Black Week in Istanbul

I’m wrapping up my week in Istanbul, where I was invited to be a special guest at “Black Week,” a new crime-writing book festival sponsored by the Pera Palace Jumeira Hotel. It was a great honor to attend, inasmuch as there was only one other English-language author attending, the Scot writer Alexander McCall Smith, whom I’d met before at “Men of Mystery” in San Diego, and his lovely and warm wife Elizabeth. We had dinner together four nights running! I also got to spend time with the gracious Mathew Prichard, grandson of Agatha Christie, in whose honor the event was held (it was her 125th birthday)! The Pera Palace Hotel was her residence of choice in Istanbul, and in addition to a small museum in her honor, the Hotel’s restaurant is named “Agatha”!

I spent much time conversing with a variety of Turkish writers, many of whom spoke fluent English. One in particular, Algan Sezginturedi, is a translator as well, working at present on Sherlock Holmes! We laughed about how our publishers told us that our sales were not great but were “respectable.” Another shared a laugh about the tv show “Castle” and how unlike the writer’s life it is! I was especially touched to hear from Algan that this was the first collegial gathering of Turkish mystery writers in many years, since the political regime has changed. It made me appreciate even more the English-language community of mystery writers, so supportive of one another and so warm and friendly–we are a model to be emulated!

Bookstores appear to be thriving in Istanbul, a very sophisticated city, although there is the usual hand-wringing about whether young people are reading enough. This appears to me to be a false fear if the festival is any indicator: Panels were very well attended, with over 100 people for each despite steady rain, and the majority of those attending looked to be under 30! The people I met–writers, hotel staff, book store owners, and readers–couldn’t have been nicer and more welcoming. Sherlock Holmes is very, very popular here (as is Agatha Christie)–I was excited to sign copies of the Turkish edition (2 vols. so far) of my New Annotated Sherlock Holmes! And I had my picture taken more times than I can ever remember! I hope that this will be the first of many festivals put on in Istanbul, for they love their polisiye-roman (mysteries) and should be welcomed to the international community of mystery writers!

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