I've just returned from Shrewsbury after an exhilarating weekend. It was the CWA's annual conference, an event I've rarely missed over the past thirty years. The setting was lovely - the ancient town is crammed with history and interest, and the Lion Hotel, whose previous guests have included Darwin, de Quincey and Paganini, was a splendidly historic venue.
The speakers included the legendary investigative psychologist David Canter, author of the Gold Dagger-winning Criminal Shadows, who shared many insights about the pros and cons of offender profiling. A psychiatrist explored the way that her discipline can contribute to cutting edge fiction. A forensic expert cleverly updated us on latest forensic techniques, and how they might be used in solving The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. There were talks about Ellis Peters, and about marketing books in the modern age. A leading scientific advisor to government was the after dinner speaker. And there was much more besides...
Quite a bit of alcohol was quaffed, and we also had a visit to Tanners' ancient wine cellars, again fascinating and historic. A ghost tour around the town was followed by a trip to the castle and the amazing public library, where an extremely old building which once housed Shrewsbury School has been cleverly integrated into a modern facility. I've never seen a library like it. There was also a book-signing at Waterstones.
It was great fun to catch up with old friends and also to meet many of the CWA's newer members, such as playwright Derek Webb, novelists Stephen Norman and Jo Summers, and human rights campaigner Stephen Jakobi. Great credit goes to Cilla Masters for organising things with such verve, and to Dea Parkin for all her support work. As for the CWA's AGM, it was a well-attended forum for lively debate and some very good exchanges of ideas for the future. And the upshot is that I've been re-elected as Chair of the CWA for a further (and definitely, definitely final) twelve-month term. It's a great honour to lead such a thriving and fun organisation.