The Bodies From The Library Conference 2024 (2024)

It’s been three years since I’ve been to London for the Bodies From The Library. Two years ago I was thwarted by a combination of hot weather and a worrying fragile rail network. Last year, my job got in the way – I have to work one Saturday in June which I can’t control and finally my luck ran out when the Saturdays clashed. But this year, the coast was clear, the stars had aligned and finally (hey, three years is a long time) I was back!

I came down to London the previous day, partly to avoid an early start on Saturday, but had the pleasure of meeting up with my blogging buddy Kate Jackson along with a selection of organisers and presenters for a few drinks and dinner – hey, I spoke/burbled at the conference (the online one) once, I have connections!

So, next morning, I met up with my blogging buddies and we took our seats, ready to go. A quick trawl through the goodie bags – a recent Crime Classics novel and a paperback of Bodies 4 – and things kicked off.

The day kicked off with Simon and Lucy Brett talking about Peter Wimsey on the radio, which you could have titled “Simon’s Early Career with Wimsey Interruptions” but it was fascinating to hear about their experiences in radio drama, and dealing with Ian Carmichael. It finished with a brief “lost” Sayers script, The Tragedy At The Pony Club, read by Simon with live audio effects from Lucy.

Next up was Martin Edwards interviewed by Moira Redmond about John Bude (a bit) and the 10th anniversary of the Crime Classics range. Despite this Crime Classics range often being a subject at the conference (usually being spoken about by Martin) there was a lot of new information to discover – for example that the reprint of Portrait Of A Murderer sold 10 times the original print run! Oh, and if anyone knows who holds the rights to Milward Kennedy’s books, do let Martin know…

Next was Mark Aldridge, talking about his follow-up to his Poirot book, unsurprisingly concerning Miss Marple. If this talk is anything to go by, the book is a must buy. Absolutely fascinating, including the revelation of who was the first person to play Miss Marple – it’s not Agatha Christie as had previously been claimed, but buy the book to find out who!

Next up was Tony Medawar of the life of Robert Bruce Montgomery aka Edmund Crispin. His life has been spoken about before at the conference, but Tony brought a slew of new information, from being given a spider for his birthday by his parents to his friendship with Agatha Christie.

Then Jake Kerridge and Dolores Gordon-Smith took to the stage to discuss the influence on real-life crime influencing crime fiction novels, which had been going on for years before the Golden Age, such as in Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure Of Charles Augustus Milverton” mentioning such cases as the Wallace case and Edith Thompson. The Wallace case in particular is a favourite as it feels like a classic crime plot – do take a look at the Wikipedia summary. John Rhode liked it so much that he wrote about it twice – here and here.

After lunch (and our usual trip to Pret across the road) Ronaldo fa*garazzi introduced us to archive footage from the BBC’s “Detective” series from the sixties, a show which has unfortunately been partially wiped from the archives, including the two (The Judas Window and And So To Murder) featuring Sir Henry Merrivale. We did get some clips of Nigel Strangeways, Dr John Thorndyke and a spot-on Roger Sheringham – I have to say, the quality of the productions seemed pretty good, so it’s a shame that so many are lost.

Moira Redmond (of the Clothes In Books blog) spoke about the fancy dress party and it’s place in classic crime. And just to share one thing here, when you read of someone dressing as an “apache”, they’re not stripped to the waist and holding a tomahawk… No mention of Flynn’s The Orange Axe though…

John Curran then did his level best to empty my wallet with countless recommendations about crimes at college, some familiar and many less so – thank goodness I’ve been sent a copy of the list, as I couldn’t possibly have made notes on all of them. I may have misunderstood, but he did say something about liking the Coles a lot. Or did I get that wrong?

To round off the talks, Jim Noy, who blogs at The Invisible Event, rather than discuss Enid Blyton as a detective novelist, produced a unpublished manuscript of a sixteenth Five Find Outers book that he had “borrowed” from the Crime Writers Association archive. Jim, who I gather blogs at The Invisible Event, read it to us – it was a bit odd, as it seemed to involve the Five themselves discussing whether they were in a detective series. Obviously, Blyton was being both incredibly meta and ahead of her time. This was absolutely marvellous, especially the Young Robin Brand joke that went right over the heads of most of the audience. Well done, Jim (who blogs at The Invisible Event).

The Bodies From The Library Conference 2024 (7)

After the Q&A and a glass or two of some rather nice white wine, it was back home – it was my wedding anniversary so I thought I’d better see my much better half before the day was out.

All in all, a simply wonderful day, possibly the best of many fantastic days. Congratulations to all involved, both behind the scenes and on stage. Fingers crossed I can make it again next year.

The Bodies From The Library Conference 2024 (2024)
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