Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Forgotten Authors

For me, the Crimefest convention kicked off with a panel that I moderated on Thursday afternoon. The topic was ‘Forgotten Authors’, and the panel comprised Barry Forshaw, Declan Hughes, Sarah Rayne and Mary Andrea Clarke. It was good to have the benefit of Barry’s expertise (he wrote The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction and edited the massive, two volume encyclopaedia about the genre in Britain, published by Harcourt at the turn of the year) and Declan, Sarah and Mary displayed real passion for their chosen writers – factors which contributed to a lively and, I think, hugely entertaining debate.

Declan focused on that great husband and wife team, Ross Macdonald and Margaret Millar, while Mary’s choices were two writers of a very different type, Georgette Heyer and Ethel Lina White. White’s name is not widely known these days, but she wrote the books on which three very successful films were based – The Lady Vanishes, The Spiral Staircase and Wax – and was a specialist in the ‘Had I But Known’ school of crime fiction.

Sarah spoke with much enthusiasm about Francis Iles and that mistress of ingenuity, Christianna Brand, two writers I’m very fond of myself. Barry ranged over writers such as Eric Ambler, the neglected Alan Williams, the thriller writer Francis Clifford, and Peter O’Donnell, who created Modesty Blaise. My own choices were Michael Gilbert and Julian Symons.

The audience became very enthusiastic and involved, and I’m sure it wasn’t simply because there was a goody bag of books to be awarded to whoever asked the best question (Jennifer Palmer got the vote.) All in all, it really was one of the most enjoyable panels I’ve ever been involved with.


Maxine Clarke said...

I agree, Martin, it was an excellent panel and very well moderated ;-). As mentioned, I thought this panel and the translators' panel were by far the two best panels - why? Because they were not restricted to 4 or 5 authors talking about their own books. For the audience, it is more interesting to have the panel discuss, say, police procedurals in general rather than only four of them, etc.
Declan Burke has just written a post in which he says he only really went to two panels - the ones he was on. He went to another for 20 mins, but (though he put it more politely) he found the format boring. He refers to Crimefest as a marketing exercise more than once.
I would not be that extreme by any means, but given the high overlap of authors between this year and last year, and the fact that they are talking about their own books on most of the panels....something is going to have to change I think. Let's hope that there can be more "panels for readers" next time, in which discussions are more broad rather than being limited to panellists' books (though those can be mentioned!).

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Maxine. Something I decided a long time ago, after a few conventions, was that I would be very selective about how many panels I went to. A degree of repetition is almost inevitable, I think. So I pick and choose, often (but not always) focusing on either supporting pals, or seeing people I've never seen before. For me, it's the chance to meet like-minded folk that is more appealing than the panels, wonderful though they often are - when taken in small doses...

Peter Rozovsky said...

Yes, this panel certainly enlarged the old to-be-read list.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Maxine Clarke said...

I agree, Martin. I don't mean to be negative about the panels, though, I did enjoy all the ones I attended (and I attended all but one of those that were on offer - well, I had to have a shopping break at least once!). I found that each panel had one or two authors on it whom I had not heard before and wanted to hear (partly because of the parallel sessions last year, and having to choose between one of two panels), and I am glad I went.
But now, having attended for two years, I suspect that next year I am already going to have heard about 90 per cent of the authors already. So, I hope that 2010 CrimeFest either has a significantly different attendance list, or has a few new formats of panels. Karen and I had an idea for one, so we must see if we can develop that a bit.