Wednesday 19 June 2024

Libraries and The Lakes

Last week I had a truly delightful time in the Lake District, which is my excuse for forgetting my Forgotten Book post until Monday! June is National Crime Reading Month and I've been very keen to support libraries, which have meant so much to me throughout my life, and have always been a source of solace as well as great pleasure. After Bodies from the Library at the British Library and Alibis in the Archive at Gladstone's Library, I was ready to concentrate on public libraries, which form such an important part of so many communities up and down the country.

This year I've expanded the reach of my exhibition for libraries about crime fiction. The first year of the exhibition, in Warrington libraries, went really well and this year I have made the exhibition, and the associated quiz that I devised, available to upwards of fifty libraries, with some variations for different locations. In addition I agreed to do six library events, five of which took place last week.

The first saw me returning to Wallasey Central Library. My last time there was - blimey! - sixteen years ago, when on a memorable evening I hosted a Victorian murder mystery. This time I was talking about 'My Life in Crime', one of my regular topics, and the one chosen for last week's events. Given that I was for years a member of Moreton Library, near Wallasey, and that I was also a member of Wirral Writers, who met in Bromborough Library not far away, this return to the peninsula brought back many pleasant memories. Another memorable day for all sorts of reasons.

I'd agreed to do a tour of Cumbria (the local authority has recently split into two, but the name is still convenient) and give the talk at four libraries, which gave the chance of some sightseeing and research for future Lake District novels as well. First stop was St Bees (see the above photo) and then it was on to Whitehaven Library, an interesting town I've visited several times and would like to feature in a novel sometime. Incredibly, one of the people in the audience was a former solicitor who still owns a copy of Understanding Computer Contracts, which I wrote in my mid-twenties! Then, after a brief stop at Keswick, it was on to Penrith Library for an evening talk.

The following day, there was plenty of time for sight-seeing and we took full advantage. A visit to Acorn Bank, a very interesting National Trust property (complete with poisonous herb garden...) in the morning, was followed by lunch in Ambleside and then a drive to Coniston and a hugely enjoyable boat trip. I've never sailed on Coniston before and it was great to get a close look at the island fictionalised by Arthur Ransome in Swallows and Amazons.

That evening there was a talk at Barrow Library, and the next day I returned to Keswick Library, where I've given talks in the past. It was great to meet the various librarians, who do such an important job, and to see the imaginative ways in which they'd used the exhibition material I'd created was a real delight. The whole experience was a lot of fun and I felt lucky to have the chance to enjoy myself in such a lovely part of the world - and talk a lot about books and writing, always a favourite topic. My warmest thanks go to everyone who made last week so agreeable.

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