|I not only have this book, but have cooked from it. I hope you're duly impressed...|
There were pass-around canapés. A lot of them. Little deep-fried balls of seafood, cones of houmous and muhammara (an odd nod to the influence of Thomas Keller and his French Laundry), wee bowls of noodles and stacks of tapenade. Pairs of sushi on diddy plates with tiny plastic pipettes of soy sauce. It was all a long way from the usual starving in a remote garret scratching away with a quill and the last of one's home-made ink, I can tell you.
There were mocktails with names like The Grape of Wrath, White Tang and The Wonderful Blizzard of Oz. They weren't half bad, either. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble here and it showed.
The speeches were mercifully short. The unveiling was nicely done, a musical piece by students from Dubai College performed as a sand artist artisted sandily. The list was duly unveiled. It's a pretty stellar lot. Anthony Beevor, James Waterson, Justin Marozzi and John Julius Norwich alone will make any history buff explode in glee. Dom Joly is coming, which is nice as long as he's not going to spend all his time here cooking up an AA Gill. So's the chap behind Bob the Builder (What do you call Bob the Builder when he retires? Bob) and Korky Paul, who as eny fule no is the chap behind Winnie the Witch.
Ian Rankin's on, too. I interviewed him the other day on Dubai Eye Radio. Scottish fellow. As Festival Director Isobel took to the stage, I remembered how during one ad break on that occasion I had been screaming 'Luddites!' at her and my fellow guests/hosts in a spirited exchange about the merits of books vs Kindles. She was remarkably gracious about it, all things considered. Victoria Hislop's coming. I only know of her because my sister in law is a devotee and will be dead jealous. There are a lot more Arab authors this year - and more Emiratis, including Noura Khoori, Sultan Faisal Al Rumaithi, Shaima Al Marzooqi, Sultan Al Ameemi, Lulwah Al Mansouri and, of course, Maytha Al Khayat and Noura Noman. And that's a very good thing indeed. I have made no secret of the fact I think the festival has been a major catalyst for the burgeoning literary scene here in the UAE.
You know where all this is leading, of course. I'm there as well.
I wasn't going to go this year. I was feeling too weary. But Rachel Hamilton and Annabel Kantaria (both of whom are on the list, natch) made me do an about turn and clamber back on the bus. So I'm doing a couple of sessions and will, in fact, launch Birdkill at the Festival. I've wanted to publish a book at the festival for years now (2016 will be its eighth year, can you believe it? I'm feeling very old) but have never managed it. Birdkill, coming as it did out of the blue, means I've got a 'spring book' in hand.
So there we have it. In the meantime, if you're wondering about where to pre-order your copy of A Decent Bomber, the link's here.