I was pleased to hear that the British Library Crime Classics have won an award for 'cultural enterprise' in the field of 'creative commerce'. This is in connection with their recently launched 'subscription service', which seeks to build closer connections between fans of the series and the Library.
Rebecca Nuotio (pictured, receiving the award) is in overall charge of the small dedicated publications team at the Library. I've enjoyed working with her and her colleagues over the years and it's good to see that they are reaping the rewards of their commitment to classic crime.
Here is Rebecca explaining what the new service is about: 'We launched our British Library Crime Classics subscription service in September 2022, offering customers a monthly rolling or 12-month subscription to receive the latest titles in the popular series. Our initial aim when creating this product for the Crime Classics series was to increase revenue, to retain our current customers (during the pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis) and to expand our audience. We have subsequently added a six-month subscription, following feedback from customers, which makes an ideal gift.
'We felt it important that as the home of the series we were able to offer something other retailers were unable to offer. Whilst most subscribers would benefit from a monetary incentive to purchase from us (free UK postage or a discount on annual subscriptions), we have also been adding related ephemera to each order.
'For example, subscribers received a booklet reprinting of images found in the original 1934 edition of W F Harvey’s The Mysterious Mr Badman with their delivery of that title. We have also included specially produced greeting cards, bookmarks, and postcards - things we can produce in-house or with our regular suppliers for a low cost, but that add value to the series’ fan base. We also include a welcome message in each new subscription from series editor Martin Edwards, and we are planning what other items we can include in the future.’
At a recent meeting at the Library, I was heartened by the strength of the commitment to the series. We have many more titles lined up, some as 'definites', many more as 'possibles' and once I've finished work on the forthcoming anthology of Welsh mysteries, there will be a couple more anthologies to research and prepare. Almost every day I receive emails from fans of the series, expressing their delight in the books and often either asking questions or making suggestions. It's good to know that, nine years after the first appearance of John Bude's The Cornish Coast Murder, which really kick-started the series' growth, readers and bookshops remain as enthusiastic about it as ever.
So which authors have been the biggest beneficiaries of this renaissance? In the early days, there's no doubt that John Bude was the front-runner. More recently, my understanding is that sales have been spread around, with Anthony Berkeley, Christianna Brand and John Dickson Carr enjoying great popularity as well as a number of individual titles, such as Michael Gilbert's Smallbone Deceased. Overall, though, I think there's little doubt that of all the many authors whose reputations have benefited from republication, E.C.R. Lorac leads the way. It's also clear that different titles of hers appeal to different readers. And the good news is that I'm sure there are more to come.