Monday, 13 June 2016
Bodies from the Library
I'm back home - briefly -after an exhilarating trip to London for the second Bodies from the Library conference at the British Library. This was a highly successful event, one in which I was delighted to take part, and during the afternoon coffee break one of the attendees made things even more memorable by kindly telling me that she'd just heard that The Golden Age of Murder has been shortlisted for the Macavity award from Mystery Readers International. Not so long ago, if you'd told me that a book of mine would win three awards and be listed for three more, I'd have thought you were pulling my leg in a rather cruel way. But yes, it has actually happened...
Less of a surprise were two announcements about personal projects of mine which I'm very excited about. For one day only, copies of the new edition of Anthony Berkeley's The Poisoned Chocolates Case, a title in the British Library's Crime Classics series, were on sale - official publication is in October. And this edition contains not only an intro that I've written, but more importantly, a seventh solution (in addition to the six solutions Berkeley came up with) by Christianna Brand, first published in the US in the 70s. And there is a brand new solution written by me. This is a project that was, for me, enormous fun, and a large number of copies of the book were sold on the day. More about this one in October...
During my conversation with Rob Davies of the British Library, we also announced that next year will see the publication of my new non-fiction book The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books. This book has occupied a good deal of my time over the past 18 months, and I recently finished work on the manuscript. It's very different from The Golden Age of Murder, even though there is an element of overlap in terms of the period covered, and I hope that crime fans will find it full of interesting - and often unexpected - material.
The first session of the day featured another book with which I'm very happy to be associated. This is The Sinking Admiral, by the Detection Club. Simon Brett, who masterminded the book, discussed it with me, and two other contributors, Janet Laurence and Stella Duffy. It was also announced that Stella has been awarded an OBE, and that she has been engaged to write a completion of an unfinished Ngaio Marsh novel: something to look forward to. As for The Sinking Admiral, it sold out by mid-morning.
Tony Medawar talked about Anthony Berkeley, while Len Tyler and Susan Moody championed Philip MacDonald and Georgette Heyer, and Barry Pike discussed the work of H.C. Bailey. Dolores Gordon-Smith focused on G.K. Chesterton, while Jennifer Henderson, biographer of Josephiine Tey, talked about Tey as a Scottish writer. John Curran discussed the Collins Crime Club - and his book on the subject is another that will be eagerly anticipated. Finally there was a group panel in which we picked favourite screen adaptations of Golden Age novels.
Dinners on the Friday and Saturday evenings provided plenty of opportunities for socialising, and I was delighted to meet Taku Ashibe, from the Honkaku Mystery Writers' Club of Japan, (modelled on the Detection Club) who presented me with several books, including one of his own. Saturday itself was extremely hectic, and although I had the chance to chat to a number of attendees, there simply wasn't time for as many conversations as I'd have liked. But you can't have everything, and overall this was a wonderful day, full of good things, and pleasant people. What more could you want?
The photo at the top of this post appears on an account of the day on Puzzle Doctor's splendid blog, In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel. Further perspectives on the day may be found on the similaly enjoyable Past Offences blog and Cross Examining Crime.