yesterday. The DHRA-sponsored Festival, founded in 2014, is celebrating its fifth anniversary and organisers have assembled an unrivalled line up of authors drawn from the worlds of historical romance, crime, children's literature and 19th century Swedish science fiction. The festival will culminate in "The Big Tent" on Wednesday when ex-Spanish boy scout Enriqué will read extracts from his first ever (semi-autobiographical) children's novella Enriqué and the Naughty Night Visitor.
However, the Festival got off to a livelier than expected start when scuffles broke out during the much anticipated question and answer session on "Penning Murder: Techniques in Writing Crime Fiction" which featured Threadbone Crimeshelf writers Doug Graves, Gordon Tanqueray and Polly Anthus "in conversation".
A Dish Served Cold: today's copy of the Church Knowle Metro, revels in the discomfort of organisers of the rival Book Festival at Melcombe Horsey. Last year's Church Knowle Book Event was notable for its eerie calm: the result Melcome Horsey residents had claimed of a low budget, low interest and low standards.
Witnesses claim that Ms Anthus (author of the Mediterranean Mysteries series featuring feisty Greek Sleuth Tessa Lonika) became increasingly and "visibly" distressed as Mr Tanqueray (author of The Spirit of Crime series featuring D I Stiller and who also writes as both Glen Livet and Jack Bushmels) hogged the limelight, giving elaborate, rambling and time-consuming answers to questions posed by celebrity interviewer Ms Shelley-Lulette Sizemore. "He just droned on and on" said a fan of Ms Anthus, "like he was on something. I mean he just wouldn't shut up and the others couldn't get a word in edgeways". "I suspect he'd had a good lunch", said another of Ms Anthus's admirers, "and it was obvious, as the audience got more and more restive, that the other two had had quite enough. Doug Graves just sort of went into his shell, but you could see that Polly was far from pleased." "Then she just seemed to snap and all hell broke loose", said Festival organiser Ona Shed-Yule.
Asked to explain what had provoked her, Ms Anthus was unrepentant: "Well, he was talking nonsense and just wouldn't shut up and then he said: "Of course anyone is capable of murder if provoked" and I thought "Well that's the first thing you've said that I actually agree with", and before I knew it I was putting his theory to the test and hitting him with a hardback copy of "B Is For Bacchus"; which I thought was quite appropriate since he was obviously as p****d as a f**t".
Organisers said that audience members had then become involved, with Ms Anthus's fans "turning on" Mr Tanqueray's supporters. Stewards were obliged to step in to separate the two groups. Mr Graves declined to comment, whilst a visibly shaken, Mr Tanqueray "retired to the refreshment tent to take stock".
So does Ms Anthus expect and deserve any backlash from the unseemly incident? Might someone "Throw the book" at her? "I doubt it", she said, "though I wouldn't much care if they did. There again, I am a personal friend of Dorset Chief Constable Sir Rising Crimewave so I expect he will summon all of his considerable powers to brush the whole thing under the carpet: especially if he wants his complimentary copy of N is for Nemesis when it comes out in 2026".
The Festival continues today and will include a talk by Arvid Wikström after which she will sign copies of her new book "19th Century Swedish Science Fiction: Fact or Fantasy" [Tråd benutskrift, a division of The Threadbone Press].