Well, who knew? I'd heard of "slash fiction" before – an internet phenomenon where (mostly) female fans write sex scenes featuring male characters in popular culture. At Dirty Books, an event forming part of the London Literature Festival at the South Bank, we found out more. It surfaced around the time of the Lord of the Rings trilogy; apparently Frodo and Sam scenarios are very popular in slash circles. But blimey, hot trouser action between Harry Potter and Severus Snape? Are you having a laugh?
Any doubts about the queer subtext of JK Rowling's oeuvre were blown away by an ingenious short film, set to the strains of "This Charming Man", and featuring Alan Rickman and Daniel Radcliffe. Snape smoulders, Harry simpers, Snape broods, Harry looks apprehensive, Snape sneers and Harry looks like he's about to die with ecstasy. Finally Snape swishes off down the cloister, and Harry is stricken. "Don't worry, they get back together," quipped the presenter. An image of Draco Malfoy with wings led us to "wing-fic". It's the next big trend apparently. Or is that vampire porn... lesbian Vikings... or sex with men in wheelchairs? Demented stuff.
For the Lavender Library, Andy Bell talked about his love of Joe Orton (and read a droll diary entry about cottaging), Julian Clary enthused about Mapp and Lucia (he's quite right, Georgie is obviously gay; all that polishing his bibelots – what is a bibelot anyway?). Diana Souhami's deadpan recital of Gertrude Stein's infamous "my wife has a cow" (orgasm) passage brought the house down. Karen McLeod took a hammer to an orange to express her feelings for Jeanette Winterson and singer David McAlmont talked about his literary journey from Enid Blyton to James Baldwin via Judith Kranz.
Then, for the first time, I went to the Crime Writers' Association dinner. I was sitting at Tom Rob Smith's table; he was up for two awards, the New Blood and the Steel Dagger, for the brilliant Child 44. I don't know how authors cope at these events. I was a wreck as he failed to pick up the first prize. (Another forlorn loser, Kate Summerscale, has since made up for it by bagging the Samuel Johnson.) TRS remained admirably cool. Then, hooray! he won the Dagger. And yes, it actually is a dagger. The happy winners reeled off into the night, tooled up and well able to tackle anything the City of Blades could throw at them.