Noir at the Bar : crime, alcohol, the ideal mixture?

Noir at the Bar, I’m told, first appeared in Philadelphia in 2008.

The full story is here.

Brits, not slow to adopt anything that takes place over a drink in a pub, quickly caught on. It’s now a popular pastime for crime and mystery writers all over the UK.

Crawley Festival of Words

Elly Griffiths, Barbara Nadel and Derek Farrell at Crawley Festival of WordsCrawley, my nearest big town, has a month-long Festival of Words in March and it includes a very popular crime weekend.

There was a crime panel hosted by Derek Farrell – author of the Danny Bird Mysteries — who was talking to Elly Griffiths and Barbara Nadel.  Caroline Green gave a workshop on writing “killer characters”. Spooky readings were the Saturday night treat in the ancient cloisters. The culmination of the weekend was Noir at the Bar, held in an oak-beamed pub called the Old Punch Bowl.

Was I nervous?

Crawley Crime Weekend ProgrammeWhen I received an invitation to appear at Noir at the Bar and read from one of my own books, I leapt at the chance. Who wouldn’t? I’m new to this genre and I need the exposure as a “crime” writer. The terror, the why-did-I-say-I’d-do-this regret would come later…

I’m applying the same technique to a couple of gigs I’ve signed up for at CRIMEfest next month. I have never moderated a panel before, but they say that doing something that scares you is a good thing…

I’ll let you know…

But down to practicalities.
I’ve been writing for over thirty years but this was a first for me.

Would I stumble over the words? Would the audience get bored and start talking among themselves? Or would I take one look at the expectant audience and just dry?

That happened to me once. The Radio 5 interviewer tasked with interviewing me, and who clearly wished she was anywhere else, snapped her first question at me in such a bored and hostile manner that my brain seized up. I still get nightmares…

Crime Reading Month

Photograph of seven crime writers at Noir at the BarDerek, who puts his heart and soul into organising this festival — and who I shared a panel with last year at our local indie bookshop Crime Reading Month event — was again presenting.

There were seven of us reading that night – Graham Bartlett Crime and Policing Advisor, Liz Fielding Author, Helen Fields Author, Anna Mazzola. Casey Kelleher, Laura Marshall Author and Erin Young. Derek hosted.

Our names were put into a hat and drawn by audience members. Inevitably, my name came out first.

Derek introduced me — 30 years, 80 books, awards on both sides of the Atlantic, 15 million sales. He was encouraging whooping at every statistic.


They lowered the microphone. (I’m short!) I returned to my table to get my reading glasses — they may have thought I was escaping — pulled up the metaphorical big girl pants and took a deep breath.

Which book? Which piece to read?

Cover of Murder Among the Roses by Liz FieldingChoosing which book was easy. The Maybridge Murder Mysteries are a series. It was unlikely that anyone attending Noir at the Bar (apart from Derek) would have read them, so I went for the first book, Murder Among the Roses.

Deciding which piece  to read was less easy. The opening scene, the moment when my amateur sleuth, Abby Finch, finds the skull of a new born baby was dramatic. It would have been perfect, but the ideal length for reading is, apparently,  about ten minutes and it was too short.

I’d rehearsed the piece where a bloodied body is discovered, but on the day of the reading I had a last minute change of mind. Instead, I went for a quiet, intense piece where a victim of abuse told Abby what had happened to her many years earlier.

It was a long time since I’d appeared on the stage — if I tell you that I was playing Bertha, the teenage daughter, in Strindberg’s The Father you’ll get the idea! — but out of nowhere the voices came…

You could have heard a pin drop.

Would I do Noir at the Bar again? I can’t wait!


10 thoughts on “Noir at the Bar : crime, alcohol, the ideal mixture?

  1. Liz Fielding

    Thanks, Sarah. It was all so relaxed and met some lovely people. Maybe there should be a romance equivalent? Lust in the Library? (Bring your own cocktail…)

  2. Sophie

    Goodness, real chills up the spine stuff! Well done Liz. Great that you enjoyed it so much. Bet your audience did too. Like Sarah, I wish I’d been able to be there.

  3. Elizabeth Bailey

    Congratulations, Liz! That sounds an excellent venue for a reading. I hope you get loads of new readers from it. Well done you.


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