Monday 24 June 2019
Alibis in the Archive 2019
Over the past weekend, I've been at Gladstone's Library, hosting the third Alibis in the Archive conference. As before, this was a celebration of crime fiction, and its heritage, in a gorgeous setting made all the better by good weather. The Library is home to the British Crime Writing Archives, the collections of the Crime Writers' Association and the Detection Club, and the Library's head archivist had arranged a marvellous display of some of the items from the collection.
The programme began on Friday with dinner and a library-based version of a "pub quiz". I was question master, the first time I've done such a thing. It was a lot of fun, with book prizes generously donated by HarperCollins. And it was a good way for attendees to get to know the writers who had come along for the weekend. There's a lot of mingling at Gladstone's. It's such a friendly place and that's the ethos of the Alibis conference.
On Saturday morning, David Whittle kicked off the series of talks with a lovely discussion about Edmund Crispin, interspersed with recordings of some of the music Crispin wrote, under his real name Bruce Montgomery. Then Alison Joseph gave a thought-provoking talk about the books Agatha Christie wrote as Mary Westmacott.
Many people had come along specially to hear Peter Robinson, and he did not disappoint, with a frank and fascinating talk about his crime writing career and the experience of seeing his DCI Banks series televised. It was quite riveting, and so was Frances Fyfield's personal and moving account of a literary friendship, between her and P.D. James.
After lunch came Aline Templeton (whose husband Ian took some of these photos), with a wide-ranging survey of Scotland's contribution to the crime genre, from James Hogg onwards, and Michael Ridpath, talking about the settings of his books. I finished off the day's formal programme, with a talk about Julian Symons and Michael Gilbert, and brought along a collection of books by both men to illustrate it. Several people were intrigued by Julian's particularly modest way of inscribing his work. The evening was also memorable - many of us sat outside, talking over a glass of wine or two, enjoying the long hours of daylight.
Sunday saw a talk by Janet Laurence about women and crime writing, a conversation between Peter and me, and then a panel discussion involving the whole group of writers to round things off. It was all over too soon, and feedback was extremely positive. And the good news is - Alibis will be back next June! It's a great event and I do hope you'll think about coming along.