I had a wonderful time last week on a short but very packed visit to Kent. I was hoping to combine pleasurable socialising with research into some aspects of British crime writing heritage, but I didn't know exactly what to expect. As things turned out, I met some truly delightful people as well as a couple of friends who happen to be crime writers for whom I've a huge amount of admiration.
In Deal - a resort I'd never visited before - I had the pleasure of spending time with Frances Fyfield, a fellow lawyer as well as one of the finest British crime novelists of the past thirty years. She's always great company and an added bonus was that she threw a party for a friend and neighbour which led to my meeting a host of interesting people, including Nick Dear, whose highly successful plays include Frankenstein and whose TV work includes half a dozen episodes of Poirot. Deal obviously has a very cohesive literary community as well as two castles, and I was definitely impressed.
I also had the chance to visit Catherine Aird, who lives just outside Canterbury. Another real pleasure. Catherine is, I'm glad to report, working hard on her latest novel and at the same time turning her mind to the next. The passing years have diminished neither her wit nor the fertility of her imagination - she outlined a plot idea that I felt was really appealing. I wish I'd thought of it...
In addition I had the good fortune to be able to meet friends and family of Julian Symons. This was fascinating and I learned more about a writer in whom I've long been very interested. It was great to see the British Library editions of his books lined up the shelves along with his first editions. And not to mention the Edgars - see below!
Finally, there was the opportunity for a small amount of sightseeing and I wandered along the front at Walmer (where Symons used to live) and also around the lovely old town of Sandwich. And no, I didn't get to eat a sandwich there...
I hope I am not being ungallant, Martin, to point out that Catherine Aird is almost 92 years old. It is wonderful to hear that she is still producing novels. Is this some kind of a record (for a crime writer)? Martyn
Sounds like a satisfying trip. I was especially pleased to hear that Catherine Aird is still writing, as I have been a fan of hers since the 70s.
I know Symons won Edgars for The Progress of a Crime, the first edition of Bloody Murder and was later named a Grand Master but what was the fourth one ("MWA Award 1960") for?
Yes, Martyn, it is wonderful. And if it isn't a record, it can't be far off. Speaking of records, dare I add that she is younger than Burt Bacharach, who has just released two new songs, co-written with Daniel Tashian?
Very pleasing, Chris. I think it's really good news for fans of well-made traditional detective fiction and Catherine's dedication to her craft is admirable.
Xavier, well spotted - really good detective work there! I wondered if anyone would notice and I'm glad you did. I too am uncertain. I have a theory - the accuracy of which I can't confirm - that one of the Edgars had design flaws and was therefore replaced. But it bears further investigation.
Martyn, not quite a record but impressive all the same.
I think the actual record belongs to the late American gothic romance writer Phyllis A. Whitney whose final novel appeared when she was 94 - she then went on to live to 103.
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