Wednesday 7 December 2022

Cambridge and the Golden Age

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.



Anonymous said...

Sophie's course seems very good. But there are a lot of creative writing courses around, including your own 'Crafting Crime'. So I am curious. On the lazy assumption that you didn't go on a course like that yourself, what difference do you think it would have made to your writing career if you had done so? Eg, would you have been published sooner, would your earlier books have been (even!) better, would you have found certain aspects of writing easier, etc? Martyn

Martin Edwards said...

That's a very good question, Martyn. I never went on a course but I did devour a huge number of books about 'how to write crime'. However, if I'm honest, although some were good and I did pick up some tips, they didn't make a huge difference to me or my writing. I think the merit of courses is that for some prospective writers, they can make a real difference - especially in the case of someone who hasn't read widely in the genre and learned from so doing. I'd soaked myself in crime fiction from the age of eight, so I had a pretty good understanding of what it took to get published, even at a fairly early stage. I also went to a writers' group for a few years, but although that was enjoyable, I can't say that it taught me much. I suppose the key point is that what works for one aspiring writer doesn't necessarily work for another. It's partly with this in mind that 'Crafting Crime' contains tips from many other writers as well as my detailed thoughts.