Monday, 22 June 2015
The Detection Club Presidency
I've returned home after an exhilarating few days in London, with a number of highlights, including Saturday's superbly organised and hugely successful Bodies from the Library conference. More about that in a day or so, but today I'll focus on an item of news that I've kept under my hat for several months, but which became public knowledge over the week-end.
One of the events at the conference saw Simon Brett and I talking about the Detection Club. Simon has been President of the Club for fourteen years, and as he mentioned on Saturday, he made it clear a while ago that he was aiming to retire from office - an office which he has held with much distinction throughout that time. The plan is that he will retire at the next annual dinner of the Club, to be held in November. And the news he announced is that he will be succeeded by.... me.
To say that I am thrilled by this is an under-statement. As far as I'm concerned, in the course of an often very fortunate writing career, it really is the greatest highlight, given my undying enthusiasm for the history and heritage of the crime fiction genre, as well as for its present and its future. Back in February, when a number of members approached me with the suggestion that I become President, I was somewhat astonished as well as very flattered.
Once I had time to take it in, I was also extremely touched and grateful, and among several lovely things that have happened since the members made their decision is that the great Len Deighton, a member of the Club since 1969, generously took me out for a long and hugely enjoyable lunch in London, an occasion which I shall never forget.
Since the Club came into being in 1930, there have only been eight Presidents, one of whom was appointed as a co-President only:
G.K. Chesterton 1930-36
E. C. Bentley 1936-49
Dorothy L. Sayers 1949-57
Agatha Christie 1957-76
Lord Gorell 1957-63 (as co-President, because Christie disliked public speaking)
Julian Symons 1976-85
H.R.F. Keating 1985-2000
Simon Brett 2000 to date
When one looks at that list of very illustrious names, my pleasure is self-explanatory. Yes, you may think that quality control has slipped all of a sudden, but I couldn't possibly comment! My friends and fellow Club members have done me a great honour. Now my first aim is to try to avoid falling under a bus between now and mid-November...
(The photo shows Simon and me at a Detection Club dinner a while ago and was taken by Kate Charles the night she was initiated as a member of the Club.)