Monday, June 19, 2017

Bodies From The Library 2017

It is horribly hot in my flat tonight (hovering around 30 degrees, I can't begin to tell you how much I wish I was in Shetland right now where it's sunny, but a much more manageable 12 degrees with a light breeze. Soon.) I'm torn between throwing the towel in and trying to sleep, or watching two students rescue a green woodpecker from the car park below my window (it can't seem to fly, but limped up to them looking hopeful about twenty minutes ago, they have found a box for it and are doing the bedside thing, presumably until expert help arrives, it's oddly gripping).

What I'm gong to do is write about the excellent Bodies from the Library conference at the British Library that I went to on Saturday before it all seems to long ago. This is a celebration of Golden Age crime fiction, and a really good event. It sounded like it would be run again next year and I'd wholeheartedly recommend it to anybody with an interest in the genre.

The organisation is excellent (adequate tea and coffee opportunities, doesn't over run, chance to buy the books being discussed). This year the post lunch slot was taken by a vintage recording of a Dorothy L. Sayers story, a sensible concession to the mid afternoon slump that must make speaking in that slot a somewhat disheartening experience.

(Just a quick update, security have come to take a look at the woodpecker.)

What I particularly like about this event is how friendly it feels, how enthusiastic everyone is, and the general feel of being part of a conversation (rather than in a lecture). All the speakers were good (very good) but if anyone gets the chance to hear Tony Medawar, Dolores Gordon-Smith, Dr John Curran, or Martin Edwards talk than go and hear what they have to say.

The opening panel on the continuing popularity of the golden age was particularly interesting, throwing out things I hadn't considered before. Martin Edwards new book 'The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books', officially out in 2 weeks time, but available at the event, is looking very good (I'm enjoying it very much at the moment, much more to follow on this). I spent quite a lot of a sleepless (far to hot) Saturday night cross referencing between The Story of Classic Crime, and 'Taking Detective Stories Seriously' (the collected reviews of Dorothy L. Sayers) and had a very nice time doing it.

I'm also particularly excited by the sound of an October release in the crime classics series - 'Foreign Bodies' which is a collection of golden age era stories in translation from as far afield as Japan, Russia, Mexico, and India, many of them in English for the first time. I have high hopes for this. One of the things I love about older books are the insight they give into how people used to think (common prejudices, ambitions, attitudes - that sort of thing), stepping out of the relatively familier British settings, and point of view, should be all sorts of interesting.

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