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Image: Lisette Auton by Rob Irish

If body bags and books are your thing, you’re going to love this year’s Durham Book Festival. Packed to the virtual rafters with top crime writing talent, this year’s online only event, taking place from Friday 9th-Sunday 18th October, promises to be one of the grisliest yet.

For fans of murder and intrigue a real highlight will be an afternoon with superstar crime writer Ann Cleeves, who has written a new story exclusively for the festival called Written In Blood (Saturday 17th). There’s more thrills and spills thanks to Ian Rankin, who will be chatting with fellow writer AA Dhand about his latest novel A Song For Dark Times (Monday 12th); and Pointless host Richard Osman will be talking about his debut crime novel, The Thursday Murder Club (Saturday 10th).

For those less interested in fictional dead bodies, there’s still plenty on offer. Hot on the heels of her sell out events at previous festivals, Laura Bates returns to talk about her latest book Men Who Hate Women (Friday 16th). Founder of the fantastic Everyday Sexism project and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, this is a must see for everyone interested in gender equality.

The festival boasts a rich array of stories from the region that offer a different perspective on its people and places. Part of New Writing North’s New Narratives For The North East – a series of 15 essays, short stories and poems by some fine writers including David Almond, Mim Skinner and Andrew Hankinson that explore often unknown or overlooked aspects of living in the region – award-winning disabled activist, writer and performer Lisette Auton provokes debate with her film Writing The Missing – A River Cycle (Saturday 10th).

The festival boasts a rich array of stories from the region that offer a different perspective on its people and places

Some events look to further horizons and take in diverse experiences; Brit Bennett talks about her new novel, The Vanishing Half, which explores family histories in the Deep South; Afghan-born writer Fatima Bhutto discusses her exclusive essay, A World On Fire, which explores the violence of the world we’re living in today and the kindness she believes is essential to our survival (both Sunday 11th); and Layla F. Saad talks about her groundbreaking book Me And White Supremacy, which encourages readers to understand white privilege (Wednesday 14th).

New Ideas For The New Normal is a series of newly commissioned video essays from leading researchers at Durham University, designed to make viewers think about how we might live in post-pandemic world. Subjects tackled include travel after Covid, the role of heavy metal music and viroid life, attitudes towards language, grief, religion and climate change.

As always, poetry takes a prominent role in this year’s festivities. The Poetry Book Society Showcase will feature some much-anticipated work from Nina Powels, Bhanu Kapil and Rachel Long; and poet Linda France unveils her collective poem Murmuration, which explores people’s reaction to the natural world in the time of Covid-19 (both Tuesday 13th). There will also be a screening of the BBC Arena documentary about Tony Harrison with new responses from fellow working class writers Degna Stone, Shaun Wilson and Inua Ellams (Sunday 18th).

In addition, there‘ll be studio tours from graphic novelists Mary and Brian Talbot, a life-writing workshop, the announcement of the winner of the Gordon Burn Prize, the chance to pit your wits against the QI Elves and much, much more.

Durham Book Festival takes place online from Friday 9th-Sunday 18th October

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