Blog Update and Bodies From The Library

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If anyone has been paying attention (unlikely), they will have noticed the blog schedule claims I will post “every Sunday”, and that not only have the posts been going up on Mondays, they’ve also been going up only every other week. In short, I decided to start this blog at almost the exact same time as a bunch of life events happened, cutting into my free time. The good news is that one of those events should eventually result in me having space for more bookshelves. Hopefully I will manage to keep to my own self-set schedule again before too long.

In better news, I did manage to attend Bodies From The Library for the first time! For anyone not familiar with this event, it’s a series of talks about Golden Age Detective Fiction, hosted at the British Library in London. The programme is here:
As you can see there were many luminaries of detective fiction writing, criticism, and scholarship presenting talks. The talks were fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed the day.

I discovered which is the most divisive Golden Age book, why crime fiction authors bother to keep writing (or don’t), whether you should lock your bedroom door at night, and which member of the panel knows how to commit a perfect murder. I found out more about Clifford Witting and S.S. Van Dine, and found out anything about Horatio Winslow, Leslie Quirk, and Alan Thomas. I pondered why trains are so popular in crime fiction and what makes a great clue.

The experts! Left to right: Jake Kerridge (standing), Richard Reynolds, Jim Noy, Kate Jackson, Martin Edwards, Chrissie Poulson, and Dolores Gordon Smith.

As well as the talks I was able to chat with many people whom I’d previously only interacted with or read online – bloggers Jim, Kate, Moira and John, and a handful of members of the Shedunnit book club. It’s a great feeling to be able to talk with people as passionate (more passionate, even) about the same interests. I’m even more excited to continue exploring my favourite genre of fiction.

For me the classic crime-fest actually started the day before. For travel reasons, I arrived in London on the Friday, ready to attempt this bookshop crawl:
I’d done it once before in September 2019 (the “before times”), and was excited to try again. However, the trail had a disappointing start. For some reason I could not find the extensive crime fiction section in Any Amount of Books that I remembered from my first visit, finding only a smaller bookshelf of comparatively recent titles. Maybe it’s gone, maybe the slightly warmer temperatures addled my Northern brain. Next I tried to find Quinto, but it has sadly gone online-only since lockdown.
That left Oxfam, Skoob, and Judd – and things started looking up. I also spotted some interesting non-secondhand books in the London Review of Books shop, but I decided not to buy anything new (I regret not getting anything now).

My eventual haul from the weekend, including 1 and 1/10th free books from Bodies From The Library.

The George Saunders in the stack there was actually from somewhere different – Word on the Water, a bookshop located on a houseboat! Its stock was more centred around recent editions, but I enjoyed browsing, so I picked up a book I’d been recommended. I could probably find it in any bookshop, so why not buy it from a boat?

Also, since it wasn’t too far away, I paid a visit to Mecklenburgh Square, the location featured in Square Haunting by Francesca Wade. Dorothy L. Sayers lived here when working on Whose Body. Looking at the pristine row of buildings on a sun-baked Friday afternoon, with nearby Guilford Street swarming with parents and children returning from the nursery, I couldn’t quite imagine Sayers struggling to make an independent living in her drafty apartment. Might have been the heat again.

All in all a fantastic crime-fiction filled weekend. Hopefully I can make it to the British Library next year, too.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. thegreencapsule

    Thanks for the post – I haven’t seen that many covering Bodies from the Library, so it is great to hear about it. I would have loved to attend.

    1. Velleic

      Glad you liked it.
      In person events are great, but do have their downsides of course. It would be convenient if the talks were filmed so everyone worldwide could share in that part of the fun (I wouldn’t mind rewatching them either…), but I don’t think they do that.

  2. Glad you had such a good time, and it was great to meet you. Not a bad book haul, either — so all in all a very successful weekend…!

    1. Velleic

      Definitely! Here’s to next year!

  3. Jdf21

    Great post. I’m hoping the discussion about Alan Thomas concerned him getting re-printed…

    1. Velleic

      Alas, that section (Tom Mead’s talk) also discussed why The Death of Laurence Vining at least, might be unlikely to be reprinted.
      Unless you read Italian. Apparently they print all kinds of obscure locked room mysteries even to this day!

      All that said, the more mentions of Alan Thomas reach publishers’ ears, the more likely it is to happen.

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