I'm just back from a very enjoyable trip to Cambridge. When Sophie Hannah asked me to give a lecture on Golden Age detective fiction to a group of her students who are studying creative writing with an emphasis on crime, I needed no more than a nanosecond to make up my mind to accept her invitation. And I'm so glad I did.
The venue was Madingley Hall, a very impressive place which dates back to the sixteenth century. Since 1948, it's been owned by Cambridge University and it makes an excellent venue for all kinds of continuing education courses and other events. I was able to stay overnight and enjoy the excellent dining facilities. As far as I know, Oxford doesn't have anything comparable, and it's certainly a great draw for the students.
Each time I'm asked to talk about the Golden Age, I try to do something slightly different. This keeps me fresh and avoids the risk of the material becoming stale. Often, I bring along 'props' or visual aids, examples of books from the period, and one of the items the students were especially interested in was an original copy of Who Killed Robert Prentice?, which was the second of the Dennis Wheatley-Joe Links crime dossiers.
It was great fun to catch up with Sophie, who is one of the most interesting thinkers in the genre and who devised the creative writing course herself. After the lecture there was an opportunity to relax over a drink in the bar with some of the students. They were a delightful bunch of people and I was impressed by their enthusiasm. I hope to have a chance to read some of their novels in years to come.