The countdown to Noirwich Crime Writing Festival has begun! With over 20 headline and fringe events taking place across the city, it’s the biggest and bloodiest festival yet.

Our blogger-in-residence for the weekend is Jamie Bernthal, a private researcher for the bestselling crime novelist Sophie Hannah. Jamie recently completed his PhD thesis on Agatha Christie and is the author of critical work including Queering Agatha Christie (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). In this introductory blog, he looks forward to the week ahead and highlights some of the events he is most excited about. Follow Jamie on Twitter @jcbernthal 

I’m counting down the days until a packed weekend centered on my favourite thing: crime writing. What makes Noirwich different is the sheer breadth of crime writers making appearances and the chance to get involved, with workshops and fringe events. My blogging-in-residence will kick off on Thursday 15 September, or Day Two of panel events. And we’re jumping straight in with some very big names.

Charlie Higson brings James Bond (back?) to Norfolk, discussing his series of Young Bond novels with UEA’s Matthew Woodcock. I’m fascinated by the many approaches out there to writing other people’s characters … and how exactly do you balance it with writing about your own series character? The extra dimension of taking on Bond as a young person – and for young readers – is something I can’t wait to see under the microscope.

On the same night we get to see crime fiction royalty. Ian Rankin will commence his new visiting professorship at UEA and mark the thirtieth anniversary of his iconic creation, the troubled Scottish now-ex-policeman, John Rebus. I need to know everything about the new Rebus novel, Rather Be the Devil, out in November. Long story short, it’s Ian Rankin – it’s important.

I need to know everything about the new Rebus novel, Rather Be the Devil

There’ll be more giants of crime fiction taking the spotlight. Sophie Hannah and Denise Mina are two of my favourite living authors. While they both write psychological thrillers (and, in Hannah’s case, Hercule Poirot mysteries), their approaches couldn’t be more different. Hannah, a queen of twisty domestic suspense, and Mina, a master of dark metropolitan social commentary, in conversation on Saturday night will be an eye opener.

Most of Saturday, though, will be taken up with multi-author panels at Writers’ Centre Norwich., Dragon Hall. What’s on offer proves as twisty and all-encompassing as a psychological thriller: From Fact to FictionDomestic SuspenseBrit Noir, Ones to Watch, and Screenwriting 101. Kate Rhodes, Julia Crouch, Sarah Hilary … some of the best names in British crime writing today.

Barry Forshaw, expert on Scandi crime and more, is at the top of his game. He’s written a book suggesting that Noir has become a major strand of British crime writing (See, ‘Noirwich’ is more than a pun). He’ll be chairing a panel on Brit Noir , with Angela Clarke, Steve Mosby, and Dreda Say Mitchell. These very distinct writers are all at the darkest, uncompromising cutting edge of crime writing so I’m looking forward seeing them together!

‘Ones to Watch – First Blood’ at 4pm will introduce three authors whose debuts have caused a stir. I must admit I wasn’t familiar with all panelists at first, but that makes it doubly exciting. We get to meet the next game-changers in action. Like half the world, I’m trying to write a crime novel, so I’ll be paying extra attention to Abir Mukherjee, A.A. Dhand. and Michelle Davies, to find out how it’s done. And we’ll all know what to be seen reading in 2017. Win-win.

Things round off with a particularly bloody Sunday. Doors open at 10.30am for the Bloody Brunch. Barry Forshaw is back, chairing two panels here: one of big names from the region and one of Euro crime writers. I’m particularly looking forward to hearing from Jo Nesbo’s English translator, Don Bartlett, who lives in Norwich. And to mixing and mingling, Bloody Mary in hand (it’s not a girly drink if I say it’s not)!

The one thing I’m not looking forward to is going home with a list of books that I have got to read right now because they all sound so good, as long as the arm of the law. But I’ll survive. Stay tuned for my reports on these events. I’ll highlight the twists and turns in what promises to be a ‘bloody’ good weekend.