Not so long ago, to suggest that a group of volunteers could set up from scratch a conference about Golden Age fiction that would attract a large and near sell-out audience at one of the country's most prestigious venues would have seemed fanciful. Yet that is exactly what happened with the Bodies from the Library conference at the British Library on Saturday. And the first thing to say about the event is that Mike, John, Mark, Liz, Susan and company who worked so hard to make the dream a reality deserve the utmost praise. The event was a huge success.
I was glad to be heavily involved with the day's events. First, Jake Kerridge and I talked about what and when was the Golden Age, and later in the morning Simon Brett and I discussed the Detection Club, including its collaborative books. In the final session, all the participants talked about books they thought ripe for a reprint - I sneaked in several titles, though my ultimate choice was Raymond Postgate's Verdict of Twelve. Simon, witty as ever, suggested that I'd contrived the whole event as a grandiose launch for The Golden Age of Murder, and really it was wonderful to sign so many copies . But there was much else to celebrate.
Barry Pike, doyen of Golden Age experts, spoke about Sayers and Allingham, and it was also a great pleasure for me to meet for the first time John Cooper, another great expert, who co-authored with Barry two superb and lavishly illustrated books, Collecting Detective Fiction and Artists in Crime. Both strongly recommended. Other speakers included John Curran on Christie, Dolores Gordon-Smith on Crofts, Tony Medawar on locked room mysteries, and Len Tyler on modern day GA fiction. Along with America's Doug Greene and Marv Lachman, Barry, John and Tony have done so much for so many years to keep the flag flying for GA fiction, and the audience loved listening to them.
That wasn't all. Richard Reynolds discussed Oxbridge crime, and we also listened to a John Dickson Carr radio play. David Brawn of Harper Collins and Rob Davies of the BL discussed editing issues with GA fiction; I very much enjoy working with both David and Rob and they were the ideal choices for that particular panel.
The social side of these events is always important, and I was delighted to meet a number of people for the first time with whom I've corresponded in the past. In fact, the only snag was that there simply wasn't enough time to have much of a chat with the many interesting people who were there. One thing I can say for sure, though, is that the buzz in the Library was fantastic, and that everyone hopes the event can be held again next year.