Wednesday, 23 September 2015
The Agatha Christie Festival
I was lucky enough to be invited to take part in last week's Agatha Christie Festival in Torquay. The festival has been running for some years, but it was my first time in attendance, and it was good to be back on "the English Riviera". The last time I stayed at the Grand Hotel was at the time of the Christie Centenary in 1990, a very memorable week-end. At that point, I'd never published a single novel or short story. So it was a particular pleasure to return for the 125th anniversary of Agatha's birth as a fully-fledged crime novelist.
My first talk was in the Spanish Barn (photo immediately above) at Torre Abbey (photo at the top of this post), an atmospheric and historic setting, and I was gratified that the organisers had gathered an excellent crowd. I was introduced by David Brawn, my editor at Harper Collins, and my subject was The Golden Age of Murder. I didn't talk to a script, but after working on the book for so many years,I felt I would have more than enough to say without one! Some very interesting questions prompted a lively discussion, and I met several delightful people for the fist time.
In the afternoon, it was time to head off to the Imperial Hotel (said to be the model for the hotel in Peril at End House.) This time I was doing a double act with Rob Davies, from the publications department of the British Library. Rob is series editor for the BL's crime classics, and we talked about titles in this remarkably successful series (370,000 paperbacks sold so far!) as well as future plans. In a nutshell, we have titles lined up until the end of 2017. It seems like a long way ahead, but even then, the books will be appearing at a rate of more than one a month. Quite a schedule.
Rob and I both enjoyed the session, and we are hoping to repeat it at future festivals and other literary events in the future. One interesting aspect at Torquay was that the audience included some heirs of literary estates,and it was great to talk to them. Unexpectedly, Andrew Wilson, whose biography of Patricia Highsmith I reviewed here quite recently, came and said hello. We hadn't met before and I didn't know he lives in Devon. Andrew tells me he's written a new crime novel, which should be well worth looking out for. After two talks, I was more than ready for a convivial dinner with the British Library team, followed by a drink back in the Grand.
Then, the following morning, after goodbyes at Torre Abbey, it was off to Winchester, where I was talking about The Golden Age of Murder at Winchester Discovery Centre, a fabulous venue. Winchester is a lovely and, of course, very historic city, where the library is a proper community hub, and the schedule of events at the adjoining Discovery Centre is impressive. A model for libraries and associated services in the 21st century, I felt. This time, I was being interviewed by Gilbert Yates of the Discovery Centre, and the question and answer format made a refreshing change from a conventional talk. Next morning I satisfied my inner tourist with a sight-seeing trip around the city,and then it was off home after what had been, to say the least, an eventful week. One of many gratifying aspects of the trip was the enthusiasm shown by so many people for The Golden Age of Murder. I signed a lot of copies,and I remain bowled over by reaction to the book from so many people.