Monday, 9 September 2019

The Isle of Man and a Douglas Murder Mystery Night

I arrived back home last night after a short trip to the Isle of Man. As I've mentioned before on this blog, I'm a big fan of islands, and I must have been to the IoM half a dozen times or so over the years. The climate isn't invariably Mediterranean in nature, but I was lucky with the weather and also in the company I kept.

Back in 2011, Jan Macartney, the chief librarian at Douglas, invited me over to host a Victorian murder mystery evening and this time she'd asked me to present a Golden Age mystery night: Murder at Bigelow Manor. It was great to catch up with Jan over lunch after landing at Ronaldsway on Friday, and to meet her deputy Sophie. After wandering along the Douglas promenade during the afternoon, I had dinner with an old friend, fellow crime novelist and lawyer Doug Stewart. The previous day, I'd had the enjoyable experience of watching the Test Match at Old Trafford in the company of another old friend (and former literary collaborator on a legal book) Michael Malone, and Doug, another cricket fan, and I were able to ruminate on the fate of the  Ashes (alas, by the time I got back home, the urn was back on its way to Australia).

I spent most of Saturday with Doug, touring round some of the island's highlights, such as Castletown, Port St Mary, and Port Erin, and walking along the coastal route near Port Soderick in the sunshine. The island looked quite lovely as usual, and I'm not surprised that it's attracted plenty of crime writers over the years, including Chris Ewan and George Bellairs (whose Littlejohn mysteries are now enjoying a new lease of life thanks to the British Library's Crime Classics). And Agatha Christie, of all people, wrote a competition story set on the island, '"Manx Gold".

The evening was devoted to the murder mystery. Three of the four members of the cast which performed so well in 2011 were again involved, and I must say that all four of them performed the script superbly. Jan had secured a sell-out audience, and an excellent local bookshop, Bridge Bookshop, sold plenty of copies of Gallows Court. I was amazed to meet a lady who actually has a house in Lymm a short distance from mine, and delighted to have a chat with yet another Manx-based crime writer, Alan Bradley. It's ages since I've seen Alan, and it was good to catch up at long last. Bob Harrison of Manx Radio conducted a Q and A with verve, and it was a tremendous night, made all the better for me by a surprise cricketing success for Derbyshire in the T20 Blast; I caught the last moments after getting back to my hotel.

On Sunday I had a very pleasant lunch with Jan, and another chance to wander along the front at Douglas. It's a great place, and for those of you who aren't familiar with the island, I can heartily recommend a visit. I did write a short story set in Peel, "Sunset City", a few years back, and one of these days I may try my hand at another Manx mystery.

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