The Golden Age of Mystery Fiction (approx. 1920 – 1945)
This is slightly off topic, but as you see from my imaginary Venn diagram of vintage knitters, wearers, sewists and Agatha Christie and other Golden Age author fans, there is a big overlap. I was lucky enough to meet the editor of the British Library Crime Classics imprint previously mentioned here, and introduce him to this demographic of readers he was previously ignorant of, at Bodies In The Library, a one day conference of writers, academics and über fans of the Golden Age of Crime.
Now if it had been a Gothic literature conference, there would have been a lot of people in black with lace and corsets, or a Sci-fi book convention there would be a smattering dressed in character. Alas I was the only person dressed ready to solve a 1930s country house crime, in my handmade 1930’s original pattern skirt (which I keep meaning to blog about) and hand knit sweater with a tweed jacket and sensible brogues for pursuing miscreants. One lady commented on my shoes, but apart from that I think people thought I was bonkers and had come in fancy dress – lucky I hadn’t gone the whole hog and worn a vintage hat (this was only omitted as I had to leave the house in a hurry). I wanted to point out that I really do just dress like that quite often (and on a side note, abhor the wearing of jeans as everyone from a toddler to a Grandpa seems to dress the same, which is so dull, or simply sickmaking as Evelyn Waugh would put it).
The day started with an amazing goodie bag which was worth the price of admission alone as it had three books in it, including the lovely facsimile edition above! It hasn’t been released yet, but expect to pay £9.99 when it arrives in mid-August 2015. There was also a list of all the books forthcoming from the British Library Classic Crimes and a programme for the day, which was packed with talks and discussion panels and included only one rather dull (in delivery rather than content) talk. The rest was amusing and I learnt quite a lot too. I’m now lusting after this book, which was on sale at the event, but being a huge hardback I realised I couldn’t manage it in addition to the goodie bag. – EDIT I was given the book for my birthday and it is indeed very good.
The author Martin Edwards was at the event and was very entertaining and really proved he knows his onions. No-one in the country has read as many crime novels as him! The first panel he was on was about the Detection Club, formed in thirties by famous names such as Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayer, EC Bentley, Freeman Wills Crofts and prime mover, but slightly forgotten author Anthony Berkeley (aka Frances Iles and a variety of other pseudonyms) I’ve listened to part of this as an audiobook today very much expecting it to be dry and academic, but it’s pretty exciting. “To conceal no vital rules from the reader” is part of the oath of the secret society which also involves a skull with glowing eyes and the tale of Ngiao Marsh’s first experiences can be listened to here on the publisher’s website.
There was also a book stall, so I did buy another book, not out till July, but specially released to the conference. How could I resist having it first (OK apart from all the readers who had it the first time it was printed). Lucky for you, it’s now out – here it is on their website. Is it sad to say that the little row of matching book spines on my shelf is really satisfying?
Fun fact of the day – in the three weeks before Christmas 2014, A Mystery In White (above) was the number one bestselling fiction book on the Waterstones chart – a legitimate best seller! And other publishers have taken note. A Harper Collins person in charge of estates (ie. books with a deceased author) who is therefore in charge of Agatha Christie’s publishing, was also at the conference. And a big hooray for him, as he’s the person responsible for the facsimile editions of Agatha Christie books, which I love and collect. Isn’t this flapper illustration below marvellous? And it’s a great book too.
There are going to be more fascimile editions of other crime authors (such as the goodie bag book at the top) and for those of you living in the twenty-first century, there are ebooks available for all the books I’ve mentioned. I would much prefer to have a real book and then have something nice to keep on my bookcases.